Why institutions matter in the Pacific

The Pacific possibilities

The Pacific region is at present finding itself on the stepping stone towards a potentially prosperous future. Large quantities of minerals such as copper, gold, silver and lead, have recently been found throughout the entire Pacific region sea bed[1]. This has caused the PIF to initiate the process of jurisdictionally determining the national marine zones and boundaries within the region. As a consequence of this, The International Seabed authority in collaboration with the Government of Fiji and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) SOPAC Division is organising an International Workshop on environmental Management Needs for Exploration and Exploitation of Deep Sea Minerals, to be held in Nadi, Fiji from 29 November to 2 December 2011. This initiative reflects the increasing interest and associated concerns on the potential impact of deep sea minerals exploration and mining, and how responsible authorities (i.e. governments and the ISA) will regulate this emerging economic development opportunity in a sustainable manner both within national jurisdiction and in the area[2].

According to the United Nations convention on the Law of the Sea, a country is entitled to extract any resource within a 200 nautical mile (370km; 230 mi) around their coasts. Furthermore, upon ratification of the LOS a country has the sovereign rights to within a 10 year period to make claims to extend its 200 nautical mile zone. Due to this legal fact, the Tuvalu and Kiribati island states still have 1 and 2 years respectively to extend their claims of potential seabed findings.

The potential future of Pacific seabed mining therefore functions as another persuasive argument for a collective regional law practise, as well as a build up of custom unions in order to keep trade profits shared within the region. Japan and China is currently researching the possibility of extracting the minerals found in the pacific island region. In a political world where Australia and New Zealand has the biggest diplomatic muscles in the region, another persuasive argument of the build op of a stronger regional institution is the ability for minor island states to have a greater voice in international forums when it comes to their own rightful exploitation of seabed minerals.

An institutional response

As a result of this, this projects overall viewpoint can be characterized as the belief that international institutions help promote cooperation between states, and thereby help alleviate the lack of trust between states and their fear of each other, which are considered to be the traditional problems associated with international anarchy. International institutions provide a flow of information and opportunities to negotiate whereby they enhance the ability of governments to monitor others compliance and to implement their own commitments – hence their ability on making credible commitments in the first place.This means that organisations such as the PIF, has the potential to strengthen prevailing expectations about the solidifying of international agreements. Another derivation to be used in this project is Mintrom’s concept of market failure. Contemporary societies rely greatly on markets for the efficient allocation of resources. Whenever the decentralised nature of markets fails to live up to its full potential, government involvement in the allocation of resources should be considered. This is based on the awareness that markets needs to be efficient in order to develop a sense of efficiency to create and to flourish (ibid). This is connected to the fact that a market does not function without the strive for complete information. The comparative analysis will as a result of this be divided into two parts: policy advice that targets the private sector and the need for a development of the public administrative sector.


[1]    Businessesweek
“China, Russia cleared to explore pacific seabed for minerals http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-07-21/china-russia-cleared-to-explore-pacific-seabed-for-minerals.html accessed on the 26th of October

[2]    International
Seabed Authority “ISA to hold November 2011 Workshop in Fiji “ http://www.isa.org.jm/en/node/672 accessed on the 26th of October