comments 4

The Mind-Trick of Participatory Development in Oceania

Lucas Watt and Tayloraye Bailey

Participatory development in the discipline of critical development studies has a dirty name. It is seen as a mind-trick used to disarm public resistance to specific economic development policies, by virtue of saying local communities were consulted in the process, when in actuality they may have had little involvement at all. By branding a project “participatory”, rightly or wrongly, this is a strategy designed to make any subsequent development legitimate or palatable. Various case studies in developing countries have shown that community consultation within participatory development programs often prove to be false or token (See Sneddon & Fox 2007 for an example of this perspective in the Mekong Delta).

In this article, we investigate how participatory development programs are implemented in our own under-covered region of Oceania. We investigate how participatory programs do the opposite of what they promote, to subordinate local populations to pre-set foreign agendas. This idea is firstly explored in a discussion on the historical emergence of participatory development as a form of governance. We secondly analyze how such participatory development projects have been implemented in the Fijian Sugar Industry and in Community Based Fishery Management across Oceania. Lastly, we discuss the potential of Oceanic governments to break free of the “mind trick” of participatory development, and to reclaim the Oceanic development agenda.

This critical perspective on participatory development is by no means a popular one. However, just as Kothari and Cooke (2001) tentatively stepped when they named their edited book Participation: The New Tyranny?, such a critical approach comes from an honest place of wanting to keep development organizations accountable to the communities they pledge to serve, draw attention to problematic unequal and inequitable power relationships in the development industry, and provide context and direction towards truly participatory development. With this in mind, this is a provocative research essay designed to provide a starting point for thinking about development in Oceania and how it could be improved. It is also by no means a complete debate concerning all the topics involved. Any comments or points of clarification are welcome at the end of the article. We’ll do our best to engage in discussion!

If this debate is of interest to you, inspires you, or angers you, consider joining our Urban Oceania Reading Group.

The Emergence of the Participatory Development Agenda – Tayloraye Bailey

After WWII, ‘developed’ nations wanted to assist to improve the quality of life for people living in ‘developing’ nations. From WWII onward, there was a greater commitment towards foreign aid and international intervention. One developmental approach first administered into the undeveloped world was the top-down approach (Larrison & Holland, 1999: 3). Top-down development approaches are run by experts who implement procedures and policies to assist local communities in need. Foreign experts teach, lead and design developmental programs for the locals to follow (Larrison & Holland, 1999: 3). 

The top-down strategy follows the modernization theory, forcing compliance upon non-western cultures (Mouzelis,1980: 356). Leading to devastating effects of colonization and forced assimilation that can conceive resilience and cultural disturbance on the beneficiaries. Furthermore, such an approach has a tendency for corruption, economic manipulation and power play from actors such as developmental corporations, non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) and other aid organizations, creating hostility from the beneficiaries. Since the 1970s, the top-down approach has been highly criticized as it ‘suffered from the disjuncture between outsiders’ visions and local realities’ (Eversole, 2003: 781). However, the cause for change is not due to its unethical methods, but due to the repeated failed attempts and undesirable results raised by international aid organizations (Sachs, 2010: 128).

To overcome these major limitations, the organizations decided on better including beneficiaries. There was a change in perspective to hear the opinions of beneficiaries in order to better tailor development programs. It was hoped that this would generate increased success and appropriateness of development projects (Sachs, 2010: 128). This gave birth to a new approach of participation development (Sachs, 2010: 128). 

During the 1980s, international developmental organizations turned to participatory development and implemented the design into their procedures (Kothari & Cooke, 2001:5). Participatory development is structured to place action and power into the hands of vulnerable groups who are knowledgeable and rightful experts in their own culture (Kothari & Cooke, 2001:5). These beneficiaries are ‘understood as active subjects rather than passive objects of their own development’ (Eversole, 2003: 781). In this, beneficiaries are given respect and ownership.

Even though the approach has driven more sustainability in international development, the planning and execution of bottom-up approach in new developmental projects has proven to be difficult (Cornwall, 2003: 1326). There are many different definitions and no specific method to correctly implement such a tool. The approach as a whole is ever adapting and evolving to various issues that come to light in various developmental applications (Eversole, 2003: 782). Furthermore, participatory planning is often used as a technique for larger organizations to reduce difficulty in dealing with unpopular policies and conducting unethical practices, to ensure their methodology is publicly accepted (Eversole, 2003: 782).  Participation gives development organisations the ability to suppress and overpower the beneficiaries, upholding the deep-rooted biased world hierarchy.

The World Bank in particular has been the key institution that both advocates for and misapplies the participatory framework. The World Bank came into existence after the devastation of Europe caused by World War Two (World Bank, 2011: 18). Since its conception, the World Bank has been a promoter and a great source to instigate development in different countries where its objective has been to combat poverty ‘with passion by helping people help themselves’ (World Bank, 2011:18). The World Bank is one of the five components existing in the World Bank group, which is an international financial institution that helps ‘developing’ and ‘underdeveloped’ countries to carry on capital projects by providing these countries in need with financial resources. The World Bank implements a large number of projects where their initial planning and developmental structure is based upon the participatory development model.

Both Ndiaye et al. (2009) and Mansuri and Rao (2013) argue however that these projects and policies by the World Bank specifically are not adapted enough to be credited as a participatory approach. Despite being labelled “participatory”, these projects often do not fully recognize the involvement of local stakeholders such as the local governmental officials, local politicians, and group leaders (Ndiaye et al.,2009: 39). The limitations inherent in these projects, restrict the beneficiaries’ ability to contribute towards important decision-making and the designing process of programs, reaping their ownership and autonomy. Furthermore, the organization sets certain benchmarks in the planning process for ‘participatory development’, often projecting a top-down and western centric approach rather than a bottom-up approach. 

Due to the financial capability of International Financial Institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank and others, Pacific communities and governments are compelled to go along with such programs and their conditions. Any attempt to diverge away from assistance from IFIs, or to search for an alternative model or assistance is often perceived to be inconceivable in an economically and politically entrenched global system (Kabutaulaka, 2020). The inability to diverge from this economic orthodoxy due to global imbalances in power is one of the key factors that allows IFIs to have a stranglehold on the direction of Pacific Island economies. This fundamentally conflicts with the economic self-determination and ambition of indigenous Pacific islanders and facilitates a system of economic globalization that favors the western world (Corbett and Connell, 2015; Kabutaulaka, 2020; Leslie and Wild, 2018). IFIs often explain away any errant objection to this form of economic globalization as an inevitable process.

But what exactly are the mechanisms of this economic globalization that disadvantages local populations so severely? The economic globalization that IFIs promote connects international markets in a way that renders less affluent governments powerless in controlling export, imports and trade. The World Trade Organization (WTO) sets out agreements and arrangements that favors free trade. Free trade allows larger, more powerful economies to have advantage in competing with the international markets and their commodities without intervention of their government (Leslie and Wild, 2018). Smaller, Pacific Islands states on the other hand face challenges of ‘small size, limited resources, remoteness, expensive inputs, high transport costs, and a vulnerability to disasters’ (Morgan, 2018; p.269). As such Pacific Island governments are operating from a disadvantaged position in this competitive economy.

An asserted effort to maintain this global economic system hurts less affluent nations. An imposed inequitable global economic system that disadvantages Pacific industries in this way is exactly what we see in the Fijian sugar industry. Furthermore the forced compliance with this economic system is legitimized by a supposedly “participatory” approach. It is not a stretch to see that inequitable processes of globalization, and the hierarchies that maintain them, also go beyond the purely economic. The inequitable effects of climate change and marine degradation which disproportionately affect Pacific Island states are also supported by international governance structures. The upcoming sections will argue participatory development programs disingenuously conceal the promotion of inequitable forms of globalization in both of these domains, to benefit or divert responsibility away from affluent nations.

Participatory Development in the Fijian Sugar Industry – Tayloraye Bailey 

Under the British colonial rule, the basis of the Fijian colony was on producing sugar for the British and international market. The British however did not use indigenous Fijians as laborers in sugar cane production. Rather, the British imported 60,000 Indian indentured laborers to work sugar cane plantations (Lal, Lim-Applegate & Reddy, 2019). The policy of importing labour was implemented to protect indigenous Fijians from the influence of capitalism (Trnka, 2005). Since the abolition of indentured labor in 1920, a large proportion of freed Indian laborers, and their descendants, stayed in Fiji and accepted the lease of plots of land to continue producing sugar cane. This structure of predominantly Indo-Fijian laborers producing sugar cane on leased indigenous Fijian land, persists today (Lal, Lim-Applegate & Reddy, 2019).

The predominance of Indo-Fijians in cane production reamins despite significant outward migration of Indo-Fijians to New Zealand, Australia, and the United States. Migration was prompted by a series of political coups between 1987 and 2006 that put into question the future of Indo-Fijians in Fiji (Trnka, 2005). The last coup in 2006 restored Indo-Fijian political rights and broader multiculturalism in Fiji in general. For those Indo-Fijians that remained through these coups, sugar cane production continues to be precarious. There is the continual threat that the agricultural leases that they rely on from the Native Land Trust Board (NLTB) will not be renewed when they expire (Lal, Lim-Applegate & Reddy, 2019). This historical context brings its own challenges to both the efficiency of the Fijian sugar cane industry, as well as the well-being of its primarily Indo-Fijian growers. 

Alongside this specific historical context of the Fijian sugar, there have also been changes to how markets for commodities like sugar are traded internationally. The liberalized policies implemented by the World Trade Organization of free-trade and increased international competitive standards globally led to the forceful push of Fiji’s government towards the westernized neo-liberal economic method of trade.

Over 90 percent of Fiji’s sugar is exported to international markets. The largest percentage is imported to the European Union, where the internal prices of goods are regulated to a certain guaranteed price through the Sugar Protocol. In the 1990’s sugar prices were uncompetitive at double the world market price. This has since forced Fiji to drop the selling price under the World Trade Organization watchful eye, as well as forced a massive economic reconstruction with the reduced regulations, policies, and state control on trade. Privatized corporations have allowed relaxation of tax reforms, import licensing, labor market regulation and exchange control, all which led to massive reduction of sugar cane revenue. In response to this, the World Bank undertook research on Fiji’s economy and proposed new solutions.

A new 1997 ‘Strategic Plan’ produced by the World Bank was enforced with new adapted participatory practices. However, Snell and Prasad (2001) brought to light certain concerns and inconsistencies upon evaluating the ‘Strategic Plan’. The plan was created ‘in response to challenges that are attributed to the pressures of globalization and international competitiveness’ (Snell & Prasad, 2001: 225). The plan evidently represented the Sugar Industry and larger developmental organizations best interests at hand over Fijians. However, the structure of the Strategic Plan resembled a grassroots approach, demonstrating local problem-solving and inclusiveness. The report stated regular communication and consultative meetings between the board members of the Sugar Industry and the stakeholders (Snell & Prasad, 2001: 226).

Sstakeholders were recognized during the conferences held for the design of the project by the ‘seven SCOF Industry Development Committees’ (Snell & Prasad, 2001: 261). The stakeholders included farming families, mill employees, consultants, the Republic of China Technical Mission and academics of the University of the South Pacific (Snell & Prasad, 2001: 261). This type of consultative practice is commonly used in participatory development as it demonstrates an intent to give locals, experts in their own right, a voice (Cornwall, 2003: 325). 

Following the World Bank led “Strategic Plan” however, there was high retaliation and objection from stakeholders, local Fijian communities and beneficiaries. Exceptionally during the 1998 elections of Sugar Cane Growers Councils, where even the ‘Fiji Cane Growers Association and National Farmers Union candidates attacked the Plan’ (Snell & Prasad, 2001: 263). The Strategic Plan resembled an adaptation of previous top-down developmental programs. The plan utilized outdated reports and research from the World Bank resources to justify its proactive adjustments. To make matters worse, the nation’s growers, harvesters, and rail and mill workers were told that they must `change their attitudes’ and become more `flexible’’. These players had no choice but to quickly adapt to the proposed methods.

The bench-marking type system where ‘best practices’ or ‘best of the best’ models were implemented in policies, procedures and investments dominated the Strategic Plan. The competitive and business-oriented methodology that is highly linked to neo-liberal economy, created negative pressures on everyday stakeholders active in the sugar industry. For instance, in the Strategic Plan a new procedure of ‘Quality Care Payment System’ was made to increase the quality of cane and not just the quantity. This incentive meant that farmers that had poor fertile soil or unforgiving terrain had no way of keeping up with the standards and thus could not receive the benefits, putting many farmers in financial struggle. The pressure of generating results and financial return in a hierarchical system during a globalized world played a massive part in overlooking the needs and justice of Fijians, in particular Indo-Fijians, who are the backbone in such a large Industry. 

In the annual reports of 2015, there has been a decrease of sugarcane production by 50% from 1999 (Singh, 2020:67). To make matters worse, the reported land for sugar harvesting has also dropped from 65,000 to 39,300 acreage. Catalyzing the reduction of productivity in the Fijian Sugar Industry reflecting the current issues in Fiji’s economy. Thus, reflecting the inefficiency of the World Bank’s developmental intervention and investments in Fiji’s Sugar Industry.

Snell & Prasad (2001) is not the only study that represents the failure of participatory practices and approaches. Similarly, a recent study by Strychar and Day (2019) highlighted the issue of NGOs viewing completion of house-aid delivery models as a success rather than considering values of culture and inclusiveness that are important to the community. The exclusion of important parties in the developmental program means that those relying on harvesting sugar to provide for their businesses and families have been adversely affected, which has resulted in them removing themselves from this industry.

This is one example that shows how the ‘participatory approach’ is used to ‘sugar coat’ top-down ideas that remain in the upper hierarchy.  It seems as if the outdated top-down method still seeps through to other potential appropriate schemes and corrupt them, all because of the influence of consumerism and globalization. 

Participatory Development in Community Fisheries – Lucas Watt

Modern local fishery “management” primarily entails ensuring that local fishing practices do not deplete total fish stocks and marine biodiversity. Fishery management is important in Oceania because marine resources have historically been the primary source of protein for rural communities as well as one of the few rural livelihood opportunities (Charlton et al., 2016; Gereva and Vuki, 2010).

Marine based resources are only increasing in importance in Melanesian life as natural disasters like Cyclone Pam in 2015 and more recently Cyclone Yasa in 2020 are devastating terrestrial agriculture on an increasingly frequent basis. Such natural disasters flatten crops and salinate the soil causing local populations to rely more heavily on marine resources for both sustenance and livelihoods (Eriksson et al., 2017). Beyond the inherent importance of fishery management in a global context of increased scarcity and competition, the context of climate change makes effective fishery management practice increasingly relevant to ensure resilience during and after such natural disasters (Eriksson et al., 2017).

It is important to note here however that local fishery management can only do so much to protect local marine resources without addressing some of the global drivers that are degrading local fish habitats (Foale, 2021). The degradation of fish stocks and biodiversity on coral reefs cannot be addressed through the management of local fishing practices on specific reefs alone. Coral bleaching is created by rising carbon emissions and needs to be addressed on a global scale (Foale, 2021). Lastly, the goals of fishery management policy should also considered goals outside of environmental concerns. Fishery management policy impacts how marine resources are distributed within communities, how local relationships are defined, and how cultural production is pursued daily. 

The historical development of fishery management in Oceania is a contested one. Anthropologists in the 1960s, in line with environmental functionalist literature such as Rapport (1968) and Vayda (1961), argued that Oceanic communities created local fishing taboos to protect local food sources from over-harvesting before colonial contact. Foale (2021) argues that such environmentally focused fishery management by Oceanic people is a historical myth and that this incorrect environmental functionalist perspective persists today (See Walker & Salt, 2012).

Foale et al (2011) alternatively argues that Oceanic communities managed their marine environment according to local social and cultural conventions, as opposed to environmental concerns. It is only since European contact that environmental concerns and sustainability have become a part of Oceanic priorities in fishery management. Indeed, local populations management goals have since shifted in ways that blend both local and foreign values, knowledge and approaches (Hviding, 1996), however these management goals, and the implementation of mechanisms to achieve them, are by no means homogeneous across the region (Aswani et al., 2017). 

It was not until Oceanic governments became independent in the 1970s and 1980s that early environmentally focused fishery management policies were seriously implemented. These governments, emerging out of their colonial foundations, generally used their inherited centralized governance structures to manage fisheries in a top-down type manner (Raubani et al., 2017). Managing local fishing activities across such an expansive space, however, is such an overwhelming task that it was not seriously undertaken in a comprehensive manner. Such management was also prone to not considering the many diverse social and marine contexts across different islands leading to ineffective or inappropriate management practices (Raubani et al., 2017). What cannot be underestimated in this context however is that environmentally conscious policies emerging at these times were justified upon economic impact.

In line with the broader neo-liberal movement that occurred in the 1990s, fishery management across Melanesia has shifted in part from a top-down centralized approach to a more bottom-up decentralized approach. Fishery management scholars generally agreed that this shift has been about managing local fisheries according to global environmental/economic norms in a way that to some extent outsources and minimizes the cost of management across the many rural islands in Melanesian countries (Raubani et al., 2017). 

The decentralized approach has most recently come in the form of Community Based Fishery Management (CBFM) which, in theory, places environmental fishery management and regulation more in the hands of local communities. This decentralized approach was articulated in the Pan-Pacific project “A New Song for Coastal Fisheries – Pathways to Change: The Noumea Strategy”. The project was developed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in 2015 (SPC, 2015). The SPC holds most Pacific Island Nations among their membership, but it is a forum that is still dominated by its old colonial powers and financiers (Tarte, 2014). For the “New Song” project in particular, its donors are dominated by the governments of old colonial nations, as well as the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The presence of old colonial power dynamics along with corresponding finance undoubtedly affects how it includes communities in bottom-up fishery management. Unequal power dynamics between members, and concerns about the imposition of affluent nations’ agenda in the region through these forums is a common topic of commentary.

The CBFM model within the “New Song” project is a “participatory development” type approach as it implies local communities are more able to control, or at the least influence, the ways their local marine resources and environment are managed. This includes local populations managing fisheries according to both traditional and emerging perspectives. The “New Song” project does acknowledge however that participation is only pursued in policy domains that are considered appropriate. Participation is not considered in instances where more overarching economic and security goals are considered more important: 

“One size will not fit all in developing a new approach; there are clear local, sub-regional and regional differences in the circumstances of coastal fisheries. While community-based management remains central to achieving our goals for coastal fisheries, other tools and mechanisms will be required, including control of exports and regulatory approaches as defined in statutes. In some instances, CEAFM will not be appropriate to improve management. For example, CEAFM is difficult to implement in urban areas or places with contested marine tenure. Where CEAFM is not appropriate, the government will have a more critical role. Developing and resourcing relevant and effective monitoring, control and surveillance mechanisms will be central to this challenge. Approaches must also be simple, realistic and implementable” (SPC, 2015).

Despite this upfront clarification in the “New Song” project, the areas in which local participation is given priority comes up short. Most glaringly, women are continuously left out of CBFM consultation sessions, as well as local governance roles (Rohe et al., 2018; Tavue et al., 2016). Community sessions are often scheduled during the day when women are conducting domestic duties. This scheduling substantially reduces female attendance in such sessions, and subsequently causes CBFM programs to disproportionately hear more men’s priorities in the governance of local fisheries (Rohe et al., 2018; Tavue et al., 2016). As many CBFM practitioners state, increasing the participation of women can be easily achieved by accommodating for the daily schedules of women and running sessions with more female practitioners (Rohe et al., 2018; Tavue et al., 2016).

However, the continual mention of this recommendation in the literature implies that these suggested strategies have not been effectively and consistently applied. This is despite the “New Song” project highlighting how “Women and youth are integral to successful coastal fisheries management. In the fisheries sector, their role is often overlooked or diminished” (SPC, 2015). The persistent exclusion of women from CBFM hints at a larger issue that these projects are simply not as committed to accounting for local social, cultural, economic, and gendered context in these fishery management programs as they proclaim. 

Participatory Development

Anthropological research by Clissold and McNamara (2019) signals how problematic women’s exclusion in the governance of local fisheries is. They argue that women’s engagement with marine environments are very different from men’s. Women often conduct fishing activities along the coast for the purpose of supplementing their family’s diets. Men on the other hand often fish off the coast for more income generating purposes. Therefore, CBFM projects which preference male offshore income generating priorities are blind to the domains on which women fish.

Men are showered with external knowledge, management mechanisms, and technical equipment such as fish aggregation devices, whereas women are left to continue to conduct their activities as they always have (Rohe et al., 2018; Tavue et al., 2016). Part of why this exclusion happens is not only because women are left out of CBFM sessions, but also because male income generating priorities often align with western institutions’ economic goals while women’s more sustenance priorities do not (Rohe et al., 2018; Tavue et al., 2016). 

As the “New Song” project clarifies, the objectives of the program are in part set before any serious consultations with local communities have taken place. These objectives are primarily shaped by western environmental, security, and economic ideals as opposed to local conceptions and realities of the surrounding marine environment. The upfront mention of this shows some form of transparency which should be commended. However, where does this leave the more participatory rhetoric of the project?

In the instances that CBFM projects claim that participation is pursued, participatory outreach does not go far enough to hear all voices. It is only when local priorities align with the original narrow project objectives or rationale that participation is included (Rohe, Schluter and Ferse, 2018). I would classify this as a misuse of the participatory type branding. It seems under moderate investigative rigor that the CBFM projects under the banner of the “New Song” approach seeks to soften the foreign directives placed in the program, no matter how beneficial these foreign directives may (or may not) be, or how much they clarify them within the project.

An additional point of note is that the inclusion of “communities” within this project may potentially serve the purpose of diverting responsibility away from how foreign powers have been the primary cause of marine degradation in Oceania, either through the over-harvesting of fish stocks by transnational fishing fleets, or through climate change (Foale, 2021). I am interested in further investigating the topic of participatory development and its remaining nuances, counter arguments, and implications in CBFM.

Reclaiming the Oceanic Development Agenda

From the above examples we argue in line with academics that use a critical development studies approach (Kothari and Cooke, 2001), that participatory development often imposes foreign development agendas and interests into projects through deceptive behavior and rhetoric. This includes imposing global economic or conservation ideologies that are both foreign and often disadvantageous to Pacific Island states. The Urban Oceania Reading Group has recently read articles that discuss the need to implement alternative development frameworks that better reflect the local population’s ideologies, well-being, and autonomy.

Kabutaulaka (2020) has recently argued that COVID-19 has given Pacific states the opportunity to rethink their receptiveness to traditional foreign derived development models that bring them further into the global economy. COVID-19 has highlighted how integration into the global economy has only made Oceanic nations more vulnerable to global external shocks. Kabutaulaka (2020) continues to argue that these foreign models have ignored the cultural and social strengths that these island nations possess, and which they are now relying upon, that can provide outcomes that are more in tune with local well-being.

Kabutaulaka (2020) advocates for a more relational form of development that relies upon leveraging the generosity and reciprocity within the strong social and kinship bonds between Pacific peoples. A shift in focus towards development within inherently inclusive local social relationships seeks to remove the hegemonic influence that dominates externally driven development, including externally funded and driven “participatory development”. Kabutaulaka (2020) himself recognizes the need to further develop tangible alternative development frameworks, as well as the difficulty in articulating and implementing such alternative frameworks in such an embedded and inequitable global economic system. 

As desirable as approaches like this are, they are often seen as radical and impractical. In the more conventional realm, Tarte (2014) and Leslie & Wild (2018) argue, there have been changes in regional political frameworks in the last decade that promise to elevate more regionally appropriate and advantageous models for Oceanic states. These political frameworks continue to incorporate foreign powers but re-calibrate the power relationships between foreign and local powers. There has been a shift away from political forums such as the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) which have historically been dominated by old colonial powers, and traditional financial donors such as the World Bank. In its place more Pacific centric forums such as the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) have emerged which are led by Oceanic states ideas and ideals.

These forums require foreign powers such as New Zealand, Australia, China, Russia, Japan, and the United States, and their respective traditional financial donors such as the World Bank, to be receptive of their regional development priorities if they want to be invited to the regional political table. These relatively new regional forums promise to remove unequal “client-patron relationships” that can be skewed to favor the interests of the “patron” (Leslie and Wild, 2018; Tarte, 2014). As we have seen in Oceanic fishery management however, foreign influence and power are still present in the still active (but perhaps crumbling) regional frameworks of the PIF and SPC. 

Despite the continued presence of foreign interests in these regional frameworks, what the emergence of these more Pacific centric forums and alternative development frameworks suggests, is that Pacific Island nations are breaking free from the “mind trick” of participatory development. They are actively seeking, and starting to find success, in pursuing more Pacific centric alternatives. The Urban Oceania Reading Group endeavors to continue discussing and analyzing the pursuit of these alternatives and hopes to discuss the emergence of more of these alternative frameworks in another student led article in the future.    

*This is an investigative research essay designed to provide a starting point for thinking about change in Oceania and is not a complete debate concerning all the topics involved. Any comments or points of clarification are welcome below*

Images by Dusan Reljic


Aswani S, Albert S and Love M (2017) One size does not fit all: critical insights for effective community-based resource management in Melanesia. Marine Policy 81: 381-391.

Charlton KE, Russell J, Gorman E, et al. (2016) Fish, food security and health in Pacific Island countries and territories: a systematic literature review. BMC Public Health 16(1): 285.

Clissold R and McNamara KE (2020) Exploring local perspectives on the performance of a community-based adaptation project on Aniwa, Vanuatu. Climate and Development 12(5): 457-468.

Corbett J and Connell J (2020) Small states in the Pacific. Handbook on the politics of small states. Edward Elgar Publishing.

Cornwall, A., 2003. Whose Voices? Whose Choices? Reflections on Gender and Participatory Development. World Development, 31(8), pp.1325–1342.

Eversole, R., 2003. Managing the Pitfalls of Participatory Development: Some Insight from Australia. World Development, 31(5), pp.781–795.

Firth S (2000) The Pacific Islands and the globalization agenda. The Contemporary Pacific 12(1): 177-192.

Foale S (2021) The Unequal Place of Anthropology in Cross‑Disciplinary Research on Environmental Management in the Pacific and What to Do About It. In: Nicholas Bainton DM, Kalissa Alexeyeff, John Cox (ed) Unequal Lives: Gender, Race, and Class in the Western Pacific. Canberra ANU Press.

Foale S, Cohen P, Januchowski‐Hartley S, et al. (2011) Tenure and taboos: origins and implications for fisheries in the Pacific. Fish and Fisheries 12(4): 357-369.

Gereva S and Vuki V (2010) Women’s fishing activities on Aniwa Island, Tafea Province, South Vanuatu. SPC Women in Fisheries Information Bulletin 21: 17-22.

Hviding, E. (1996). Guardians of Marovo Lagoon: practice, place, and politics in maritime Melanesia (Vol. 14). University of Hawaii Press.

Kothari, U. & Cooke, Bill, 2001. Participation: the new tyranny?. New York: Zed Books.

Lal P, Lim-Applegate H and Reddy M (2019) Land tenure dilemma in Fiji-can Fijian landowners and Indo-Fijian tenants have their cake and eat it too?

Larrison, C. & Holland, Thomas P., 1999. A comparison of top -down and bottom -up community development interventions in rural Mexico: Practical and theoretical implications for community development programs. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, pp.1-50.

Leslie, H., & Wild, K. (2018). Post-hegemonic regionalism in Oceania: examining the development potential of the new framework for Pacific regionalism. The Pacific Review, 31(1), 20-37.

Mansuri, G. & Rao, V., 2013. Can participation be induced? Some evidence from developing countries 1. Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy, 16(2), pp.284–304.

Mathur, H.M., 1997. Participatory Development: Some Areas of Current Concern. Sociological Bulletin, 46(1), pp.53–95.

Morgan W (2018) Much lost, little gained? Contemporary trade agreements in the Pacific islands. The Journal of Pacific History 53(3): 268-286.

Mouzelis, N., 1980. Modernization, under development, uneven development: Prospects for a theory of third world formations. The Journal of Peasant Studies, 7(3), pp.353–374.

Narayan, P. K., & Prasad, B. C. (2003). Fiji’s Sugar, Tourism and Garment Industries: A Survey of Performance, Problems and Potentials. Fijian Studies: A Journal of Contemporary Fiji, 1(1), 3-27.

Ndiaye, R. et al., 2009. The World Bank participatory development approach in the country assistance strategy (CAS) paper for the Republic of Senegal: Rhetoric or reality?. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, pp.1-40.

Rappaport, R. A. (2000). Pigs for the ancestors: Ritual in the ecology of a New Guinea people. Waveland Press.

Raubani J, Eriksson H, Neihapi PT, et al. (2017) Past experiences and the refinement of Vanuatu’s model for supporting community-based fisheries management. SPC Traditional Marine Resource Management and Knowledge Information Bulletin 38(June 2017): 3-13.

Rohe J, Schlüter A and Ferse SC (2018) A gender lens on women’s harvesting activities and interactions with local marine governance in a South Pacific fishing community. Maritime Studies 17(2): 155-162.

Sachs, W., 2010. The development dictionary : a guide to knowledge as power. 2nd ed., London: Zed Books, pp.1-200.

Singh, A., 2020. Benefits of crop diversification in Fiji’s sugarcane farming. Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies, 7(1), pp.65–80.

Sneddon, C., & Fox, C. (2007). Power, development, and institutional change: Participatory governance in the lower Mekong basin. World Development, 35(12), 2161-2181.

Snell, D. & Prasad, S., 2001. “Benchmarking” and participatory development: the case of Fiji’s sugar industry reforms. Development and Change, 32(2), pp.255–276.

SPC A (2015) New Song for Coastal Fisheries-Pathways to Change: The Noumea Strategy. Pacific Community, Noumea.

Strychar, L. & Day, J., 2019. Community assessment of NGO housing delivery: lessons from Port Vila, Vanuatu. Development in Practice, 29(4), pp.464–476.

Tarte S (2014) Regionalism and changing regional order in the Pacific Islands. Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies 1(2): 312-324.

Tavue RB, Neihapi P, Cohen PJ, et al. (2016) What influences the form that community-based fisheries management takes in Vanuatu.

Trau, A. M. (2012). Beyond Pro-Poor Tourism: (Re)Interpreting Tourism-Based Approaches to Poverty Alleviation in Vanuatu. Tourism Planning and Development, 9(2), 149-164.

Trnka S (2005) Land, Life and Labour: Indo‐Fijian Claims to Citizenship in a Changing Fiji. Oceania 75(4): 354-367. 

Vayda, A. P. (1961). Expansion and warfare among swidden agriculturalists. American Anthropologist, 63(21), 346–358.

Walker B and Salt D (2012) Resilience thinking: sustaining ecosystems and people in a changing world. Island press.

World Bank., 2003. A guide to the World Bank. pp. xvi–xvi.


  • I am a Post-Doctoral researcher on the ERC-funded TransOcean Project at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Norway. My portion of the project sets out to analyze maritime mobilities, exchange, and conservation, in the increasingly securitised region of Oceania. I graduated with a PhD from the School of Media and Communications at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University. My ethnographic fieldwork in Suva Fiji analyses how rural-urban migrants living in “informal settlements” articulate tradition in urban spaces.


  1. Pingback: Reading Group Summary: March, 23rd, 2021 - Urban Oceania

  2. Pingback: Journal Article Review of Rousseau, B., & Taylor, J. P. (2012). Kastom Ekonomi and the Subject of Self-Reliance. - Urban Oceania

Leave a Reply