Small Islands, Big Challenges

The most impressive and profound memory of the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland in 2021 must be the devastating image of Tuvalu foreign minister Simon Kofe, with his suit trousers rolled up, standing in the ocean, calling on the world to face up to the impacts of climate change on small island countries. This was also the collective voice of the 52 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) listed by the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

However, the submergence of lands caused by climate change is only one of the problems faced by SIDS. Due to their environmental limitations, natural resources, and human activity, most of these countries are experiencing problems of ecology, inclusivity, and sustainability such as food insecurity, biodiversity loss, and chronic diseases. These gravely affect their development and endanger the future survival of their people; therefore, they are deeply dependent on international aid to solve these problems. Many regional powers use foreign aid as a tool to extend their influence in the region. Although in terms of their territory, population, and financial strength, the SIDS do not hold great influence on the world scene, some of them are nevertheless located in strategic pivots and hence became battlegrounds for the tugs-of-war between powerful countries.

Many of Taiwan’s allied countries are SIDS, including the ones located in the Pacific Ocean – Nauru, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, Palau – and also the ones in the Caribbean Sea – St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Haiti. How we strengthen our relationship with these allied countries is crucial to Taiwan. Therefore, this issue is themed “International Aid to SIDS”, inviting experts and scholars in related fields to elaborate on the problems faced by SIDS from diverse perspectives and discuss how best to offer them assistance through international aid.

The theme of the special report in this issue is “International aid from SIDS perspectives”. We’ve interviewed Hon. Steven Victor, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment of Palau,  the host of this year’s Our Ocean Conference (OOC), to share with readers the challenges faced by Palau and also how to overcome these challenges through international aid. Moreover, a researcher from the National Museum of Natural Science (Taiwan), Dr. T.Y. Aleck Yang, applied his professional experience to cooperate with the TaiwanICDF on the “Census and Classification of Plant Resources in the Solomon Islands project”, to share with readers the execution of the project and the importance of biodiversity to island countries.

These island countries are small when viewed from the size of their populations and national territory, but while the whole world is fighting against the impacts of climate change, these “small” island countries are on the frontlines battling an existential threat to the very survival of their countries. They also play a key role in influencing the regional political agenda set by the big countries. Through this issue, the Development Focus Quarterly hopes to raise awareness of the challenges these small island developing states are currently facing, and what kind of assistance Taiwan, itself an island country, could offer in support.

Summary

Australia’s foreign aid policy to Pacific island countries

(To-hai Liou, Adjunct Professor at the Department of Diplomacy and Director of the Center for Australian Studies at National Cheng-Chi University)

Due to geopolitical and strategic security considerations, Australia has always viewed the southern Pacific as  part of  its zone of  influence. However, since the turn of  the 21st century,  the primacy  of Australia in the southern Pacific has been challenged by the rise of China. The deterioration of relations between the United States and China has in turn worsened the relationship between China  and the Morrison government, which has always actively supported the US. In September 2021, Australia signed the historic security treaty AUKUS with the UK and the US, which was seen as a gigantic victory for the Morrison government. However, on the eve of the Australian federal election, the Solomon Islands signed a security treaty with Beijing. The Liberal/National coalition government letting this outcome happen was criticized by the opposition, the Australian Labor Party, as Australia’s biggest policy failure since the end of World War II. This article aims to elaborate on the foreign aid policies of Australia in the Pacific area. Is the intervention of Beijing the reason for the failure of Australia’s foreign aid policies? Or are there other explanations? In the end, the  author concludes that the Australian experience can be viewed as a positive encouragement for the current direction of Taiwan’s foreign aid policy.

Chronic disease and international aid in small island developing states

(Yung-wei Hsu, Director of the International Medical Service Center in MacKay Memorial Hospital)

Many of Taiwan’s allied countries are small island developing states, where the incidence and death rates from chronic diseases are very high. This, combined with the challenges of climate change and natural disasters, seriously hinders the development of these countries. Taiwan is highly advanced in the medical field, and in recent years, public health projects have become the centerpiece of its medical foreign aid. With these projects Taiwan has elevated the ability of allied countries to prevent chronic diseases, assisting them in achieving SDG 3.4 and lowering the rates of early death caused by chronic diseases. This article refers to the Capacity Building Project for the Prevention and Control of Diabetes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and other medical aid projects conducted by the author to examine the severity of chronic diseases in small island developing states and to highlight the meaning and importance of foreign aid in this context.

Community resilience building in small island developing states

(Yi-jun Liu, Associate Researcher at the National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction. I-chuan Liao, Assistant Researcher at the National Science and Technology Center for Disaster Reduction)

The small island developing states are the most vulnerable to climate change due to their unique mix of environmental, social, and financial conditions. Building climate resilience and strengthening adaptive capacity under climate change are the core tasks that the international community has to confront and help SIDS with. This article combs through the discourse on threats, risks and resilience of SIDS in the face of the climate change imposed on them, and looks at a case study on Iloilo City in the Philippines, to examine the key elements required in forming community resilience. Lastly, this article proposes providing policy-making advice to help the SIDS build community resilience in line with the future direction of Taiwan’s international cooperation efforts.

Cooperation and social linkage: New opportunities for Taiwan’s cooperative aid projects in Oceania

(Pei-yi Guo, Associate Research Fellow, Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica; Cheng Cheng Li, PhD Student, University of Hawaii; Sra Manpo Ciwidian, PhD Student, University of Hawaii)

This article discusses Taiwan’s new opportunities for cooperative aid projects in Oceania based on two core concepts, “cooperation and exchange” and “social linkage”. The essence of a cooperative aid project should be directed towards “cooperation” rather than “aid” to facilitate greater mutual benefits. Also, when planning and executing cooperative aid projects, the essence of a project should be adapted to the cultural context of island countries; their cultures are centered on social relationships, so there   is a need to establish social links between Taiwanese and Islanders. With the shifting paradigms for development and aid, recent diplomatic policy of island countries has tended to emphasize slightly more their autonomy, and the most important sociocultural characteristics of the Oceanic peoples now also influence their expectations for cooperative aid projects. Here, the authors take an existing education project in Palau as an explanatory example of how, from an Islanders’ perspective, Taiwan’s development projects embody concepts of “cooperation and exchange” and “social linkage”, which  are proven to contain development potential and are valuable as guidance for future projects. Finally, the authors propose that due to the cultural affinities between Indigenous people in Taiwan and those  in Oceania, it is wise to experiment with increasing the involvement of Taiwan’s Indigenous peoples in cooperative aid projects.

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