Good governance in the Pacific? Ambivalence and possibility

Susan M. Roberts, Sarah Wright, Phillip O'Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


In September 2005, the Pacific Islands Forum issued a finalized Pacific Plan. The overarching goal of the Plan is to "Enhance and stimulate economic growth, sustainable development, good governance and security for Pacific countries through regionalism." In this paper we focus on the salient role of (good) governance in the Plan. Governance has become a keyword, albeit a deeply ambivalent one, in development and foreign policy realms and the Pacific is now a particularly intense site of activities understood in terms of governance. Governance has become an important vehicle through which intervention in the region is imagined and realized. Using interviews with persons connected in various ways with the development of the Pacific Plan and from a documentary history, we address questions about the political closures and openings enabled by the governance agenda. We investigate the kinds of work that gets done in the name of governance through an analysis of the ways that it is understood, deployed and redefined in practice. To do this we turn to the Pacific Plan as our case. We find that governance, as it is defined and operationalized in the Plan, is pulled in a highly technocratic direction such that a particularly narrow conceptualization of governance dominates. Despite this disciplining process, however, the continued salience of governance as a framing device within struggles for racial and gender equality and the emergence of Pacific-based projects that act to remake governance in unexpected ways leads us to conclude that the term retains fields of meaning that allow for alternative political openings and possibilities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)967-984
Number of pages18
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Pacific Islands Forum was founded as the South Pacific Forum in 1971. Since then, it has expanded its membership and power to become the major institutional site for the negotiation and implementation of regional agreements (for example on fishing). Over the past decade the Forum has become an increasingly significant institution in the region, enjoying ramped-up support from its two richest members – Australia and New Zealand – plus increased funding from the European Union and Japan, and major international financial institutions ( Doran, 2004; Sutherland, 2000 ).


  • Development
  • Good governance
  • Governance
  • Pacific
  • Pacific Islands Forum
  • Pacific Plan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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