Globalization: A Major Threat for Pacific Island Countries – Melania Baba

“Globalization” is a term often associated with progress and innovation. Despite its numerous perks, it has also shown itself to be the biggest and most immediate threat for Pacific Island countries. This short piece attempts to unveil some of the effects of globalization on the region.

A Connected World

A distinctive feature of globalization is “connectedness”. This is largely made possible by communications technology. Through this connectedness, we have witnessed the rise of world cultures. This in turn has meant that the cultures of the larger and more technologically advanced countries of the world engulf those of the smaller and less technologically advanced ones. In this process, the small and less technologically advanced countries lose their distinctiveness in their cultures, languages, values and identities.

The Pacific Islands has been affected by this process. It is often packaged and sold for its white sandy beaches, friendly locals and hotels offering various activities and services promising the world a memorable experience. In many Pacific Island countries, tourism is a major contributor to economic development. For example, it is major money making industry in Fiji. It provides work for locals and has a rippling effect for other local businesses. But, it has also brought many challenges to the way of life and culture of the people. Specifically, it contributes to sex tourism, commercialization of cultures, and environmental degradation – especially along its vulnerable coastlines. This is destroying the distinctiveness of the very thing that tourists come to see.

An integral part of globalization is technological advancement. In and of itself, technological advancement undermines the cooperative communal way of life. In other words, it undermines the ways in which the community traditionally sits and works together to derive their livelihood from the land and sea resources around them. In a connected world, these ways have been replaced by a dependency on processed foods and reduced activity, which has raised the level of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). For example, a recent study by the World Bank concludes that 70-75% of deaths in the Pacific are attributable in part to NCDs.

A World of Migrants

Migration is another impact of Globalization. With the advanced system of transportation and interconnectedness, emigration is made easier. In many Polynesian islands across the Pacific (e.g., Cook Islands, Niue and Samoa), the majority of their populations are living abroad. Migration has undoubtedly brought wealth to these countries. But, the second generation of these immigrants are also beginning to lose their mother tongue. Research has shown that many of the Pacific Island languages are now at risk. Language is an essential ingredient in cultural preservation. The loss of these languages would therefore undoubtedly cause the loss of many individual cultural identities across the region.

A Policy Imperative

There are certainly many advantages of Globalization. However, there has been a tendency to ignore some of its negative effects. Across the Pacific Islands region, these negative effects are now beginning to emerge with the evolving lifestyle, the health issues as well as the deterioration of culture and diminishing languages. And, these negative effects of globalization compounded the negative effects of climate change. There is therefore a need for Pacific Island countries to reassess globalization and its impact on the various cultures across the region. If the Pacific Island countries are to fully benefit from globalization, their leaders must put in place proactive programs that ensure these negative effects are addressed immediately.

Melania Baba is a graduate in Law and Political Science at the University of the South Pacific. Currently, she is a legal officer at a local nonprofit concerned with the protection of Fiji’s environment and the promotion of sustainable resource management through law. Baba is interested in international relations and climate change with particular reference to the small pacific island states in the Pacific.

Guest commentaries and responses on the Islands Society Blog represent the views of the respective authors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

Image Credit: darthmauldds via Flickr CC

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