Regional Think Tank to Focus on American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, Hawaii, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau – 6/12/19

The Islands Society is pleased to announce a revised mission for the organization. 

The Islands Society will conduct hyper-regional research on social policy, political strategy, and health activities.

In support of this mission, the Islands Society will redirect future programming toward education, health, homelessness, and public safety initiatives that support integrated community development in Hawaii, the U.S. Pacific Territories, the Compact of Free Association (COFA) States, and the Republic of Kiribati.

Separately, the Islands Society will launch a series of working groups to explore the strategic options that state politicians could adopt with respect to future renegotiations of the Compacts of Free Association and their associated agreements. Initially, these working groups will be established for the states of Arkansas, Hawaii, and Washington.

Finally, the Islands Society will launch a new publication entitled The COFA SITREP. This publication will provide a global platform for subject matter experts to share their insights on developments involving the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. 

According to Michael Edward Walsh, Founder of the Islands Society, “Back in 2011, we launched our nonprofit as the Pacific Islands Society. At that time, our vision was to provide the people of Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Territories with the knowledge, skills, networks, and exposure to make their voices heard on the world stage. Later, we shifted from a regional to a global focus. As a consequence, we expanded our mission to meet the needs of other insular communities. While we have benefited from that global perspective, it took our focus away from our raison d’être. We realized that needs to change. So, we are going back to our roots. And, we will exclusively focus our efforts on regional research on social policy, political strategy, and health activities in American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Northern Mariana Islands, and Palau.”

About the Islands Society

The Islands Society is a “Top-Rated” American 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to respect, inspire, and empower coastal communities around the world.

Website: www.islandssociety.org
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The Sovereignty of Freely Associated States in the Free and Open Indo-Pacific – 6/10/19

A free and open Indo-Pacific is one of the national security strategic objectives of the United States. According to the Department of Defense, this strategic objective is grounded in a set of overarching principles that includes respecting the sovereignty and independence of other nations.

The Compact of Free Association (COFA) Act of 1985 may have brought about an end to American trusteeship over the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. However, the United States Government continues to produce official documents that suggest that the Freely Associated States are not sovereign. For example, the Department of Defense recently classified the “Marshall Islands” under “US / US Territories” in the Base Structure Report – Fiscal Year 2018 Baseline. 

According to The Indo-Pacific Strategy Report, the United States has “an enduring commitment to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific in which all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules, norms, and principles of fair competition.” Unfortunately, those official documents that suggest that the Freely Associated States are not sovereign undercut that commitment, which in turn risks negatively influencing the support of COFA citizens for the national security strategic objectives of the United States.

Michael Walsh is a Research Fellow in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. The opinions expressed are his own.

Time to Protect COFA Interests of Hawai’i – 6/6/19

The United States maintains relationships of free association with the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Under current law, these relationships are governed by a set of enduring and temporary provisions. The enduring provisions include the requirement that the United States exempt most citizens of these countries from visa and certification requirements imposed on foreigners by federal immigration legislation. The temporary provisions require the United States to provide these countries with sector grants, education grants, and trust fund contributions, along with access to federal aviation, disaster, postal, and weather programs and services. The US is also obligated to provide impact grants to American Samoa, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and Hawai`i. Since these temporary provisions significantly mitigate the adverse consequences of these relationships, the Hawai’i state government should take steps to ensure that the overarching agreements that govern these relationships are amended prior to the expiration of their temporary provisions in fiscal year (FY) 2023.

The Compacts of Free Association Task Force (COFA-TF) has pointed out that the United States may not have intended for these relationships to adversely affect Hawai`i. However, “the unexpected level of mass migration to the U.S. under the Compacts has clearly resulted in ‘adverse consequences’ to the state in terms of stretching already thin financial resources to provide services to the ever-growing number of COFA migrants.” The impact costs that have been reported by Hawai`i support this claim. According to official reports by the governor’s office, non-immigrant aliens from the freely associated States (FAS) cost Hawai`i more than $32 million in FY 2002, $100 million in FY 2008, and $163 million in FY 2014. According to unofficial reports by state officials, non-immigrant aliens from the FAS will cost Hawai`i between $200 million and $300 million in FY 2019. To put these figures in perspective, this is equivalent to between 1.3 and 2.1 percent of  Hawai’i’s  executive operating budget for FY 2019.

The adverse consequences of COFA migration on Hawai`i are mitigated by temporary provisions in the overarching agreements that govern these relationships.  Under current law, the United States is required to annually provide $30 million in impact grants to American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, and Hawai`i on the basis of their COFA migrant populations. For Hawai`i, these impact funds defrayed over $14.8 million in government services provided by the state to COFA migrants in FY 2019.

The United States also is required to provide sector grants, education grants, trust fund contributions along with access to federal aviation, disaster, postal, and weather programs and services to the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. These contributions represent the lion’s share of the estimated $3.5 billion in economic assistance that the United States is required to provide to these countries between FYs 2004 and 2023. According to the Department of Interior, this economic assistance improves the quality of life in the FAS and potentially stems the migration of their citizens to the United States. These temporary provisions are set to expire in FY 2023.

The expiration of the temporary COFA provisions is expected to substantively increase the costs of providing government services to COFA migrants across the United States. As pointed out by the US Government Accountability Office, the sector grants and education grants currently support approximately one-third of the annual revenue of the Federated States of Micronesia and one-quarter of the annual revenue of the Republic of the Marshall Islands. While the United States may have intended for the COFA trust funds to offset the loss of these revenues when these sector grants and education grants expire in FY 2023, the COFA trust funds are “unlikely to provide maximum annual disbursements, may provide no disbursements at all in some years, and are unlikely to sustain the funds’ FY 2023 value.” If the annual distributions of the COFA trust funds “fall short of the inflation-adjusted amount of annual grant assistance” allocated in FY 2023, it is likely that there will be a significant deterioration in the quality of life in the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. That is why the Department of Interior recently warned the United States Congress that there is a significant risk that there will be an increase in the “out-migration of FAS citizens” to the United States “when direct grant funding under the Compact expires after 2023.” This increased out-migration probably would have a disproportionate impact on a handful of states and territories, including Hawai`i.

The Imperative for Hawai`i

Hawai`i has a substantive interest in championing provisions in federal legislation that mitigate the adverse consequences of COFA-based migration on impacted jurisdictions. It is therefore surprising that the senior political leadership of Hawai`i has not been collectively ringing the alarm bells over the fast-approaching expiration of a number of provisions in the overarching agreements that govern the free association relationships with the Federated States of Micronesia and Republic of the Marshall Islands. Hawai`i should take all necessary steps to ensure that these overarching agreements are amended prior to the expiration of these temporary provisions in 2023. This includes partnering with other impacted jurisdictions to advocate for their joint interests at the national level. If the senior political leadership of Hawai`i does not rise to this challenge, then the residents of Hawai`i will likely bear the burden of exponentially higher costs of providing government services to COFA migrants in the decades ahead. And, that almost certainly would have long-term political, economic, and social repercussions for Hawai`i.

Michael Walsh is a Research Fellow in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. The opinions expressed are his own.

Note: This article originally appeared on Pacific Forum.

Image Credit: eyetunes via Flickr CC

Impacted Jurisdictions Need COFA Strategies – 5/21/19

The United States has maintained relationships of free association with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau for decades. Over the next few years, the federal government is expected to start renegotiating the terms of these relationships. In a recent article, I argued that the federal government should take this opportunity to redefine the Compact of Free Association (COFA) provisions in a way that maximizes the vital interests of the United States. Similarly, states and territories should take this opportunity to try to redefine the COFA provisions in a way that maximizes their own vital interests. To make this happen, state leaders will need to decide on the future outcomes and strategic approaches that their states and territories want the federal government to adopt. Then, their governor’s offices and congressional delegations will need to advocate for these positions at the national level.

The Compacts of Free Association and associated agreements create a special kind of political and military relationship between the United States and the freely associated States. First and foremost, these agreements establish the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau as sovereign states in the international political system. In perpetuity, they also grant the United States the authority to ensure the security of the freely associated States in exchange for the right of the citizens of those States to work, study, and reside in the United States as non-immigrant aliens. The security provisions permit the United States armed forces access and to deny access by armed forces of other states to the freely associated States. The immigration provisions exempt the citizens of freely associated States from the visa and certification requirements imposed on foreigners by federal immigration legislation. Since these immigration provisions went into effect, tens of thousands of citizens of those States have established residence in the United States and its dependent territories.

The migration of COFA citizens to the United States has had a significant impact on many states and territories of the United States. Consider the state of Hawai`i. There are reportedly 16,680 COFA migrants currently residing in the state. While many of these COFA migrants make significant contributions to their local communities, including the payment of a variety of taxes, Hawai`i also spends a significant amount of state funds on the basic needs of COFA migrants. According to Gov. David Ige, Hawai`i spent an estimated $163 million to provide state services to COFA migrants in 2014. This included over $87 million to provide education for COFA students, $66 million for health and social services for COFA migrants, and $1 million to incarcerate COFA migrants. Unfortunately, these adverse consequences completely overshadow the positive contributions of COFA migrants in the state-level discourse on COFA migration.

The United States Congress has long recognized that COFA migration would impose adverse consequences on American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and Hawai`i. In the Compacts of Free Association Acts of 1985, the Congress authorized the appropriation of funds to cover the costs resulting from increased demands placed on their state-funded services. The Compact of Free Association Act of 2003 went even further by authorizing and appropriating $30 million in annual funds to defray the costs of state-funded services in these affected jurisdictions. It also directed the Department of the Interior to distribute these funds in proportion to the most recent enumeration of COFA migrants in the affected jurisdictions. This funding provision is set to expire in Fiscal Year 2023.

The renegotiation of the COFA agreements provides an opportunity to reconsider the enduring commitments of the United States to the freely associated States and the financial commitments of the United States to the states and territories impacted by the COFA agreements. Over the next few years, as the federal government is expected to start renegotiating the terms of its relationships with the freely associated States, it should adopt a strategic approach that aligns with a desired future for those relationships. States and territories with large populations of COFA migrants have a vital interest in reducing the negative impacts of COFA migration on their local communities. The federal government almost certainly shares this point of view.

There are many strategic approaches that the federal government could adopt to try to achieve that desired future. Each of these approaches carries different consequences for states and territories, making it quite possible that there will be a political struggle over those choices. One approach would be to try to amend the enduring commitments of the United States to the freely associated States. For example, one could try to eliminate the immigration provisions at the center of these agreements. Or, one could try to impose additional restrictions that would reduce the number of citizens of freely associated States that qualify for non-immigrant status. Another approach would be to amend the financial commitments of the United States to the states and territories impacted by the COFA agreements. For example, one could try to authorize the appropriation of more funds to defray (or even reimburse) the costs of providing educational and social services to COFA migrants in the affected jurisdictions. Or, one could try to expand the list of affected jurisdictions so that more states and territories with large populations of COFA migrants qualify for impact funding.

The choice of strategic approach could have a significant impact on the adverse consequences of COFA migration across the United States. Consider an approach that expands the list of affected jurisdictions. Under the current agreements, American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, and Hawai`i count as affected jurisdictions, qualifying them for impact funds to defray the costs of supporting COFA migrants. But, other states with large COFA migrant populations — Arkansas, California, Oregon, Texas, and Washington – do not. This is remarkable given that these states have much larger populations of COFA migrants than American Samoa. Expanding the list of affected jurisdictions to include the other states with significant COFA migrant populations would mitigate the adverse consequences of COFA migration in more states and territories, but it would simultaneously reduce the amount of funding available to mitigate the adverse consequences in American Samoa, CNMI, Guam, and Hawai`i.

As shown by this example, the choice of strategic approach could have a significant impact on the distribution of power and influence across the United States. It is not just that the interests of states and territories with large populations of migrant populations are not the same as the interests of other states and territories with small populations of migrant populations. It is also that the interests of some states with large populations of migrant populations are not the same as the interests of some other states with large populations of migrant populations. The likely outcome is that the interests of many states will not align with the interests of the federal government when it comes to renegotiating the COFA agreements.

The expected renegotiation of the terms of the United States’ relationships with the freely associated States will provide state-level actors an opportunity to shape the desired future that will be pursued by the federal government. All states and territories have an interest in taking advantage of these opportunities. However, states and territories with large populations of COFA migrants have an even greater interest in taking advantage of these opportunities. For these reasons, the senior political leadership of every state or territory should develop a COFA strategy that harmonizes the future outcomes and strategic approaches that their state or territory wants to see adopted by the federal government. Then, they need their governor’s office and congressional delegation to strongly advocate these positions at the national level. This should happen as early in the renegotiation process as possible. Otherwise, their voices might not be heard before the federal government takes a stance on its desired future and strategic approach.

Michael Walsh is a Research Fellow in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. The opinions expressed are his own.

Note: This article originally appeared on Pacific Forum.

Image Credit: Gary Todd via Flickr CC

The United States Needs an Integrated COFA Strategy – 5/11/19

For decades, the United States has maintained special relationships of free association with the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Palau. These special relationships were brought into existence by international agreements called Compacts of Free Association (COFAs).

Under these international agreements, the Freely Associated States are recognized as sovereign states with the authority to conduct their own foreign affairs. However, the United States has authority for their defense and security. It also has the power to limit the conduct of their foreign affairs with respect to defense and security matters. Separately, most of their citizens have the right to a special class of immigration privileges in the United States, as well as the right to serve in the armed forces of the United States. In addition, the United States has an obligation to provide economic assistance to the Republic of Palau until fiscal year 2024, to the Republic of the Marshall Islands until fiscal year 2023, and to the Federated States of Micronesia until fiscal year 2023.

Over the next few years, the United States is expected to start renegotiating the terms of these special relationships. The executive branch should take this opportunity to redefine the relationship between Free Association activities and the vital interests of the United States.

First, the executive branch needs to develop a National Free Association Strategy. This strategy should represent a single coordinated effort to harmonize the full range of activities that are to be carried out across the United States government in order to achieve the strategic vision of the National Security Strategy through free association agreements with other sovereign states.

Second, the executive branch needs to establish a governance model to execute the National Free Association Strategy. This governance model should establish a dedicated mechanism for coordinating the full range of Free Association activities across the United States Government. This dedicated mechanism should also be tasked with monitoring the extent to which the stated objectives of the National Free Association Strategy are being realized by the United States government.

Third, the executive branch needs to establish an overarching policy on Free Association activities. This policy should not only assign responsibilities and stipulate procedures for the execution of Free Association activities with Free Association Partner entities. It should also establish a common definition for Free Association Partners and Free Association activities to be used by executive agencies.

Fourth, executive agencies need to establish specific policies on Free Association activities that fall under their mandates. These policies should align with the National Security Strategy and National Free Association Strategy. They should also mandate the use of the common definition for Free Association Partners and Free Association activities within their agencies.

If the executive branch makes these strategic investments, then the United States government will be in a better position to renegotiate the economic and programmatic assistance that it provides to the Freely Associated States. This will also put the relevant ambassadors and country teams in a better position to determine the bilateral policy goals and program priorities at each of these overseas posts.

Michael Walsh is a Research Fellow in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. The opinions expressed are his own.

Note: This article originally appeared on The Diplomat.

Palau Can Use Public Diplomacy to Combat Illegal Fishing – Genevieve Neilson

As one of the most biodiverse sets of islands in the Pacific, Palau relies on the health of its oceans for tourism and fisheries industries, but the country is increasingly threatened by impacts of illegal fishing. Palau’s flagship program to counter overfishing and encourage sustainable development is its National Marine Sanctuary. In October 2015, Palau created one of the world’s largest marine sanctuaries that covers 80 percent of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). State revenues from fishing industry permits will decline, and Palau does not have the enforcement ships to ensure its sanctuary is protected. Therefore the government hopes to replace declining income with an increase in tourism by wealthy travelers and will need international support to maintain sovereignty over its fisheries. In this case, proactive public diplomacy can be an effective tool for a small island country like Palau to improve its security. Public diplomacy can focus attention on illegal fishing while engendering support for its culture of conservation, strengthening networks tied to the issue, and influencing behaviors of the U.S. and other regional actors.

Illegal Fishing: An International Problem

Ineffective international management of the Pacific tuna supply, strong consumer demand and weak monitoring of vessels have led to overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and bycatch. Palau can pursue policy action against illegal fishing by constructing and projecting its own strategic narratives to influence foreign audiences. Overfishing has been a significant problem for the Pacific Island region, leading to competition for depleted fish stocks. Furthermore, in some cases, operators of IUU fishing vessels disregard basic labor standards. Consumers across the globe and in Asia in particular have created a high demand for tuna and other prominent fish. Illegal fishing is not a problem that Palau has created, nor can it solve on its own.

International agreements to regulate global fisheries have been slowly implemented and lack adequate monitoring. Recently, Palau became the first Pacific Island Country to sign the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate IUU Fishing (PSMA), which blocks ships suspected of IUU fishing from entering ports. Once in effect, the agreement will build upon other global instruments. Yet, PSMA requires more than 20 more parties to ratify, and implementation necessitates adequate monitoring and enforcement mechanisms that are lacking.

Furthermore, the United States has wavered in its support for Pacific fisheries, leaving island states uncertain about their futures. In 2014, the Obama Administration’s Presidential Task Force on Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood fraud released recommendations for comprehensive programs. Now, the United States is reneging on the number of fishing days purchased in the Vessel Day Scheme. This lack of commitment by the United States sends mixed signals to Australia, Japan, China, and other external actors. This should concern others in the region, especially the Compact of Free Association countries.

These issues culminate at a time when the plight of PICs has received significant attention because of climate change. Through its traditional and public diplomacy, Palau has been a leader in the region and on the world stage for small island developing states. While climate change is a central issue for Palau, illegal fishing demands the same attention utilizing public diplomacy. In this way, Palau can attain aid from the public and non-state actors to support conservation, monitoring and enforcement, or employ the public to force action upon the United States and other regional actors.

Proactive Public Diplomacy: Building on Established Campaigns and Partnerships

Public diplomacy is a transparent way for Palau to communicate with foreign and domestic publics to inform and influence. Palau can promote efforts to combat illegal fishing through digital diplomacy, cultural events and forums. Despite its small population of around 21,000 people and budget of about $83 million, Palau’s approach to illegal fishing is multi-faceted and includes partnerships with the United States government and non-government groups. The country needs to improve engagement with the global public on illegal fishing in order to create more awareness and understanding of the problems it faces and develop solutions.

Palau’s regular engagement with other states on illegal fishing can be boosted by public diplomacy.  For example, in March 2015 a group of states held a conference in Guam to discuss the increased illegal fishing in the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau; there was strong representation by U.S. embassies as well as the U.S. Coast Guard, governments of Australia, Palau and Federated States of Micronesia. More public involvement outside of government relationships and greater publicity can help showcase regional cooperation.

The Government of Palau has close relationships with private, non-state actors based in the United States made possible by public diplomacy. First, through the Global Ocean Legacy project, the Pew Charitable Trusts and its partners aid Palau to conserve and protect some of the most significant and “unspoiled” ocean environments. Second, Earthjustice, an environmental law group, supplied legal aid to Palau to enable the Palau National Marine Sanctuary Act. Third, the small nonprofit SkyTruth uses software, digital maps and public data to help governments like Palau to crack down on IUU fishing. Specifically, they helped to track a Taiwanese ship that was carrying illegal caught tuna and shark fins. This year, in partnership with Google and Oceana, SkyTruth intends to launch the website Global Fishing Watch to enable anyone in the world to track illegal fishermen and empower consumers.

Palau’s active relationships with other state actors involved in illegal fishing, experience with non-government groups leave it well-placed to lead public diplomacy efforts to protect its fisheries.

Creating Effective Messaging against Illegal Fishing

By showcasing its image as a country focused on conservation and tough on illegal fishing, digital diplomacy can help Palau to shape the international policy environment. Traditionally public diplomacy may focus on nation branding, setting countries apart. For Palau, that could complicate partnerships with Pacific neighbors and strain financial and human resources. Rather, the country must balance image promotion, concentrating on the Office of the President, embassies, and local groups with expanding their digital footprint, and coordinating efforts with other PICs and larger regional actors.

Digital diplomacy is becoming an increasingly important tool, even for small countries like Palau. In particular, Twitter diplomacy is a way for Palau’s government to bypass traditional media gatekeepers. Twitter can be part of foreign policy in three stages: the government official or embassy tweets official information; a more tailored stage where officials tweet news articles; and the most personal and advanced stage, where officials engage in debates with their personal opinions. President Remengesau has a relatively new Twitter page with more than 500 followers. Compared to Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama who has more than 11,000 followers on Twitter, there is room for improvement. The Office of the President of Palau has a Facebook page with the Marine Sanctuary Act posted to the top of the page.  Social media enables the government to create discussions and engage on a personal level as opposed to distributing broadcast messages. Both Facebook and Twitter can contribute to a cohesive public diplomacy effort if daily and weekly resources are dedicated. The Digital Diplomacy Coalition illustrates that training diplomats and future leaders in this area can help enable Palau to engage with its domestic and international public to mitigate issues.

Despite moves into social media, Palau has a poor digital footprint which likely results from constraints on the country’s diplomatic resources, including its lack of embassies. The country has embassies in Washington, Manila, Tokyo and Taipei. In particular, its Washington website is outdated despite the “Ambassador” page explaining that the website is meant to be a space for finding current information. Palau’s Ambassador to Washington, Hersey Kyota, is the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps with close to 20 years in the role; with his wide networks and notoriety in Washington, his staff should work toward a better web presence. Instead, President Remengesau is leading the charge for his country, as exemplified in the many awards he has received, and remains the central focus point of the digital diplomacy strategy.

Partnering with other countries to build a strong unified voice can help gain support from the global public with the goal of bolstering the U.S. and others to act. Organizations like the Global Island Partnership, the Pacific Islands Forum and Pacific Islands Development Forum create platforms for advocacy. In particular when island countries can create a coherent message together they will have greater chance of success, such as in their efforts for greater access to climate finance.

To measure public diplomacy progress, the government of Palau can look to a number of metrics. First, it can count the number of domestic and international partnerships; by taking stock of its partnerships with organizations such as The Pew Trusts, it can analyze partners based on quality and find gaps in success. Second, it can follow mentions of illegal fishing from major country outlets to inform its own interventions into online conversations. The topic of illegal fishing may arise more often when there are international meetings or Western organizations are involved. Third, the Office of the President can keep track of its followers on Facebook and Twitter. These platforms have a conversational character and should be used for engagement over retweets, follows and likes. Finally, the government can monitor the attitudes of its citizens and Pacific neighbors.

Conclusion

Illegal fishing impacts the ability of the regional fisheries management organizations as well as local governments to regulate their stocks through conservation measures. If Palau is not able to stop IUU fishing in its EEZ, the new National Marine Sanctuary efforts will be compromised, a loss not restricted to Palau. Luckily, President Tommy Remengesau’s list of accomplishments and the country’s partnerships continues to grow. To complement its conservation efforts and the media attention for climate change, Palau needs international support for monitoring and enforcement of its territory, particularly the new sanctuary, and avenues of funding. Its work with The Pew Trusts and SkyTruth signal that private organizations and citizens are taking the lead; they are able to share the data captured and create best practices publicly more readily than governments. Palau should engage in a more proactive public diplomacy strategy focusing on digital diplomacy and strategic communication in collaboration with its Pacific neighbors. By engaging closely and more publicly with a global audience, Palau can shape the conversation and solutions for illegal fishing in a way that benefits its domestic and regional interests.

Genevieve Neilson is a 2016 Pacific Security Scholar at the Islands Society. She recently completed her M.A. in International Affairs from The Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University. She also holds a Graduate Certificate from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University and a B.A. (Honors) in International Relations and Political Science from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her research interests include foreign policy and trade in the Asia-Pacific region, public diplomacy, and the Chinese language.

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: US Navy via Flickr CC