Pacific Connect is part of the ‘people to people’ pillar as outlined in the 2017 Australian Government Foreign Policy White Paper. The focus of its agenda is how to offer a ‘step change’ within the busy Pacific engagement program arena. This ‘step change’ offers new and different approaches from existing initiatives and Pacific Connect delivered by the International Centre for Democratic Partnerships (ICDP) was chosen by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) as a ‘pilot’ to deliver an alternative ‘people-to-people’ approach.
The aim of Pacific Connect is to help deliver the Australian Government’s agenda to step-up Australia’s pacific engagement by building stronger relationships between people in Australia and the Pacific. This involves facilitating activities that lead to genuine, long-lasting relationships between Australians and Pacific Islanders and that try to go above and beyond an initial connection through a one-off event. It is about putting the ‘right’ people in the room to connect and work on mutually beneficial issues – developing long-term enduring relationships through shared experiences.
ICDP’s approach will concentrate on embracing local support and local ownership of ideas and issues through convening dialogues using the ‘second track’ process with long-term view of creating self-sustaining networks. To support its activities, ICDP through its strategic partners, Global Access Partners (GAP) and Strategic Development Group, has access to an extensive business, government and civil society network of over 3,500 individuals and organisations to the Pacific region.
In its initial two-year pilot phase, which commenced on 1 October 2017, the Pacific Connect theme is building ‘Australia-Pacific Connections for the Digital Future’ and the initiative will initially focus on six countries in the Pacific: Fiji, Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Tonga.