On 8 September 2017, the Prime Minister announced the Pacific Connect program, to forge stronger, strategic-level relationships between Pacific and Australian leaders across the public, private and community sectors. Pacific Connect complements a suite of government digital/innovation, cyber engagement, leadership, women’s and research initiatives that are operating in the Pacific.
Pacific Connect is part of the ‘people to people’ pillar 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) 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 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 projects– developing long-term enduring relationships through shared experiences and collaborations.
ICDP’s approach concentrates on embracing local support and local ownership of ideas and projects 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 4,000 individuals and organisations to connect and work with the Pacific region.
In October 2019, ICDP received a three-year contract extension from DFAT to continue implementing the program, building on the theme of ‘Australia-Pacific Connections for the Digital Future’. ICDP’s current initiatives focus on six countries in the Pacific: Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu.
The Pacific Connect program has been successful across a number of countries and sectors in its initial 2 year phase and will continue to focus on linking Australian & Pacific Islander individuals and organisations (particularly SMEs and female entrepreneurs) to deliver development outcomes across the Pacific. For information on projects emanating from Pacific Connect dialogues and connections, click here.