|Conflict over Natural Resources in South-East Asia and the Pacific (UNU, 1990, 256 pages)|
|6. Conflict over natural resources in the Pacific|
James M. Anthony
6.1 The region and its resources
6.2 Conflicts over marine space
6.3 Conflicts over the marine environment
6.4 Conflicting maritime claims
6.5 Conflicts over pelagic resources
6.6 Conflict over seabed mineral resources
The history of the Pacific islands is in no small measure a history of conflict over natural resources. Before foreigners came to the Pacific in search of whales, gold, cheap labour, sandalwood, land in the sun, noble savages, and candidates for conversion to their religious beliefs, Pacific islanders themselves were engaged in contention over one natural resource that was sacred and scarce- land. With the arrival of foreigners, the islanders were pitted in long and often bitter disputes with the new arrivals and sometimes among themselves.
In the wake of European rediscovery of the Pacific and its peoples, an era of unsurpassed conflict over natural resources began. Land was at the core of these struggles. The more flagrant instances are well known-the Maoris of New Zealand were divested of 63 million of the 66 million acres once owned by them; the Kanaks of New Caledonia were deprived of ownership of all their lands when the French colonized them in 1853; by the early part of the twentieth century, the Hawaiians had lost almost all of the land once held under native customary tenure; in Fiji, shortly after that country had become a British Crown Colony in 1874 some of the best land was judged by a Land Claims Commission appointed by the newly established British colonial government to have been 'properly alienated' to a motley collection of itinerant foreigners. But the loss of as precious a resource as land was not the end of the story. In time, there was conflict over other natural resources as well. In each case the natives lost, perhaps not completely but substantially. Ownership and control of most natural resources passed into foreign hands.
The conflict over natural resources in the Pacific islands has so far largely been over those that are land based: minerals, people, sandalwood, lumber, and fresh water. Largely ignored in the first two decades after the end of the Second World War, the Pacific is now being 're-rediscovered'. That in itself ought not to be considered too surprising. The Pacific, after all, is a huge body of water separating the United States from its largest trading partners-the countries of East Asia, and Japan in particular. Moreover, it is through the Pacific that an increasing volume of American, Soviet, and other maritime traffic, military as well as commercial, travels into East and SouthEast Asian ports, beyond them into the Indian Ocean, and from there to the Middle East. The United States claims that this is yet another area vital to its interests. And to lend legitimacy to that claim, the familiar spectre of the Soviet threat to this area has also been raised. The elements to make this a new theatre of the Cold War are present: strategic seabed mineral resources, petroleum and gas, marine space, and specks of land in a vast ocean that must not be allowed to fall into hostile hands, domestic or foreign. It is against this background of 'strategic denial' that the general subject of conflict over natural resources in the Pacific will be addressed.
Although it might be revealing to document, assess, and analyse the historical record of the various manifestations of conflict over natural resources in the Pacific, that is not the purpose of this essay. The concern here is with the 're-rediscovery' of the Pacific and its effect on the frontier resources of the ocean-fish, seabed minerals, marine ecosystems, hydrocarbons, and marine space-in the expanded ocean areas that now fall within the jurisdiction of island states.
Since the island states themselves are surrounded by metropolitan, industrialized states-North and South America to the east; the Soviet Union, South Korea, Japan, China, and parts of South-East Asia to the west, and Australia and New Zealand to the south-west-it will be necessary to examine to some extent the involvement of these metropolitan powers (as well as others such as France and West Germany) in the present and future exploitation of Pacific marine and related resources. In addition, it will be necessary to examine such actual and potential conflict as might exist within and between island states over questions like disputed ocean boundaries, rates and terms of resource exploitation, and protection of the marine environment.
Underlying the issues examined, the questions posed, and the trends identified is a narrow spectrum of complex, interrelated, and in some ways paradoxical concerns that are of fundamental importance to the future of this vast, now strategic region. Small in terms of population, smaller still in terms of land mass, this is a part of the world that lies in the centre of a vast ocean that covers a third of the earth's surface. Despite their physical location in the centre of the region, the islands have long been relegated to the periphery by some of the larger countries around the Pacific rim. This is nowhere more clear than in the volume of material on what has come to be known variously as the Pacific Community or the Pacific Basin Economic Community.
In the grand plans discussed in Tokyo, Washington, Canberra, and other distant capitals, the islands of the Pacific have for a long time been taken for granted. This was illustrated by Jiro Tokuyama, Dean of the Nomura School of Advanced Management and an adviser to the important Tokyo-based Nomura Research Institute, when he spoke on the subject of 'The Emerging Pacific Community' at a closed meeting in Honolulu in October 1984. Tokuyama, in a 21-page prepared address, had not one word to say about the Pacific islands. When questioned from the floor about this omission, he seemed perplexed at first, but then answered that the islands could, in the emergent twenty-first century economic order, be the playground for tired businessmen (and women) and others from the rim countries. It might be argued that being figurative 'hewers of wood and carriers of water' in a super twenty-first century hotel industry may not be the worst fate for Pacific islanders. What is intriguing in this scenario is the question of whether Pacific islanders will own the hotels or whether they will be owned and controlled by the transnational corporations that will have mined the ocean floor for minerals and reinvested the profits in a Pacific-wide island hotel boom.
If this scenario were to be realized-and it might be-it would be a repetition of history. The resources of the land made others rich the first time around. Now that the islanders have a rare second chance to play the resource exploitation game again-this time with their last resources land and those of the ocean- how will the spoils be divided? Developed nations view the South Pacific as a place to freely fish for tuna, test their weapons and, possibly, store or dump their waste and mine the seabed minerals. The islanders are pitted again, albeit in different historical circumstances, against those who possess technological superiority and financial power. The issues for the island states, collectively and individually, coalesce around dependence, equity, life-style and survival. These issues are at the heart of this struggle, and the consequences, if not approached with creativity, vision, and unusually enlightened political and intellectual leadership, may, in the emerging world division of labour, relegate all the inhabitants of the Pacific (barring a few local political and economic brokers) to permanent servitude. In this respect, Pacific islanders are in a position no different from that of other resource-rich Third World peoples. Their problems and opportunities are in microcosm the very same as those of others in the Third World.