Project title: Displacement of populations in the Pacific region and East Timor
To strengthen the capacity of Church and institutions of civil society to understand and respond to the increasing needs of displaced populations in the Pacific region.
The countries of the Pacific Island Forum (Pacific region), as well as East Timor, have poor economic prospects, limited migration options and increased population displacement due to political instability or extreme climate change.
JRS has been active in the Asia Pacific region for over 25 years concentrating on refugee flows to and from countries within Asia. Up until recently JRS, and other refugee organisations, have had little cause to focus on countries in the Pacific. However, in recent times significant Pacific countries -Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, as well as the newly independent country of East Timor - have experienced civil unrest and in some cases significant internal displacement of populations. All of these countries are characterised by poor economic growth, high birth rates and limited access to high-income countries in the region. Other small Pacific island countries in the region are still politically stable but are challenged by climate change and very limited economic opportunity for its citizens.
The Australian government describes the overall performance of the Pacific island countries as poor (AUSAid: Pacific 2020, 2006), describing contributing factors as high unemployment, joblessness and governments that are unable to meet the expectations of their citizens. In recent times Australia's neighbouring countries have been referred to as the 'Arc of Instability'. This has led to bad relations between the Australian government and neighbouring countries. The Australian media frequently reports the governments of these neighbouring countries as having 'failed or failing governments'. The Australian government describes the Pacific region as facing many daunting challenges in the future (AUSAid: Pacific 2020, 2006).
JRS is concerned that poor knowledge of the actual levels of displacement in the Pacific region and limited anticipation of future population displacement patterns limits the response warranted by current events as well as preparations for future displacements.
JRS, with its knowledge of the causes and consequences of the displacement of people and its skills in working with displaced populations, wishes to 'map' the displacement occurring in the Pacific Region with a view to:
1. Ascertaining what are the emerging issues on displacement that are arising in the Pacific region;
2. Identifying and analysing the 'root' causes of this displacement;
3. Determining who are the key informants on displacement within each Pacific country and across the region;
4. Identifying Catholic and other church partners who are meeting the needs of people who are displaced;
5. Strengthening the churches' and other civil society structures' knowledge of, and response to, displacement in the Pacific;
6. Developing policy with which to advocate on behalf of the displaced;
7. Informing members of the Australian and New Zealand public on the displacement that is occurring in the region;
8. Advocating the development of just policies towards the needs of the displaced.
East Timor and Pacific Island Forum countries unclude:
Melanesia and East Timor
Fiji (840,000 population)
Cook Islands (20,000)