Advancing Regional Stability in an Era of Geopolitical Competition and Tension: The Role of Fiji
Special Reports

Advancing Regional Stability in an Era of Geopolitical Competition and Tension: The Role of Fiji

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Fiji is an archipelagic nation in the central western Pacific Ocean that stands at the crossroads of the Pacific, as a regional hub and as a transit point for regional commerce and communications. Fiji’s leaders were instrumental in the establishment of the South Pacific Forum (now Pacific Islands Forum, or PIF) in 1971 and have had an influential role in regional affairs ever since. Unique amongst the small island states of the Pacific, Fiji has a relatively large standing army with a history of coups, beginning in 1987. These military interventions have had negative spillover effects on regional stability while also shaping Fiji’s international role and relationships.

In December 2022, a general election saw the first peaceful transfer of power in Fiji’s history, ending the 16-year long rule of a government that first came to power via a coup in December 2006 and was twice returned to power via elections. The current government, led by a former coup leader and prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka, has sought to focus Fiji’s foreign policy on the impact of geopolitical tensions in the Pacific and to position Fiji as a promoter of both regional and global peace and stability. Central to this foreign policy has been the concept of the Pacific as a zone or ocean of peace.

The Rabuka government’s advocacy for the Pacific “zone of peace” concept (at regional and global levels) provides insights into how a small island state navigates geopolitical dynamics, with a view to enhancing regional stability and security. Unlike the previous Fijian government, which viewed geopolitics as an opportunity and/or a distraction, the current government has drawn attention to the risks arising from great power competition and conflict in the Pacific. It is these risks that the zone of peace concept ostensibly seeks to mitigate.

There are at least three inter-related elements that have emerged at the core of the zone of peace concept articulated by Rabuka. These are non-alignment (or ‘friends to all’), advancing cooperation with and between the major powers (particularly the United States and China), and Pacific Way diplomacy. In combination, these elements may provide a basis for building regional stability while consolidating a Pacific-owned and led regional security agenda.

About the Author

Sandra Tarte is Associate Professor and acting Head of the School of Law and Social Sciences, University of the South Pacific (USP). She has worked at USP for almost three decades and held various roles including Director of the Politics and International Affairs programme.

Sandra specialises in the international politics of the Pacific Islands region. She has written widely on regional cooperation in the Pacific, with a focus on fisheries management and conservation, and regional security issues. She has also consulted for the South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency, the South Pacific Regional Environment Program, the International Development Centre, Tokyo, and Greenpeace Pacific. Sandra holds a Doctor of Philosophy in East Asian Studies from the Australian National University and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Science from the University of Melbourne. She is a member of the Asia-Pacific Leadership Network.

Disclaimer: The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Asia Pacific Leadership Network or any of its members. The APLN’s website is a source of authoritative research and analysis and serves as a platform for debate and discussion among our senior network members, experts and practitioners, as well as the next generation of policymakers, analysts and advocates. Comments and responses can be emailed to

Image: Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka with US President Joe Biden, 25 September, 2023, White House, Wikimedia Commons; Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka with Chinese President Xi Jinping, San Francisco, 16 November, 2023, Office of the Prime Minister of Fiji

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