Foreign policy orientation of small island states: An evaluation of the foreign policies of Vanuatu and the Maldives
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The limited literature on the foreign policy of small states is riddled with diverse views on the most effective policy orientation for these countries. Some scholars have specified multilateralism as the most effective strategy while others have suggested regionalism and some others have stressed bilateralism. While this is the case, small states being heavily dependent on the external environment and the least equipped to influence events or processes at the international level, find it essential to ensure that their foreign policy orientation is the most effective. As such, there is a need for additional research on the subject, as that undertaken in this thesis. Guided by the framework for evaluation suggested by G.A. Raymond, this thesis attempted to evaluate the foreign policies of Vanuatu and the Maldives to determine whether there is any justification to argue in favour of multilateralism, regionalism or bilateralism as the most effective foreign policy strategy for small island states, a sub-group within the category of small states. Vanuatu and the Maldives were used as case studies since their policies were of the same class or universe rendering them suitable for comparison. Three foreign policy goals that have been identified for evaluation included, preserving and enhancing security and sovereignty; economic development; and environment protection. These goals were tied to several objectives. The thesis, using the comparative method, attempted to determine the relative effectiveness of the strategies, multilateralism, regionalism and bilateralism, in contributing towards realising the foreign policy objectives and thereby the goals. The evaluation revealed that multilateralism was more effective overall in contributing towards the security and sovereignty related objectives and the environment related objectives of Vanuatu and the Maldives. Both bilateralism and multilateralism were equally effective for Vanuatu and the Maldives in contributing towards their economic development related objectives. The evaluation also revealed a slight bias in favour of multilateralism as more effective overall compared to regionalism and bilateralism, in contributing towards the three foreign policy goals of the two countries. This was because all of the objectives were given equal weight in the analysis. If the objectives were prioritised then the results would have been different. In fact, different strategies proved effective in contributing towards different objectives and goals. Often more than one strategy had to be used in furthering a single objective or goal. As such, based on the evaluation of this thesis, there is no justification to argue in favour of anyone strategy as more effective for the foreign policy of small states.