Scalar Politics and the Region: Strategies for Transcending Pacific Island Smallness on a Global Environmental Governance Stage



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Environment and Planning A


This paper examines the process through which a region was enacted and politically mobilized at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP10) to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). We draw on concepts from scalar politics and new regional geography, data collected as part of a collaborative event ethnography of CoP10, and interviews with Palauan delegates to theorize the enactment of an oceanic Pacific Region as a scalar strategy directed toward transcending the practical and imagined smallness of Pacific small island developing states (SIDS) within the CoP10 meeting context and global imaginations. We conclude that the Pacific Region construct enhances Pacific SIDS’ capacity to participate in CoP10, although their collective influence remains relatively limited compared with others. Most significantly, the Pacific Region imaginary of a vast ocean space and network of people committed to the CBD and biodiversity conservation positions Pacific Islanders to play a pivotal role in conserving a significant portion of the world’s oceans. In the context of increasing global attention to marine conservation, the enactment of such a Pacific Region is likely to aid in attracting international recognition, attention, and support. By conveying how and why a diverse group of state and nonstate actors enacted an international and oceanic region at CoP10, we contribute understanding of strategic regionalization within the scalar politics literature and further disrupt understandings of an ontologically given, land-based region conceptualized on continental or subcontinental spatial scales.



CBD, method, marine