Power, Politics and Coalitions in the Pacific

The Institute for Human Security and Social Change, under the Developmental Leadership Program (DLP), has worked with Pacific Women to conduct research into coalitions in the Pacific that are working on issues of gender and power.


Coalitions are increasingly understood as important in bringing about change. The Institute for Human Security and Social Change, under the Developmental Leadership Program (DLP), has worked with Pacific Women to conduct research into coalitions in the Pacific that are working on issues of gender and power. The research draws on case studies of five coalitions of varied sizes, types and locations:

  • Talitha Project (Tonga) responding to the needs of young women and girls.
  • Women in Sustainable Enterprise(WISE, Tonga) network for women in business.
  • Nei Nibarara (Kiribati) a women’s handicraft network/cooperative.
  • Response to sorcery-related violence (Papua New Guinea).
  • A group working to protect and promote universal human rights, including the rights of women and LGBTIQ people (Fiji).
Findings highlight four factors that seem to have shaped the coalitions, and their ability to promote social change in gender norms and power relations:
  • The formative event that brought people together to take action on an issue in a concerted way.
  • The nature of the coalition’s ownership and ways of working.
  • The shared ground (values/interests) on which the coalition is based.
  • The nature of the coalition’s leadership ‒ whether leadership is understood and practiced as a process of adaptation, or a characteristic of leaders.

Understanding how these factors influence each other, and how they interact with different forms of power, offers possibilities for better supporting and enabling the work of coalitions. One of the themes emerging from the findings is the importance of safe spaces of participation for relationship-building, frank reflection and debate.

Such opportunities can help to foster local ownership and adaptive leadership, and to develop shared values. These spaces can sometimes be usefully convened by regional or international actors.

A research report and policy brief will be available in the second half of 2016.

Article prepared by Tait Brimacombe, Research Fellow, Institute for Human Security and Social Change and the Developmental Leadership Program. It originally appeared in the Pacific Women E-News bulletin.

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