24, 25 and 26 April 2013, Northern Province, New Caledonia

Version française  English version

Conference Presentation

24, 25 and 26 April 2013, Northern Province, New Caledonia

AGORA-SHS NC, the Network of Social Sciences in New Caledonia, in collaboration with the Centre des Nouvelles Etudes sur le Pacifique (CNEP, University of New Caledonia-UNC) and the French Institute of Research for Development (IRD), would like to invite academics, researchers and development practitioners to send proposals of papers to be presented at a conference in 2013 on the theme of sustainable development (SD) in New Caledonia and Oceania.

As a sequel to a previous workshop on "Rurality and Sustainable Development in New Caledonia", organized in 2008 ( ) by the UNC, the Institute of Agronomy of New Caledonia (IAC) and the Department of Economic Development and Environment of the Northern Province, the object of the present conference is to build up the reflections started around the concept of sustainable development and its implementation in Oceania.

Widely discussed in Nouméa at the first meetings of the AGORA series of conferences in Social and Human Sciences (SHS) in 2006, the specific development of Pacific island states and territories has not been since the subject of special attention in New Caledonia, except indirectly or partially, at UNC or IRD conferences devoted to the environment, biodiversity, mining activities or the rural world. Other thematic and SD issues related conferences were held by environmental NGOS or the Chamber of commerce of Nouméa. For their part, local authorities are advancing on the adoption of sustainable development strategies and policies but much work remains to be done, like the Development plan for New Caledonia (NC 2025) that has not yet been completed. If scientific writings on the development of Pacific islands are numerous, particularly in the Anglophone world, there are no common reflections yet between Francophone and Anglophone researchers in SHS on the theme of development in Oceania.

Consistent with the purpose it was created for, AGORA SHS NC aims to create a network of researchers on the theme of sustainable development in the Pacific. In this perspective, the meeting of French and English scientists at the symposium of 24 to 26 April 2013 is to be seen as a step forward.
This meeting is meant to be an opportunity for scientists to clarify existing concepts, question their relevance both globally and locally and possibly propose a new approach. It is also an opportunity to compare the concepts with case studies through exchanges with Caledonian practitioners as well from across the Pacific in the field of development

Symbolically, the holding of this conference is proposed in the Northern Province of New Caledonia, which combines industrial development, actions to protect and enhance a rich and fragile biodiversity, and geographical, social and economic recomposition.

In Oceania, countries with high living standards and growth rates coexist alongside the poorest countries in the world. The region provides also a wide variety of macroeconomic situations, from countries surviving on fishing and agriculture, to rentier and extroverted economies based on mining and tourism. In Oceania, the problems of non sustainability of the current development models are particularly acute due to various reasons : climate change inducing an inevitable rise in the seawaters, ocean acidification, increased migration, overexploitation of natural resources (such as fish but also drinking water), pollution and ecosystem degradation due, among other things, to the intensive exploitation of mineral resources or tourism development. More generally, Pacific island states and territories face changes in lifestyle, a loss of biodiversity and cultural diversity, a disintegration of the traditional social fabric and a rise in inequality that generates violence and conflicts, health problems related to new patterns and ways of life etc.

In most countries of the region( if we except Australia and New Zealand), the development process also faces constraints characteristic of small island states (SIDS): remoteness, small markets, vulnerability to world prices, etc. often combined with socio-cultural and political difficulties related to decolonization and the learning of sovereignty. With the acceleration of the globalization process, an unfavorable international environment has emerged for the poorest countries in commercial exchanges, in which the strategies of transnational corporations play an increasing role, shaping territories by upsetting the balance.

In this context, the purpose of the conference is both to encourage interdisciplinary theoretical debates (economics, law, management, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, geography, ecology, history ...) around the concept of sustainable development and the specificities of SIDS, but also to share experiences and prospects of implementation of development programs in the various countries of Oceania.

Theme 1 - Pacific approaches for a renewed concept of sustainable development

The concept of sustainable development, which appears in the UN arena with the publication of the Brundtland Report (1987), now seems to be largely consensual. Yet if everyone agrees on the three pillars that underpin the concept (economic, social and environmental), it is clear that the prioritization of issues and its implications for development strategy differ greatly depending on the approaches.
How to avoid, in a Pacific perspective, the pitfall of an alternating anthropocentric (or Western), biocentric or economist approach? What indeed must be questioned, is it not "the primacy of economics posed as a goal of individual behavior and ultimate criteria of major public decisions" as the French economist René Passet put it? Therefore, should we work out a new ethics for a sustainable development that respects the balance between the different dimensions? Is a mono disciplinary reading grid/interpretive framework sufficient to meet the challenges? The adoption of a systems approach offers interesting avenues to understand adequately the interactions that take place between these three spheres. What are the implications on the theoretical side and more generally for research?

Theme 2 - Terms and implementation of sustainable development in Oceania

All actors - public, private, traditional and civil society - must mobilize around a sustainable development project that reflects the characteristics of Pacific societies. Indeed, multiple levels of governance and sometimes the coexistence of a state law and customary law imply the implementation of innovative solutions in these countries. How do states, local governments or any other actor of development policies reconcile the strategies of actors with divergent interests towards a common interest? In particular how do they combine the appropriation of development policies by the people through participatory approaches, the role of traditional structures with the state as a catalyst, capable of defending collective interest while giving coherence to individual initiatives? Is there a relevant scale? What legal and institutional tools must be implemented to meet the objectives of sustainable development?
The need to develop reliable and relevant indicators for monitoring progress was already highlighted at the Rio Conference in 1992. But technical issues as well as epistemological and political ones are great. How to measure sustainable development without risking the standardization of underlying values and, ultimately, cultures and lifestyles so specific to Oceania? What is the scope and limitations of indicators? And finally, how can we render for Oceania the adoption in July 2011 by the UN General Assembly of a resolution on happiness as a comprehensive approach to development?


  • Proposals of presentations must be submitted by: September 15 2012
  • Acceptance decision will be communicated at the latest by December 15 2012
  • The final version of the paper (50 000 signs maximum) to be presented at the conference should be sent to organizers by : March 15 2013

Languages : French or English
(abstracts of final submissions must be in both languages)
Proposals of communications must be sent by electronic mail, using the attached file to with copies to and

Depending on the grants obtained by the organizing committee, full or partial financial support to cover airfare to Nouméa will be given to a limited number of contributors selected by the Scientific Committee


The proceedings of the conferences will be published in Espace et développement durable collection of Presses Universitaire d’Aix-Marseille (France).

The AGORA SHS NC Association with its partners

Contacts :


Workshop on Governance and Applied Research in and Social and Human Sciences (SHS)

The first AGORA workshop took place to Nouméa in April, 2006 in the form of a conference. The objective was to identify the priority themes of research in SHS in the coming years considering their importance in the socio-economic and political context of New Caledonia stemming from the Agreement of Nouméa (1998).


University of New Caledonia

CNEP : Center of New Studies on the Pacific

The Center of the New Studies on the Pacific ( CNEP) is a multidisciplinary team with more than seventy researchers (members, associate members and PhD students) the CNEP is a French-speaking pole of research in human arts and sciences in the Pacific.


The Research Institute for Development (IRD)

The Research institute for Development (IRD) is a French body of research, original and unique in the European landscape of the research for development. Its research, training and innovation activities aim at contributing to the social, economic and cultural development of the South countries.