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From the very beginning, the East-West Center has maintained special interest and expertise in the Pacific Islands. Many of the earliest students who received their education through East-West Center fellowships were from the region, especially the then-Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, and shortly after the founding of the world-renowned Polynesian Voyaging Society it was supported by a special Center program. In 1980, under the visionary leadership of Fiji Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara and Hawaii Governor George Ariyoshi a special Center program was formed to specifically address the unique issues faced by island nations emerging from decades of colonization.

The Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP) conducts a broad range of activities to enhance the quality of life in the  Pacific islands. The founding mission of PIDP is to assist Pacific Islands’ leader advance their collective efforts to achieve and sustain equitable social and economic development. Since 1980 PIDP has served as a forum through which island leaders discuss critical issues of development with interested countries, donors, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. On four occasions Heads of Governments, under the auspices of the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders (PICL), have met with Presidents of the United States at the East-West Center.

Today, PIDP's role as a regional organization includes the following major activity areas:

 

Tok Stori for Peace project in Isabel Province, Solomon Islands

PIDP's role as a regional organization includes the following major activity areas:

PIDP was formed at the specific request of the region’s island leaders. It is the only East-West Center program whose activities have a defined geographic focus informed by both the area studies and disciplinary expertise of its staff and participants. In the past, activities of PIDP draw heavily upon the expertise in other areas of the East-West Center such as the Pacific Regional Integrated Science and Assessments (Pacific RISA) Program, the Professional Development Program, and the Education Program and a newly formed Pacific Initiative at the Center is working to further strengthen these connections across the Center.