The United States Studies Centre (USSC) at the University of Sydney partnered with the National Endowment for Democracy to deliver the third iteration of the Sunnylands Initiative. The initiative brings together thought leaders from across the Indo-Pacific to discuss challenges and opportunities for advancing democratic norms and governance in the region.

First started in Sunnylands, California by USSC CEO Dr Michael Green in 2020 and continued in Odawara, Japan in 2022, each Sunnylands Initiative ultimately culminates in the diverse Indo-Pacific thought leaders drafting and signing a Joint Statement that provides a vision and action plan for broad regional cooperation on advancing democratic norms and governance.

The first Sunnylands Initiative in January 2020 highlighted the nature of the challenge for democracies, included a statement of principles endorsed by participants in a dialogue at Sunnylands, as well as a background paper by CSIS scholars examining global trend lines, regional dynamics within the Indo-Pacific, and recommendations for policymakers to consider. Signatories at the first Sunnylands Initiative meeting committed to continuing the dialogue.

The subsequent Sunnylands Initiative in Odawara, Japan in August 2022. Signatories to the Odawara statement committed to redoubling efforts to amplify the Sunnylands Statement of Shared Democratic Principles through partnership with multilateral frameworks, regional platforms and networks and policy influencers.

Sunnylands in Sydney

This gathering of 25 preeminent thought leaders from India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Samoa, Taiwan, Timor-Leste, the United States and Australia for the Sunnylands Initiative involved a particular focus on the Pacific Islands.

Over three days of dialogue in Sydney the group discussed:

  • The state of democracy in the Indo-Pacific region
  • Challenges and opportunities for democratic partnership and democratic institutions in the Pacific Islands
  • Pathways for strengthening democratic partnership and institutions: proposals and recommendations
  • Solutions arising from three working groups on democratic actors at risk, anti-corruption and partnering for democracy

The 2023 Sunnylands Joint Statement — signed by the event’s participants — is a renewed statement of principles and vision for regional cooperation to advance democratic norms and governance in the region, reflective of the broad and diverse experiences of the participants. It serves as a roadmap for delegates as they turn their problem-solving concepts into reality.

Public event

On 4 April, USSC hosted a public panel discussion at the University of Sydney, featuring a select group of Sunnylands in Sydney participants in a conversation on this year’s themes and a keynote address by Australian economist Sean Turnell, who was recently freed from a Myanmar prison.

USSC leads

CEO Dr Michael Green

Director of Research Jared Mondschein

Research Editor Victoria Cooper