There is a "lingering fear that the strings attached to development aid" may expose the region to exploitation, an expert in Pacific arts and culture says.
The director of the Oceania Centre at the University of the South Pacific, Frances Koya-Vaka'uta, said there was a power imbalance between Pacific nations and donor countries.
This could result in pressure being applied to Pacific countries to allow the exploitation of resources like sea-bed minerals, without the consent of their people, Dr Koya-Vaka'uta said.
Meetings about resource rights are often held beyond the public's gaze, the academic said.
"These are the conversations that are happening in corridors, over lunch tables at workshops and meetings, and not necessarily on the table at the actual meeting," she said.
"I think that has to change, that people have to interrogate the concepts. We do know that there are good intentions but what are the practical implications of the power relationships at play?"
Potential economic benefits from extractive industries are attractive but sit uncomfortably with Pacific culture, heritage and indigenous knowledge, she said.