Eleven Pacific Island countries are members of the World Bank and have a combined population of about 2.3 million people, scattered across an area equivalent to 15 percent of the globe’s surface.
Eleven Pacific Island countries (excluding Papua New Guinea) are members of the World Bank:
The World Bank’s Pacific Island member countries have a population of about 2.3 million people, spread across a unique and diverse region made up of hundreds of islands, and scattered over an area equivalent to 15 percent of the globe’s surface.
Fiji is the largest country of the group, with a population of around 880,000. Tuvalu and Nauru, with estimated populations around 10,000 each, are the World Bank Group’s smallest members by population. Kiribati is one of the most remote and geographically-dispersed countries in the world, consisting of 33 coral atolls spread over 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean; an area larger than India. The half a million residents of the Solomon Islands live across 90 inhabited islands, 78 percent of whom reside in rural areas.
Each of these countries share similar challenges and opportunities as small and remote island economies. They are small in size with limited natural resources, narrowly-based economies, large distances to major markets, and vulnerability to external shocks; all of which can affect growth and have often led to a high degree of economic volatility.
Pacific Island countries are also some of the most vulnerable in the world to the effects of climate change and natural disasters. According to a World Risk report, five Pacific countries are among the top 20 in the world with the highest average annual disaster losses scaled by gross domestic product.
Sustained development progress will require long-term cooperation between governments, international development partners and regional organizations. More broadly, greater economic integration, more equitable natural resource agreements, more open labor markets and adaptation to climate change will be vital for the long term future of the Pacific Islands.
Last Updated: Apr 10, 2017
The World Bank is scaling up its assistance in the Pacific Islands region with a tripling of available funds through the International Development Association (IDA). A new Regional Partnership Framework for nine Pacific Island countries (Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Palau, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu) provides a roadmap for both regional opportunities and country-specific action plans for the next five years. Fiji and Solomon Islands have individual Country Partnership Frameworks covering 2017.
The World Bank Group’s engagement with these Pacific Island countries reflects the influence of the region’s economic geography on their development trajectories, with unique challenges arising from remoteness.
After significant regional consultations and nearly two years of research, a comprehensive study called Pacific Possible is looking 25 years ahead to quantify the impacts of potentially transformative opportunities and significant challenges for the Pacific Islands region, with seven focus areas including Deep-Sea Mining, Tourism, Health and Non-Communicable Diseases, Tuna Fisheries, Labor Mobility, Climate and Disaster Resilience, and Knowledge Economy. The findings presented in Pacific Possible aim to provide governments and policy-makers with specific insights into the potential impact of each focus area on the economy, employment, government income and spending.
The World Bank is supporting rural development through a number of projects across the Pacific Islands, including the Rural Development Project in Solomon Islands. The project has helped hundreds of communities develop critical infrastructure, including bridges, schools, health clinics and access to water and electricity.
In the health sector, the World Bank is supporting Pacific Island countries to reduce the rate of non-communicable diseases including cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The Pacific Islands Non-Communicable Disease Roadmap has been developed in partnership with governments and key stakeholders in the region.
Transport, whether via road, air or water, is essential to the Pacific Islands region, connecting people to markets, schools, hospitals and family, often over vast distances of ocean. The World Bank is working with governments in Tonga and Kiribati through the Tonga Transport Sector Consolidation Project and Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project respectively, to improve the reliability and safety of transport networks. Through the Pacific Aviation Investment Program, Kiribati, Tonga, Tuvalu, Samoa, Vanuatu and the Pacific Aviation Safety Office (PASO) are being supported to make air travel safer and more efficient.
Information Communication Technologies (ICT) such as internet and phones, are also vital for connecting people and businesses in the Pacific Islands. Through the Pacific Regional Connectivity Program, people in the Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa and Fiji will soon have access to more affordable and reliable internet.
High population growth and high unemployment are now critical issues in Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands. The World Bank is helping the Solomon Islands government to support the most vulnerable of Honiara's population; particularly youth and women, by providing short-term employment and training through the Rapid Employment Project.
In the energy sector, the World Bank is working with the government of Vanuatu to increase access to electricity across the country for essentials like lighting and phone charging, while in the Federated States of Micronesia the Energy Sector Development Project is supporting the government to increase the availability and efficiency of electricity. In Kiribati and Fiji, the World Bank is supporting efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and foster investment in renewable energy.
20 million square kilometers of the South Pacific are home to the largest tuna fishery in the world, and Pacific Island countries derive significant economic and social benefits from their marine resources. So far, the Pacific Regional Oceanscape Program is helping Pacific Island countries including the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu to support conservation of marine environments while capturing a greater share of the benefits from their fisheries.
In natural disaster resilience, the recently approved PCRAFI Facility builds on eight years of regional collaboration through the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Insurance (PCRAFI) initiative. Through the pilot program, Vanuatu received benefits in the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Pam in March 2015, helping the country rebuild and repair. Alongside disaster insurance, Vanuatu’s National Warning Centre, with the early warnings it provided helping to save many lives when Cyclone Pam struck.
Much of the Pacific region is increasingly impacted by climate change, and through the Pacific Resilience Program, projects are under way across the region to help strengthen Pacific Island countries’ resilience to natural disasters and climate change. In Kiribati, an adaptation program is working with communities to better prepare them for the impacts of climate change, including recently completed rainwater tanks for remote communities in North Tarawa, where sea level rise and drought have left many drinking wells contaminated.
The Solomon Islands Rapid Employment Project is providing short-term employment and training for urban youth and women in the capital of Honiara. By June 2016 the project had generated more than 688,000 days of work, paid US$2.9 million in wages and trained more than 12,000 people. The project has now grown and been extended until December 2018, to allow increased benefits for vulnerable groups both in Honiara and other urban areas.
In 2016, the Kiribati Road Rehabilitation Project officially opened an improved road network on South Tarawa, including works on the only main road through South Tarawa, which is used by the entire population of 50,000 people. The project is the largest infrastructure investment in the country since World War II. In Samoa, the country’s first four-lane, dual carriageway was also completed in 2016 on what is considered to be the country’s most critical stretch of road.
Agricultural production is an important issue for many Pacific Islands, as most of the population live in rural areas and rely on agriculture for food security and livelihoods. The Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project is supporting crop and livestock farmers to improve their productivity and take greater advantage of market opportunities. Important achievements include the importation of new sheep and cattle breeds to improve livestock production; the introduction of new fruit and vegetable varieties to boost yields and diversify local diets; and the provision of matching grants for on-farm investment.
In Tonga, the Pacific Early Age Readiness and Learning project has supported communities to organize play-based activities so children are better prepared for school. The project has also trained teachers to help improve learning results of students in the first grades of primary education, and seen the launch of the ‘Laukonga Mo e Fanau’ (‘Read with your child’) campaign, which encourages Tongan families to commit at least 10 minutes each day to reading with their child
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