Contextualizing the global sustainable development agenda – a practical approach for the Pacific


“Sustainable development in the Pacific will require new and innovative approaches – approaches that build on existing mechanisms and take into account the unique geographic, environmental, cultural and social context,” Iosefa Maiava, head of the UN ESCAP Pacific Office, acknowledged at the Pacific Consultation on Progress on the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 Development Agenda.

At the global level, countries have recognized the importance of an integrated approach towards sustainable, people-centred development. After a two year process a draft set of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs)1 have been proposed as part of the post-2015 development agenda which will be approved at a special summit on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2015.

Last week, over 50 representatives from Government, civil society, private sector, regional organization and international organization met in Suva, Fiji to discuss how to tailor this global agenda in the Pacific.

“Although all these goals are important for development, some of the goals are more or less relevant in our national context,” according to Cynthia Ehmes of the Federated States of Micronesia. This sentiment was echoed by Henry Ah Ching of Samoa, “The goals are all relevant; it is just about prioritizing and contextualizing the goals.”

The 2014 Pacific Regional MDGs Tracking Report highlights that there has been slow and uneven progress on the MDGs in the Pacific and that the unfinished business of the MDGs must continue to feature in the post-2015 development agenda. Based on the Pacific responses to a global questionnaire, education and healthcare continue to remain as key priorities for people in the Pacific.

“We believe the Pacific is well placed at the regional level to implement the Samoa Pathway and the new post 2015 development agenda and SDGs. We have existing regional platforms including the Framework for Pacific Regionalism and the Forum Compact on Strengthening Development Coordination that enables Pacific countries to help one another and assisted by our development partners to tailor and deliver on these global development agendas at the country level, ” according to Cristelle Pratt, Acting Secretary General PIFS.

“If we aim to have inclusive and sustainable development which improves the lives of all Pacific people then we must tailor the goals to the regional and national context,” Peter Batchelor, Manager of the UNDP Pacific Centre stressed in the closing of the meeting. He continued, “In order to define the way forward for implementing the SDGs in the Pacific will require harnessing new sources of financing, building partnerships including at the local level, improving the ability to monitor progress through better data and statistics, and improved utilization of trade and technology”.

“New global thinking on financing, tailored to the needs of the Pacific, is vital” said Anu Rajivan, adviser in ADB’s strategy and planning department. “A coherent financing framework could bring together fragmented efforts to combine both public and private funds, both from domestic and international sources, to encourage development efforts.”

Financing, as well as other means of implementation, such as trade and technology were underlined by participants as being key to the implementation of the post-2015 agenda. It was also noted though that this should include capacity development and broad stakeholder engagement.

Meeting participants also discussed the importance of equality, peaceful societies and good governance as the foundation for sustainable development; however, they noted that women, the poor, ethnic and religious minorities, and people with disabilities and with different gender or sexual identity do still experience discrimination and exclusion.

Mr Maiava stressed that as a path to sustainable development in the Pacific “we must accept responsibility as global citizens.” He went on to elaborate a future where the environment is preserved; inclusive economic growth is fostered; all people are free from discrimination and have access to social services…and that this will involve “building the adaptive capacity and commitment of all people to adjust our own behaviour.”


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