Global development partnerships and voluntary reviews at the United Nations – by Charmina Saili, Regional Planning Adviser in New York

New York (July 18, 2018) – The Blue Pacific is making ripples in New York this week with two Pacific Islands Forum members presenting their Voluntary National Review of the Sustainable Development Goals Report at the annual United Nations Economic and Social Council High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (2018 HLPF).

The region’s voice at the HLPF is represented by Samoa as the current Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Kiribati and Australia presented their Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) on Monday 16 July and Tuesday 17 July. Kiribati is only the second Pacific island country to present its VNR and has been one of the few countries reporting that has included a civil society representative in its official reporting delegation.  Australia included a representative from the indigenous population and private sector in their presentation.

Samoa was the first Pacific country, and one of the first globally, to report at the 2016 HLPF on Sustainable Development. Momentum and interest in the reviews of progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is increasing with six Forum members – Fiji, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Tonga, Vanuatu – planning to report to the 2019 HLPF.

This week is the culmination of six months of collaboration between the Government of Kiribati and regional agencies including the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and Secretariat of the Pacific Community, as well as United Nations agencies including UNDP and UNESCAP.

This is the first joint regional support to member countries through the Pacific Roadmap for Sustainable Development. The Forum Secretariat is in New York to support the Pacific delegations, particularly Kiribati and the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, during the meeting.

The President of Kiribati, His Excellency Taneti Mamau and other stakeholders, presented a five-minute video statement before Kiribati’s Honourable Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Teuea Toatu spoke to the panel; the Kiribati statement ended with a statement from the civil society representative Mr Martin Tofinga.

You can watch the five-minute video here: https://youtu.be/naGUkiIrEYE

Dr Toatu shared development milestones thus far including national progress in education, gender equality, water and sanitation, the environment and the health sectors, acknowledging the important role played by developing partners.

“One of our enduring and ongoing challenges is our human and institutional capacity constraints that include lack of skills and data, lack of proper information and management systems, inadequate financing and technical support and capacity constraints of the implementing agencies.  There is a need to strengthen our statistical and data capacity at all levels including development of strong monitoring and accountability frameworks,” Dr Toatu said.

“Moving forward, we need to improve connectivity and accessibility to outer islands, privatization of public services, mobilizing of financial and technical resources focusing on maximizing returns from both our fisheries and tourism sector.   Partnership is vital and central for achieving these goals.”

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development follow-up and review mechanisms encourages member states to “conduct regular and inclusive reviews of progress at the national and sub-national levels, which are country-led and country-driven”. These voluntary national reviews aim to facilitate the sharing of experiences, including successes, challenges and lessons learned, with a view to accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. The reviews also seek to strengthen policies and institutions of governments and to mobilize multi-stakeholder support and partnerships for the implementation of the SDGs.

Speaking for the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum and Prime Minister of Samoa Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, Samoa’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, His Excellency Mr Ali’ioaiga Feturi Elisaia spoke of how financing development while constantly responding and rebuilding from disasters and climate change impacts was one of the fundamental challenges for Pacific island countries.

H.E Mr Feturi highlighted four examples of how Pacific nations have introduced innovative financing to address vulnerabilities and build resilience: (1) Green Bonds by the Government of Fiji at the London Exchange; (2) The Cook Islands’ disaster risk insurance initiative; (3) Samoa’s Private Sector Support Facility; and (4) The Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Company, a regional initiative, owned and directed by its subscribing members (Cook Islands, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu).

H.E Mr Feturi also spoke of the Pacific Resilience Facility, a regional fund to assist Pacific governments, private sector and communities to co-finance and leverage additional funding for resilience investment of new projects and/or retrofitting existing infrastructure projects to make them risk resilient.

“While there is a suite of financial products available for Pacific countries to cope with the aftermath of natural disasters, there is limited support to build better and prepare to absorb the imminent threats from climate change and natural disasters,” H.E Mr Feturi said.

“The Facility addresses the current gaps in development financing and complements the existing initiatives in the region.”

On Thursday last (July 12), at the HLPF global multi-stakeholder partnership dialogue on Partnerships for Sustainable and Resilient Societies in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), H.E Mr Feturi said a common vulnerability among SIDS was their high exposure to adverse natural events, reminding participants that of the 15 countries assessed to be the most vulnerable to climate change, six were Pacific nations.

H.E Mr Feturi said resilience for Pacific SIDS demanded shared long-term vision of implementation approaches by development partners; adding partnerships should be nationally driven and owned.

“Let me conclude by underlining the need for greater priority to be given to more effective monitoring and accountability of SIDS partnerships. Of the 223 Partnerships for the Pacific, only 17% have reported officially.   The Pacific needs to take control and ensure there is accountability and that the partnerships are responding to national priorities and can be monitored through existing and regional processes,” H.E Mr Feturi said.

“Charity starts at home and we have to put our own house in order first, so leading by example, the Pacific will complete the review of the 223 partnerships to identify progress of the nationally and regionally-led ones including potential replication of successful partnerships, removal of those inactive and addressing gaps in partnerships in areas not adequately covered.

On Monday (July 16), H.E Mr Feturi represented the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum at a side event

on “Addressing Unbalanced and Inadequate Development to Achieve the SDGs”; the event was organised by People’s Republic of China, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations

Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA). Also sharing their intentions to report at the 2019 HLPF and experiences were the representatives of Fiji (the Speaker of the House Dr Jiko Luveni) Tonga (the Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of Tonga to the UN H.E Viliami Vai’nga Tone) and Vanuatu (the Deputy Permanent Representative of Vanuatu to the UN Mr David Konla Wu.

H.E Mr Feturi said partnerships that supported the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development were invaluable for Pacific SIDS in terms of both benefits and knowledge exchange between ASEAN and Pacific nations.  He spoke of the importance of regionalism, sharing the experience of Pacific countries through the lens of the Framework of Pacific Regionalism, the Blue Pacific Identity and the Pacific Roadmap for Sustainable Development.

“There are two significant transboundary issues in the Pacific. The first is the necessity for the region and its partners to work together to build resilience to the impact of natural disasters and climate change. The second is the importance of ensuring the sustainable use of Pacific Ocean resources – to benefit the people of the region as well as the rest of the world, given the significance of the Pacific Ocean as a major food source,” H.E Mr Feturi said.

“While Pacific regional frameworks and pathways are important foundational blocks for regional action and advocacy, securing financial and technical resources through genuine and durable partnerships to implement and realise regional aspirations remains a priority challenge.

“This is why we welcome tangible expressions of support like the joint China/UNDP/UNDESA partnership on “Supporting the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda as it has been able to provide direct and valuable support on-the-ground to the implementation of the PRSD.”