Reclaiming a lost decade.

Reclaiming a lost decade.

 

 

Vanuatu stands at a significant crossroad after 42 years of Independence.
The country and its people now wait for a new government to take office at a time when the Pacific
and the globe face an uncertain future.
As we surface from an unexpected global pandemic that left us with immeasurable loss of human
lives and brought the worst recession in 90 years, we find ourselves amidst another period of global
geopolitical turmoil and economic unpredictability.
For us in the Pacific, the climate emergency adds another layer of increasing urgency.
Against this bleak backdrop, however, we now have a more profound knowledge of our
vulnerabilities and strengths, a deeper penetration of digital technologies – particularly in rural areas
– a renewed appreciation for nature, and an opportunity to take back the last two years as we
reorient towards greener, more inclusive economies and societies.
On October 24, we marked UN Day – the 77 th anniversary of the UN, and the day we collectively
decided that working together was our greatest asset against the world’s most pressing issues.
The UN was created in the aftermath of great turmoil – so not only do we represent hope, we have
the unique ability to convene to create hope and bring about real change.
What remains now is a bold decision by each of us, because our action or inaction in the next eight
years will decide between a decade lost or a decade reclaimed.

The Sustainable Development Goals

Now more than ever, we need to harness and capitalize on the spirit of ‘accomplishment through
unity’ to get back on track to achieving the SDGs by 2030 – indeed this is a bold agenda, but it
requires nothing short of transformative actions and accelerated commitments from everyone.
Last year, we began the important journey of creating our UN Sustainable Development Cooperation
Framework 2023-2027 – the blueprint of our work in the Pacific over the next five years.
Consulting with governments, civil society, development partners, the private sector, and CROP
agencies, we have created a Pacific-wide framework which, for the first time, tangibly connects
global goals to national development priorities and is aligned to the new 2050 Strategy for the Blue
Pacific Continent launched by Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) this year.
In this five-year window, we have a shot to strengthen our joint work, recalibrate together, and
refocus our efforts, so that come 2030, we are well on our way to ticking all 17 SDGs off our
collective ‘to-do’ list.

The Climate Crisis and Vulnerability
Vanuatu has recently graduated smoothly from the ‘least developed country’ (LDC) category and is
placed firmly in the medium human development group of countries.
Vanuatu faces, perhaps more than any other society in the world, unparalleled climate risks and
threats that require unwavering international solidarity and extraordinary national determination.
You demonstrated extraordinary leadership, most recently in efforts to seek a non-binding Advisory
Opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legal implications of climate change, and to
call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to address CO2 emissions.
The UN and its development partners are committed to collectively building capacities to collect,
manage, and assess risk data across sectors, to enable the Government of Vanuatu to better identify
and manage the increasingly interconnected, compounding, and cascading risks they face. Managing
these risks requires cross-sectoral and cross-stakeholder risk governance.

Digitalization and Tourism Opportunities
Vanuatu has developed a tourism industry that represents an opportunity for its future, if the
rebound after the pandemic is used as an opportunity to increase quality, reduce environmental
impact, augment the returns on investments, and appropriately manage land development and
communal customary rights.
Other progress markers include: Vanuatu being well enroute to its digital transformation, supporting
the private sector to expand mass market digital services, and further developing the telecoms and
financial infrastructure. Of course, accelerated improvements will only be achieved by creating an
enabling regulatory environment.
We must also work towards gender equality in digital transformation as mobile phone ownership is
enjoyed by two thirds (66%) of males and less than half (48%) of females.
The future of Vanuatu will be defined by three factors: its capacity to diversify, formalise and
digitalise (parts of) the economy, while preserving the country´s pristine environmental riches; its
ability to rebuild the touristic offer as an eco-friendly low-impact niche market – and more broadly,
to operate a strong risk-informed DRM, recovering and improving existing infrastructure; and its
determination in guaranteeing to all Ni-Vanuatu the universal coverage of essential services.
But none of these opportunities will be realized without a stable, effective, and well-functioning
government and public service.

Participation and Governance
The challenges of political instability and frequent changes in political leadership point to the need
for a reform of the political system and government machinery to drive more resilient and inclusive
policies which translate to more efficient and equitable service delivery across the country.
Such reform can only occur with appropriate support from all levels of society and political will from
national leaders.
A cross-cutting challenge in Vanuatu relates to women’s participation and representation.

Women’s representation in political bodies will enable a shift in policy priorities and expanded
aspirations for other women and girls.
As gender inequalities continue to persist, and recent shocks, including the pandemic and economic
crises, have aggravated the current scenario for women in the country, we need to strengthen and
expand social protection systems to cover women.
This could be via insurance, increasing women's bargaining power at the household level, promoting
financial inclusion, supporting long-term income generation and building agency.
Investing in gender-sensitive responses to shocks, especially initiatives that build partnerships
between governments and civil society, will help women better cope with uncertainty.
Women’s and social movements have an important role to play in advancing better legal rights to
participate in economic life, greater representation in politics, better support for paid and unpaid
domestic care work, better protection from sexual harassment, better access to land tenure,
financial inclusion, overcoming stigma and raising awareness around violence against women and
girls.
Social movements can advance human rights and change cultural norms and narratives to expand
agency and freedoms for all.
UN’s financial support to the Pacific region for 2022 is over US$240m, with specific support to
Vanuatu in 2022 being just over US$19m.
We stand ready to accompany you as you enter the next phase of your development journey,
especially having graduated from LDC status – and move towards a more prosperous future for all of
Vanuatu.

 

By Sanaka Samarasinha

UN Resident Coordinator to Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu

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