In recent times major new infrastructure initiatives have been announced for the Pacifc islands. Growing geostrategic competition in the region is a key driver for this focus on fnancing new infrastructure projects. However, there is also no doubting that Pacifc island states do have signifcant, and unique, infrastructure needs. The Asian Development Bank estimates the Pacific will require USD 3.1billion in infrastructure investment each year until 2030. While there is a rush to finance new projects, there is also no shortcut for quality. This renewed focus on infrastructure by development partners and Pacific island governments alike, presents an opportunity to consider, and promote, shared standards for quality infrastructure.
This paper, based on extensive research and consultations, is intended to stimulate thinking about best standards for infrastructure investment in the Pacifc. It suggests that if lasting development outcomes are to be assured, civil society will need to play a greater role in the prioritisation, design, implementation and maintenance of new infrastructure in the Pacifc islands. Pacifc island countries are home to a rich and vibrant civil society, comprised of diverse organisations. Civil society groups strengthen Pacifc societies by holding leaders to account. Often however, they also collaborate with government in policymaking and service delivery, and play an important role linking island communities with provincial and national governments. Civil society also delivers community-scale infrastructure directly.
In planning new infrastructure investments in the Pacifc, it is important that decision-making by local actors is central. Working with local actors ensures projects are based on local and national priorities and cements the perceived legitimacy and sustainability of outcomes. Infrastructure investments are also an opportunity to promote Pacifc enterprise and create local employment, as well as strengthening Pacifc civil society organisations. Infrastructure also needs to be designed against biodiversity loss and a changing risk profle associated with climate change. Ensuring infrastructure planning and delivery is inclusive and does no harm will strengthen the resilience of Pacifc island populations, including marginalised groups. For these reasons, collaborative forms of infrastructure governance, involving a wide range of stakeholders, are required.
This paper provides a set of principles for policymakers to use as they work with civil society and the private sector in the Pacifc to design and implement resilient, inclusive and sustainable infrastructure. These principles provide a guide for assessing infrastructure investments. This paper also provides practical entry points for implementing good practice and involving civil society in the prioritisation, design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure projects in the Pacifc region.
Ultimately, building quality infrastructure in the Pacifc islands requires meaningful engagement with civil society to deliver resilient, inclusive and sustainable infrastructure. It means going beyond a narrow focus on building hard assets, to thinking about the ways that new infrastructure, and the services they provide over time, will contribute to lasting development outcomes.
This paper is designed around seven principles for implementing good practice and engaging civil society to deliver resilient, inclusive and sustainable infrastructure in the Pacifc islands.
- Principle 1 emphasises that civil society is a key partner for the delivery of quality inclusive infrastructure. Ensuring high quality infrastructure means collaborating with civil society in the governance and decision-making around infrastructure and supporting civil society organisations to be involved in the delivery of infrastructure.
- Principle 2 explains successful investment in built infrastructure requires corresponding support for ‘soft infrastructure’ – institutional strengthening, policy reform and robust regulatory frameworks are just as important as hard assets, as infrastructure needs to efectively deliver services over time.
- Principle 3 suggests renewed investment in infrastructure should be leveraged to strengthen Pacifc enterprise. New projects can stimulate economic growth, through employment, skills transfer and capacity development, and through partnership with local business and civil society organisations. Eforts must be intentionally inclusive so that they benefit marginalised groups.
- Principle 4 notes that community-driven infrastructure is key for Pacifc contexts. Many Pacifc islanders live in rural areas, and the state often provides limited services outside island capitals, grant fnancing for smaller-scale projects is therefore crucial for alleviating hardship.
- Principle 5 emphasises that Pacific infrastructure should build resilience to disaster, climate change and environmental risks; more than protecting hard assets, this means ensuring new infrastructure contributes to enhanced community resilience for all and protects the biodiversity upon which Pacifc Island communities and economies depend.
- Principle 6 explains that, if planned and implemented well, new infrastructure can help to create a safe, inclusive and accessible environment for people with disabilities. Key to this is meaningful engagement with civil society groups representing people with disabilities.
- Principle 7 suggests that all new investment in infrastructure in the Pacifc should be designed from the outset to address gender inequality and to ensure it does no harm. Robust mechanisms should be established to monitor outcomes.