Helping Nauru Achieve Major Development Goals

 United Nations Resident Co-ordinator for Nauru, Osnat Lubrani, was recently in Nauru to lead consultations on the UN’s Pacific Strategy. Here she explains why the achievement of the Sustainable
31 Aug 2016 13:19
Helping Nauru Achieve Major Development Goals
An aerial view of Nauru.

United Nations Resident Co-ordinator for Nauru, Osnat Lubrani, was recently in Nauru to lead consultations on the UN’s Pacific Strategy. Here she explains why the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals really matters, and how the UN is committed to working with the Pacific’s microstates in new and better ways.


The tiny Micronesian nation of Nauru is often in the news because of the hosting of the Regional Processing Centre for asylum-seekers, but it is also a nation that faces serious challenges to advancing its national sustainable development agenda on many fronts.

With just 21 square kilometres of land (8 per cent of which is unusable because of the impact of phosphate mining), just 10,000 citizens, constrained institutional capacities, the now-constant impacts of climate change, high levels of obesity-related health issues and a heavy dependence on foreign assistance – the road to future development and improvements in quality of life for Nauruans is not an easy one.

Nauru begun this work more than 10 years ago with the development of its National Sustainable Development Strategy which outlines a journey towards: “a future where individual, community, business and government partnerships contribute to a sustainable quality of life for all Nauruans

A process to update this important document will begin later this year, and this presents an excellent opportunity for all stakeholders to come together for deep discussions on future national priorities and the development of genuinely inclusive development agenda.

Nauru will also use this opportunity to consider how the globally-agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are best integrated into national goals and targets. The United Nations looks forward to supporting Nauru in this work and we see much potential for co-operation, collaboration and partnership.

Just this week, the UN held consultations with Nauru to inform the development of the UN Pacific Strategy – the document that will guide the UN’s work in the Pacific for the period 2018 – 22.

Through our Pacific Strategy the UN will endeavour to support Nauru’s development plans by supporting efforts to Nauru to ‘localise’ the 17 SDGs and make them best deliver for all.

This process of localisation is very important, and it demands open participation, consultation and engagement with communities and other stakeholders. Such processes are not always easy, but again, the UN is committed to assisting Nauru to strengthen its democratic processes and give voice to all citizens.

The UN promotes consultation and participatory process because development depends on it, and without it we will not achieve the SDGs. The fact is that three of 17 goals, – Goal 5 (gender equality) Goal 10 (reducing inequalities) and Goal 16 (building peace and strong institutions) have citizen participation and inclusive development planning at their very heart is recognition of its importance.

At a national level, the Pacific Strategy will outline the UN’s commitment to co-operate with Nauru on a pathway to achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and will outline how we will scale up our assistance (financial and technical expertise) to support these efforts.

The SDGs gives us the game-plan, but we will have to co-operate in new and innovative ways to make them a reality. I believe the UN can be a very genuine partner to Nauru on this pathway to 2030 as we can engage in an unbiased and neutral way – our focus is on participation, sustainable development and ensuring that no-one is left behind.

At our recent consultations, while many difficult issues were canvassed and discussed, there was a positive tone, and an emerging openness by all to hear different views and increase participation.

We enjoyed participation from the Government, from communities, from private sector and from students at a local high school.

To me this sort of participation is at the very heart of how we will achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and reflects a Pacific approach to Pacific development – ownership and buy-in needs to continue to move away from the headquarters, distant capitals and bureaucracies towards the local. It is this sort of approach that will genuinely empower communities to own and buy-in to their own local development.

Finally, I want to make it clear that there is an undeniable need for new long and medium-term alternatives for Nauru, current incomes sources will eventually be exhausted and are not sustainable – our consultations made that clear, but I believe constructive support and an open dialogue is how the UN can support and enliven this change.

Friends of Nauru who support its economic growth must work together to ensure that Nauru’s path to prosperity (and the achievement of SDG 1 – Ending Poverty) promotes sustainability, and remains focused on human rights. Here we can learn from the past cycle of boom and bust and utilise new approaches to creating income that do not undermine other important areas of development also represented under the SDG banner.

We ended our conversations in Nauru with an admission by all – that no matter what the challenges, there is a need for more inclusive approach, to build bridges, find respect for differing opinions and develop ways of working these difference out in the spirit of democracy. Reflecting on this sentiment I feel a great deal of positivity regarding the work the UN can do in partnership with Nauru.

I look forward to deepening the UN relationship with Nauru and working together to make the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals a reality in the Pacific.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj


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