New Zealand has a long history of supporting its close neighbors in the Pacific, both in times of disaster and emergencies, and to help improve the lives of many thousands across the region.
On Waitangi Day, the national day of New Zealand, we take a look at three key World Bank projects in the Pacific, and how New Zealand’s support has been integral to making them happen.
Papua New Guinea
I have been traveling in and out of Papua New Guinea for almost over two years to help tackle the country’s water and sanitation challenges.
I’m constantly surprised by the complexity and cultural diversity of this country. It’s like trying to solve a deep mystery, with a surprise always ahead of you. No wonder they call this ‘the land of the unexpected’.
Papua New Guinea missed its Millennium Development Goal target for water and sanitation. More than 60% of the country’s population (4.6 million people) have no access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation. In over two decades since 1990, the increase in access to safe drinking water has been miniscule (6%) while improved sanitation coverage even dropped by 1% in 2015. Sadly, PNG has the lowest water and sanitation access indicators among the 15 developing Pacific Island nations.
This week thousands of policy-makers, experts, NGOs and urban-minded citizens of all stripes are convening in Quito, Ecuador to discuss the New Urban Agenda at Habitat III – a significant global convening that occurs every 20 years. And, in a couple weeks, amid the costumes and candy, ghosts and goblins of Halloween, the world will mark UN World Cities Day on October 31st. For good reason, youth are part of the conversation. In today’s global landscape, two demographic patterns should stand out: rapid urbanization and large youth populations. These patterns are especially robust across developing nations. Already the worlds’ cities host half of its citizens, and Asia and Africa are expected to account for 90% of urban growth. While growing, cities have also become younger – many of the world’s nearly four billion people under the age of 30 live in urban areas, and according to UN-HABITAT, it is estimated that 60% of urban populations will be under the age of 18 by 2030.
After a two-hour drive from the nearest main road, our 4WD can travel no further; me and my travelling companions will have to trek the rest of our journey to Aravira Primary School in Bougainville on foot. As we set off, a group of students from the school emerge from the bush in front of us. They smile, extend their hands in welcome and immediately offer to take my backpack.
I politely refuse, yet within minutes I regret my decision to turn down help. As we move through the long grass along the mountain ridge, the heat which a few minutes ago was manageable is now unbearable. I’m pouring in sweat. My backpack feels 10 kilograms heavier, and the ground beneath me feels as if I’m stepping onto ice. Ten minutes into our journey, I lose my feet, slip into a crevice, and land face-first in the nearest bush.
Oilmin Holdings, a logistics management company providing services to the oil, gas, and mining industry in Papua New Guinea, did not employ all that many women, but they had a star performer in Rose.
Rose had risen from administrative assistant to office manager in the company’s headquarters in Port Moresby. Her boss at Oilmin wanted her to go further up the chain, but in their industry, the next logical step – and one required for senior management roles - was managing a field site. It required long hours and smarts. Rose was willing and able, but it also meant a very remote location. It was too risky, her managers decided; they didn’t know how to keep her safe. Sending extra security guards – all male – would only increase the risk to her, not protect her, they concluded.
The importance of literacy for economic growth and development is already well established in economic research. Literacy enables people to access information and improve their productivity. I believe that literacy is crucial to the diffusion of new technologies, especially among the poor. It produces high economic returns, so much so that early literacy is viewed as a threshold for economic development.
Young people account for almost half of Papua New Guinea’s population and comprise a large part of the urban poor. In the capital, Port Moresby, an increasing number of young people are leaving school without the necessary skills for entry-level jobs.
The Urban Youth Employment Project (UYEP) provides disadvantaged young people (aged between 16 and 35) in Port Moresby with life skills and employment training to increase their chances of finding long-term employment, also the motivation to make a fresh start in life. To help meet immediate economic needs, the project is also providing temporary employment opportunities.
Nearly 50 years ago, books such as Asian Drama: An Inquiry Into The Poverty Of Nations, by the Swedish economist and Nobel laureate Gunnar Myrdal, offered a dire prediction of famine and poverty for the region in coming decades.