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May 14, 2017

A Sustainable Vanuatu for 2030

Written by Kylie Barton

At the end of last year, Vanuatu launched ‘Vanuatu 2030 – The People’s Plan; an inclusive vision for development. This is after many years of debating, drafting, and double checking. The point of Vanuatu 2030 is to provide a comprehensive framework for a sustainable future for the island nation – and we here at Island Spirit are very excited about it!

The sustainable development plan was not conceived in a silo, but instead took many years of consultation with numerous sustainability experts. Gregoire Nimbtik led the initiative, he is the Director of the Department of Strategic Policy, Planning, and Aid Coordination. Not only did the government consult with specialists but with people across the nation too, in focus groups of up to fifty people at a time; so it really is ‘The People’s Plan’. They also consulted businesses, elected representatives, and community groups. It truly was a group effort with every facet of the community involved which is the only way for something like this to be sustainable. You need buy in from every corner of society to enact real positive change. Prime Minister Charlot Salwai was aware of this, and wanted every step of the process to be truly owned by Venetians, saying: “This is the first time Government is consulting with communities in its national development plans”.

Vanuatu island spirit vanuatuThe plans seek to rebalance things to promote the triple bottom line so that social, environmental, and economic benefits are all on a level playing field instead of profit reigning. This is a world-renowned technique for the implementation of sustainable development plans. Between 2006 and 2015 Vanuatu had the Priority Action Agenda which was very much just focused on the economical (including when it came to health, education, and development). Lessons were learned and now the plans are holistic in nature and centred on cultural heritage and climate action. This tide change started back in 2013 with the Green Growth Leaders Coalition, when ministers widened their focus when it came to development to encompass people, planet, and profit. The plan was finalised in November 2016, and was officially launched at the end of January 2017.

With the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 it is important nations follow Vanuatu’s lead to create inclusive and extensive plans for sustainable development moving forward. This plan will get underway with immediate effect, with awareness raising a key first component to help turn the words on the page into action. Institutional capacity (infrastructure and culture change) and the government mechanisms to hold all elements of society to account are also pivotal. Tracking and constantly evaluating progress is the only way to ensure the plans stay on track, and work for the people and the planet as promised.

This is where Island Spirit can get involved. Helping to enable local people to live in more sustainable ways such as utilising solar, teaching basic coral gardening skills, and providing alternative revenue streams to local communities which have positive environmental impact as opposed to a negative. Creativity and sustainability are at the heart of all we do, and we do it in collaboration with the local people helping them help themselves and their environment.

The main issues facing Vanuatu that inspired this new plan include the population growth of 2.3% per annum. The population is young and expanding rapidly meaning there is an increased reliance on resources and land. This means there is a need for more jobs, and a move towards the triple bottom line will create more positions through the transition as well as the move away from cash crops as the largest income mechanism. The communications industry and the transport industry are a major focus.

There is also the big issue of increased occurrence of natural disasters which cause displacement and destruction of infrastructure. There is a real and regular threat of cyclones, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, and earthquakes. Politically the nation has been quite unstable historically, with corruption having a strong presence – but with the plans now there is real optimism that positive change is underway. Decentralisation will play a big part in this, with the more even distribution of resources and more power to local areas to spend and work on the biggest issues they face. There is a big rural focus encompassed in the development plans, and a large drive to ensure all communities are able to engage positively.

The plans are hoped to help elevate Vanuatu to the status of a ‘developing country’ by 2030 instead of the ‘least developed country’ status it has currently. Vanuatu currently relies on a lot of international support, but with the enacting of the People’s Plan it is projected the nation will become far more self-sufficient. Something Island Spirit whole-heartedly supports.

View our comprehensive island guide to Vanuatu here.