Few regions in the world are exposed to the threat of climate change as the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Pacific. A constellation of 16 countries and seven territories spread across the largest ocean mass in the world, these states are coming under growing pressure to get the right mix of policies that can counteract the double impact of extreme weather conditions and COVID-19. I talk about these challenges with Alfred Schuster, a native Samoan living in Fiji and now a Development Effectiveness Advisor for the Australia Pacific Training Coalition. Here Alfred explains why it is important to learn from decades of experience managing foreign aid in the Pacific region to address climate change successfully, or at least more effectively.
Before Covid-19, before Black Lives Matter, the aid and development sector was already grappling with massive challenges – the ‘Aid too’ movement, the full-on attack on multilateralism, the toxic narrative against refugees, just to name a few. Yet, there was little questioning where to turn for solutions. The sector has responded to those challenges with a flurry of initiatives based on ‘best practices’ and widely accepted knowledge. Stricter measures have been introduced for higher protection from sexual exploitation and abuse in country programmes. In some cases, policymakers have started listening more to the voices of affected populations; in other cases, they have allowed for refugees’ participation in key policy discussions. Yet, the reforms enacted so far are still fundamentally grounded in traditional Western/Northern notions of what is best for ‘developing’ countries and their people.