The Pacific islands usually conjure up images of coconut palms swaying above thatched houses in remote island villages, waves lapping at the shore nearby. However, the allure of cash employment and services means that over half of the population of the Pacific now resides in 100 towns and cities. Urban and peri-urban areas are vastly swelling, resulting in a swathe of issues such as increased disaster vulnerability, high youth unemployment, growing informal settlements, inadequate access to basic services and poor housing conditions. Every four years, the Pacific Urban Forum is held to discuss action and create partnerships to address these issues. 

Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Dame Meg Taylor, highlighted that urban issues must receive greater attention in the Pacific region. (Photo supplied)

Griffith Business School’s PhD candidate Rebecca McNaught attended the 2019 Pacific Urban Forum in Fiji in July as an Associate with the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, an international body that supports local governments on sustainable development and strengthening local governance. Rebecca moderated a sustainable development session and was a member of the outcomes document committee.

Urban issues are complex. They require multi-stakeholder, systematic solutions – no one actor can do it alone

These outcomes will be fed into the Asia Pacific Urban Forum being held in October 2019 in Malaysia and will be used to guide partners working on the Pacific’s urbanisation issues in the coming years. Rebecca is also assisting the CLGF design a high-level event on resilience and a Pacific-focused side event at the Asia Pacific Urban Forum.

L-R Rebecca meeting with her supervisors, Professor John Hay, Dr Rob Hales and Dr Johanna Nalau.

Rebecca continues to write for policy and practitioner audiences on Pacific issues. She is currently co-authoring a report with experts from the University of the South Pacific for the Australian based ‘Research for Development Impact Network’ . The report focuses on Civil Society’s engagement with the Australian Government’s infrastructure investments in the Pacific region, including designing infrastructure for climate-resilient, inclusive and locally owned outcomes. This year she has also co-authored a piece on Vanuatu’s implementation of disaster risk reduction policies for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and advised the United Nations Development Programme’s Pacific office in Fiji on the design of a four-year programme on risk informed development.

Rebecca has spent the majority of her adult life living and working across the Pacific region, having spent 7 years in Fiji and 3 years in Vanuatu working for the United Nations and the Red Cross. Her PhD is focusing on the intersection of global goals (Sustainable Development Goals, Paris Agreement and Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction) with local governance in Australia and the wider Pacific region, especially investigating the role of collaborative governance in transitioning to climate resilient development.  

Please click here for more information on the outcomes of the Pacific Urban Forum.