Thursday, 18 July 2019

How the Pacific is Measuring Up, and whether we could do more

Henry Cooke in New York reports  that five Pacific states are reporting to the UN on their sustainable development goals (SDG), measured by 17 goals and 230 statistical indicators, this week.

He notes that most Pacific Islands lack the resources to measure the indicators, and that there are far too many indicators. As a result, a Pacific SDG task force has limited the indicators to 132 but even then Niue will report on only 38 indicators, Cook Islands on 45,  Samoa on 60 and Tonga on 61. Included in the others, not reporting this week, is Fiji with the largest number of indicators, but even this relatively developed country has insufficient statistical information  on education and none on safe water supply.

Statistical indicators are essential for government planning.  They set the goals and targets and measure progress against them.   NZ provides some help to some Pacific Islands in this regard but I think more could be provided  with government-university collaboration.  Our university staff could be seconded for short periods of time to the Islands. Together with their postgraduate students they could be invited to direct their research to areas of Pacific Islands concern, and more exchanges could be encouraged.

This is not a new idea or practice.  A considerable amount of incidental co-operation already occurs outside substantial direct foreign aid and work by regional agencies. What I am talking about it deliberate, tailored co-operation involving governments and universities.

In my own fields, Geography and Development Studies, Massey used to exchange students with USP, and I had short-ish term appointments in Fiji, Hawaii, PNG, and earlier I was seconded to teach in Tonga. Among other Geography researchers are Prof Harold Brookfield who led an ANU team that included Fiji students to study the economy of Fiji's outlying islands; Profs Gerry Ward and Terry McGee who researched urban markets and helped train USP students in market research, and Prof Ray Waters and economist Dr Geoff Bertram who devised the MIRAB (Migration, Remittances, Aid and Bureaucracy) development model. While this research was not solicited by the Pacific Islands, it addressed important Island development issues, and involved Pacific Islanders.

The need now for Pacific Islands to record essential statistics for the UN and their own planning purposes provides a new opportunity for deliberate, tailored New Zealand-Pacific Island government and university collaboration.

-- ACW

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