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Box 2.3.

Challenges of urbanization in Pacic island developing economies

The popula on of the Pacic island developing economies stood at about 10 million in 2010, and is expected to increase to more than 14 million in 2030 (see table). In almost all the economies, the rate of growth of their urban popula on is much faster than that of the total popula on. As a result, the urbaniza on ra o, urban popula on as a percentage of total popula on, is expected to increase in all of the economies in the coming years. By 2030, more than half of the popula on of Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiriba , New Caledonia and several other smaller economies will be living in urban areas. Projec ons indicate that urban growth in Papua New Guinea, the most populated country with close to 70% of the total popula on in the subregion, will be double that of total popula on, with the urbaniza on ra o expected to rise from 12.5% in 2010 to 18.2% in 2030.

Table. Urbanization in the Pacic island developing economies

Total population (thousands) 2010 2030


Urbanization ratio (urban population as % of total population) 2010 2030

51.9 51.5 93.3 44.0 22.5 57.5 12.5 20.1 18.5 23.1 25.6 84.4 22.9 61.7 56.5 94.5 51.1 30.4 62.9 18.2 24.1 29.2 30.4 37.9 89.3 27.8

Annual population growth (2010-2030) Total Urban

0.5 0.8 1.1 1.4 0.8 1.1 2.0 0.4 2.3 0.8 2.2 1.2 1.8 1.2 1.4 1.1 2.1 2.1 1.6 3.8 1.2 4.3 1.9 4.1 1.6 2.7

French Polynesia Guam

Kiribati Micronesia (Federated States of) New Caledonia Papua New Guinea Samoa Solomon Islands Tonga


Other countries/territories All countries/territories

Source Revision

861 271 180 100 111 251 6 858 183 538 104 240 244 9 941

958 318 222 132 129 314 10 185 200 841 121 371 308 14 099

: United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2011). World Population Prospects: The 2010 , available from and World Urbanization Prospects: The 2009 Revision, available from http://, (accessed 24 January 2012).

As the Pacic urban popula ons grow, the quality of life, par cularly in peri-urban communi es, could become compromised. Ci es act as crucial interna onal gateways and centres of employment opportunity, and are the engines of economic growth, with 60% of a na onal GDP es mated to be generated in urban centres. Consequently, unmi gated urban popula on growth is understandable. Despite the strong role as growth engines, some Pacic island leaders as well as decision makers have nega ve percep ons of urban areas and believe that urbaniza on should be curbed. Along with changing this mindset, it is important to deal with the many challenges of urbaniza on in order to further improve quality of life in urban areas. Some of the major challenges of urbaniza on in the Pacic discussed below are how to improve good governance, strengthen posi ve urban-rural development linkages, provide housing and related services/infrastructure and ways to deal with natural disasters resul ng from climate change. Good governance: The struggle to reconcile tradi onal and non-tradi onal land ownership systems aects access to land and inuences urban planning and management decisions. Wider acknowledgement of both the economic benets of ci es and the threats of unmanaged urbaniza on are prerequisites for improved governance. Economic development/urban-rural linkages: While it is understandable that some countries and their development partners wish to focus on rural development, urbaniza on is an inevitable phenomenon and must be given proper considera on. Urban areas




Box 2.3.


desperately need strengthened transport, communica on and trade links to accommodate burgeoning popula ons. More a en on also needs to be placed on methods of linking the economic benets of tourism to urban centres. Much of the tourism in the Pacic is resort-based, with limited connec vity to Pacic towns and ci es. Some par es, such as small business holders, street sellers and cra workers are o en excluded from reaping the benets of tourism. However, crea ve policies, planning and management of urban centres could help be er connect the economic benets of tourism with urban popula ons. Housing, services and infrastructure: Many Pacic island economies suer from the lack of aordable and safe housing, stressed urban infrastructure and poor service delivery, par cularly with regard to water and sanita on. Increasing the level of services oered to the urban poor is an urgent priority, which can have strong cross-cu ng benets to health, human dignity, economic produc vity and the environment. Climate change adapta on: Most Pacic island economies are extremely vulnerable to the eects of climate change. Atoll islands, in par cular, face major challenges given their densely populated ci es cons tuted by rela vely fragile housing, situated in low-lying terrains. This situa on magnies the threats posed by natural hazards associated with climate change, such as sea level rise, hurricane ac vity and storm surge. Few governments in the subregion are an cipa ng or preparing for the impacts of con nued urban growth, and when they are, posi ve experiences are not always widely shared across the subregion. Currently, only four Pacic Island economies have government ministries dedicated to housing and urban development. They are the Ministry of Urban Development in Fiji, the Oce of Urbanisa on in Papua New Guinea, the Planning and Urban Management Agency in Samoa, and the Planning and Urban Management Agency in Tonga. Clearly, more needs to done to address the challenges of urbaniza on in the Pacic. Key ac vi es and policy op ons for governments, regional organiza ons and development partners broadly include: Governments Iden fy a lead agency to be responsible for coordina on of urban policy and implementa on of projects and programmes with adequate capacity and resources. Articulate a national vision as a priority with emphasis on initiating development with local resources to help build the condence of external partners and demonstrate na onal commitment. Regional organiza ons Establishment of a monitoring and evalua on framework for the Pacic Urban Agenda (PUA)10 with indicators. Establishment of an urban knowledge hub, collec ng na onal evalua on results and documen ng experiences. Raising awareness of urbaniza on issues and the role of urban areas in the development process. Development partners Taking a proac ve role in suppor ng PUA, possibly by way of dissemina ng basic informa on through toolkits on urbaniza on, the benets and consequences of urbaniza on, and examples of good prac ce for use as an advocacy tool for sustainable urban development. Improving coordina on among donors and non-governmental organiza ons (NGOs) to maximize capacity, eorts and resources though a united coali on of support for the urban sector. Suppor ng na onal censuses and u liza on of the data for analysis of urban issues.



Box 2.3.


In recogni on of these challenges, the ESCAP Pacic Oce in associa on with UN HABITAT and the Commonwealth of Local Government Forum (CLGF) organized the Pacic Urban Forum in Nadi, Fiji in 2011. Guided by Pacic Urban Agenda, Regional Ac on Framework and responses of a July 2011 poll of urban policy makers, the Forum focused on addressing the challenges discussed above including through na onal development plans. Some economies are now planning to hold independent na onal urban forums to highlight their own specic urban issues and address policy and strategic planning gaps.


Australia and New Zealand Economic growth slowed partly due to natural disasters
The expansion of the Australian economy slowed to 2% in 2011 from 2.5% in 2010, partly due to devastating oods in December 2010 and January 2011 (see gure 2.10). GDP in the rst quarter of 2011 contracted 0.3% as compared to the previous quarter. The economy began to recover in the subsequent

Asia and the Pacic, particularly China and India. More than 72% of mineral exports from Australia go to the Asia-Pacic region. On the other hand, growth in the non-mining sector remained relatively subdued. Over the last ve years, average annual growth of the non-mining sector was 2.3%, much lower than the rate of 6.3% growth previously experienced by the mining sector (Australia, Reserve Bank of Australia, 2011). The agriculture sector performed relatively better in 2011 due to higher exports. While private consumption continued to grow in 2011, investment increased more rapidly, boosted by expanding activities in the mining sector. Slower growth in private consumption reected the

quarters helped by rehabilitation and reconstruction

prices of agricultural products and an increase in

activities. The mining sector, representing about 15% of GDP, has been performing extremely well due to

higher prices and growing demand from countries in

Figure 2.10. Economic growth of Australia and New Zealand, 2009-2012


3 Percentage

0 Australia 2009
Sources Note

New Zealand 2010 2011 2012

: ESCAP, based on national sources; and CEIC Data Company Limited. Available from (accessed 19 April 2012).

: Real GDP growth rates for 2011 and 2012 are estimates and forecasts respectively.