Help us make development work in the Pacific, your views wanted

Published on Thursday, 14 February 2013

Published by on Thursday, 14 February 2013

Students attending a class at Tupou High School in Nuku'alofa, capital of Tonga. Photo credit: Luis Enrique Ascui 2010
Students attending a class at Tupou High School in Nuku'alofa, capital of Tonga. Photo credit: Luis Enrique Ascui 2010

Written by Emma Veve, Pacific Principal Economist

ADB’s 14 Pacific developing member countries make up a subregion like no other. On a map many of these tiny specks of nations are barely discernable in the vast Pacific Ocean which connects them. Most are home to less than 100,000 people and each country has their own closely held languages, cultures and traditions. Development has been constrained by limited or unevenly distributed resources and endowments, and environmental fragility. 

ADB’s assistance to the Pacific is guided by the Pacific Approach 2010-2014 which seeks to address shared challenges and opportunities, and to identify where and how regional approaches and common guidelines can be used to improve the effectiveness of development assistance.

Three years into the Pacific Approach, ADB is undertaking a midterm review of this document. 

Given the Pacific developing member countries include the smallest and most fragile, as well as most aid dependent, of all ADB’s members, the need for ADB as a major development partner in these countries to “get it right” is clear. While the scale of operations in the Pacific is small by ADB standards – a project amounting to tens of millions of dollars being a large Pacific project – the potential development impacts are relatively speaking often far more substantial. 

What is perhaps most innovative about the Pacific Approach was not its emphasis on focused assistance – including the ADB’s traditional areas of transport, energy and newer focuses such as private sector development – but rather the emphasis on “how” the ADB should operate in the Pacific. 

The Pacific Approach stresses the need to understand the local context, and to ensure stakeholder ownership and participation in operations. Face-to-face contact and strengthened communications were highlighted as critical under this Approach, as was coordination with partners. The value-added elements of ADB operations – such as policy dialogue and knowledge generation and sharing – were also brought to the fore in the Pacific Approach. 

So how has ADB performed in implementing these approaches? Trying to quantitatively measure performance in all these areas is difficult. So ADB is seeking to compile qualitative assessments and examples of effective and less effective performance across these areas. Lessons from these experiences will then guide refinements to the Pacific Approach Framework, but also importantly underpin the successor document to the Pacific Approach. 

Input is being sought from government officials in both central agencies as well as line agencies implementing ADB-financed projects, private sector and community stakeholders, regional organizations, and development partners. 

Readers are warmly invited to share their perceptions of ADB in the Pacific. We would be interested to know you thoughts regarding:

  • How well aligned are ADB strategies, plans, and projects with the development programs of Pacific countries and the region? Has this alignment been improving over time?
  • Have you observed a change in the scope or nature of ADB interventions at the national or regional level in the Pacific? How would you describe these changes?
  • Where has ADB’s response been most helpful, less helpful? Why?