Cooperative development to promote Sustainable Development Goals in Kiribati

September 8, 2022

Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives in Kiribati discussing issues and experiences relevant for the drafting of the Cooperative bill in a transparent and evidence-based manner.

Photo: Kiribati MCIC

The Cooperative Sector in Kiribati has witnessed a boost in the industry with a 94 percent increase in the number of cooperatives in the last 40 years. Cooperatives provide a good platform for communities to capitalize on opportunities in the productivity sectors. They also play an important role in advancing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Kiribati government is committed to strengthening and revitalizing cooperatives as key business players in the economy to boost economic activity, create jobs, help deliver (basic) services, and generate income for communities, including women and youth in the outer islands. Cooperatives have always brought people and communities together to work toward a common goal. They use complementary skills and know-how to finish big projects and create economic powerhouses in many different fields.

Through the Kiribati Trade Policy Framework 2017-2027, the Government of Kiribati encourages cooperatives in a variety of sectors. The cooperative sub-sector has been identified as a key driver of the growth of inclusive trade and the private sector. The government is working to rid the country of corruption by strengthening its legal and regulatory frameworks and institutions.

In the summer of 2022, a policy paper was put together that looked at how current problems are slowing the growth of cooperative societies and how a paradigm shift could help the government, the cooperative movement, and other stakeholders work together more proactively to solve these problems.

The long-term goal of the Cooperative Policy Framework is to create and support an environment that encourages self-driven, sustainable, competitive, and gender-responsive cooperative societies.

To reach the vision, the mission is to help create an organized, self-reliant, democratically controlled, member-centred cooperative movement for sustainable development. This is done through effective regulation, continuous technical support, capacity building, and resource mobilization.

The main goal of the policy is to grow and strengthen the cooperative movement so that it can play a leading role in getting rid of poverty, creating jobs, and changing the way society and the economy work in Kiribati.


Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism, Commerce, Industry and Cooperatives in Kiribati discussing issues and experiences relevant for the drafting of the Cooperative bill in a transparent and evidence-based manner.

Photo: Kiribati MCIC

The Kiribati government has affirmed its commitment to upholding the sanctity of cooperative principles and values as a means of safeguarding the general membership's interests. Putting together the policy paper and the recommendations that came from it is a step toward reforming the country's legal and institutional framework, especially the cooperative bill, to help the growth and development of cooperatives.

The policy prioritizes cooperative societies in mobilizing savings, improving productivity, service delivery, and value addition, and encouraging youth and women to participate in wealth creation and empowerment. It sets up a framework for getting financial and technical help for cooperative development, promoting pro-poor public-private partnerships in value-adding, marketing cooperative goods and services, and promoting cooperative education, training, and research.

Achieving sustainable development is impossible without addressing inequalities that prevent people from accessing opportunities and maximizing their own potential. Gender inequalities exacerbate people's disadvantages, reinforcing their poverty.

As a result, the government of Kiribati wanted to improve the environment and change the cooperative bill in the summer of 2022. They did this by working closely with cooperative societies.

The consultative processes used to design "new" policing and a reformed cooperative bill helped to identify priority areas for cooperative development and link them to national development policies.

Specific sectors, such as fishing and tourism, have high potential for digital transformation. Strategic actions to accelerate the process were identified through the consultations.

The new law will encourage saving, good governance, high productivity, adding value, and collective marketing. This will help Kiribati build a strong, thriving, and successful cooperative movement, which will lead to higher household incomes, economic change, and growth.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is supporting the Government of Kiribati (GoK) implement the 'Kiribati Trade Capacity Development and Institutional Strengthening' project (Tier 1 Phase 2), which is aligned with Kiribati's Development Plan and the 20-year vision development plan, known as the KV20 - Kiribati's long-term development strategy for the years 2016–2036. The Ministry of Tourism, Commerce, Industry, and Cooperatives (MTCIC) and the Business Regulatory Centre's Cooperative Regulatory Division oversee the cooperative activity of the project.

The 20-year vision and long-term development plans list strengthening and improving the performance of cooperatives as one of the ways to improve the private sector and achieve sustainable development.

Contact information:
Akosita Talei, Communications and Research Officer, Inclusive Growth Programme, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji,