A ‘Whole-of-Island' Approach: flipping the script on the way we do development in Nauru

February 11, 2024
Nauru coastline from Meneng Point

With a population of over 12,000 people, and a single island that is 21km2 in size, Nauru sees the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office undertaking a whole-of-island approach toward how we do development.

Photo: UNDP

The Pacific Island nation of Nauru serves as the canvas for an approach to sustainable development programming that bucks the trend of tradition. With a population of over 12,000 people, and a single island that is 21km2 in size, Nauru sees the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office undertaking a whole-of-island approach toward how we do development.

At the heart of this lies a commitment to supporting democratic values; work that continues to result in substantive successes at the intersection of justice, public sector reform, and elections.  

Our support to Nauru in this critical area takes various forms. We collaborate with the Nauru Electoral Commission and Parliament to enhance the integrity and effectiveness of elections, ensuring every voice is heard. At the 2022 General Election this support resulted in Ronwyn Jeremiah, a young Nauruan with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities, exercising his right to vote for the very first time.  

There is also work ongoing to support public sector reform initiatives, encouraging transparency, accountability, and citizen participation in the democratic space. This includes a blossoming partnership with the Women Empowerment Nauru Association (WENA) to ensure increased engagement in politics and public life; the hope to add to the tally of two women who currently sit in the 19-member Nauru Parliament.  

Finally, we link the legislature with the country’s judiciary, with the Nauru Justice Initiative working to strengthen the rule of law, enhance accessibility to justice, promote democratic values, advance gender equality, and further civic education on justice related matters.  

This initiative, it must be noted, also works with the Department of Justice and Border Control, the Nauru Law Society, Nauru Police Force, Correctional Services, WENA, lawyers, pleaders and civil society; the embodiment of a whole-of-island approach to programming.

The Wider Policy Landscape  

A recent policy brief from UNDP looked at area-based programming – or as we refer to it here in the case of Nauru, an approach that accounts for the island nation’s entire population. The brief focused on how best to deliver developmental support in a way that is fit for purpose. As the policy brief stated, this approach presents as one that can enable inclusive planning and participatory programming for a co-creation process that can be highly responsive to local needs, at different stages of development.  

Building on this foundation of collaboration and inclusivity, the whole-of-island approach in Nauru translates into action through a multi-pronged strategy, that simultaneously addresses critical issues.

This is an approach to programming that recognizes the inter-connected nature of the development challenges the people of Nauru currently face. An approach that brings stakeholders from various sectors together – be they government, civil society organizations, or the local community – to identify the unique needs and opportunities within the country.  

Nauru EC

Our Resident Representative (second from left) meeting with the three Commissioners of the country’s Electoral Commission: Sylvanna, Cronisa and Christine. The electoral body is a Pacific leader thanks to its work in furthering voting rights for intellectually disabled citizens.

Photo: UNDP

While the above showcases a commitment to inclusive and participatory governance, our whole-of-island approach can extend far beyond the realm of governance. Imagine leveraging this collaborative approach to tackle pressing challenges such as climate change and its associated risks, advancing clean energy endeavors, or fostering the development of Nauru’s blue economy. It is an approach that could support the development of Nauru’s youth – with 39 percent of the population currently under the age of 15 – inspiring the next generation of future leaders.  

This partnership goes beyond the Government of Nauru, too, with support being provided by our great friends within the Governments of Australia and New Zealand. For the whole-of-island approach to work, two key pillars must be satisfied: donor recognition of the interconnectedness and complexity of sustainable solutions, and ownership of the process by affected communities and national partners.

While in Nauru last week, where I presented my credentials to Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hon. Lionel Aingimea, we discussed the significance of UNDP and the Government of Nauru’s long-standing partnership toward fostering sustainable development. We also discussed the concept of climate-smart agriculture, digitalization, inclusive governance and the country’s Higher Ground Initiative.

The continuation of a whole-of-island approach in Nauru can help the country realize its national sustainable development strategy – its roadmap towards transformative change – a future where individual, community, business and government partnerships contribute to all Nauruans enjoying a sustainable quality of life.

By fostering collaboration and addressing critical issues like climate change and resource management through this approach, Nauru will not only strengthen its own resilience but actively contribute to regional stability and security – aligning with the spirit of the Boe Declaration that was signed in Nauru in 2018.

Nauru holds immense potential for a bright future. By empowering its people and working together, we can unlock this potential and support Nauru's journey towards resilience, inclusivity, and prosperity. UNDP stands ready to facilitate the transition to more integrated approaches to the way we do development, an approach best fit for the complex times we find ourselves living in.

For further media enquiries please contact:

Nick Turner - Communications and Advocacy Specialist, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji | (E) nicholas.turner@undp.org