The World Bank In Pacific Islands

Pacific Islands Overview: Development news, research, data | World Bank

The World Bank’s Pacific Island member countries have a combined population of about 2.3 million people, spread across a unique and diverse region made up of hundreds of islands, and scattered over an area equivalent to 15% of the earth’s surface.

There is great diversity across the Pacific Islands region, from Fiji, which is the largest country of the group (excluding Papua New Guinea) with a population of over 900,000, to Tuvalu and Nauru, with estimated populations of approximately 11,000 each; making them the World Bank Group’s smallest members by population. Kiribati is one of the most remote and geographically dispersed countries in the world, consisting of 33 coral atolls spread over 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean – an area larger than India.

The remoteness of many of the Pacific Island countries provided some initial protection from the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many countries closed their borders early in 2020 and began quarantining suspected cases at the preliminary stages of the pandemic, though outbreaks have now occurred across the region in 2021, the largest in Fiji and Papua New Guinea. The World Bank is supporting Pacific countries’ coronavirus response, with funding for health workers and essential supplies, as well as longer term public health system strengthening. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues around the world, Pacific countries are facing prolonged health and economic impacts that are stifling growth and creating new development challenges.

Pacific Island countries are also some of the most vulnerable in the world to the effects of climate change and disasters. The World Risk Index 2020 ranks five Pacific Island countries (in addition to PNG) among the top 20 most at-risk countries, including Vanuatu and Tonga, which are ranked first and second respectively.

Pacific Island countries have substantial natural resources, they are rich in cultural diversity and are rapidly increasing their trade and digital links with global markets. But Pacific Island countries share similar challenges as other remote island economies. They are small in size with limited natural resources and narrow-based economies, they are physically detached from major markets, have small populations spread across many islands, and they are vulnerable to external shocks, such as COVID-19, all of which can affect economic growth, increase poverty and have often led to a high degree of economic volatility.

Sustained development progress will require inclusive community-based approaches as well as long-term cooperation between governments, international development partners and regional organizations. The compounding impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing climate and disaster shocks on Pacific Island countries will continue to pose major challenges for the region into 2022 and beyond. 

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