A new report launched in Canberra this week, written by Griffith Asia Institute Adjunct Research Fellow, Dr Wesley Morgan, PhD Candidate, Rebecca McNaught from the Department of Business Strategy and Innovation, Sally Baker, Fulori Manoa and Jope Tarai argues that the Australian Government’s push to finance infrastructure in the Pacific must ensure positive and lasting development outcomes.

Initiated by the Research for Development Impact Network (RDI Network) and co-produced by RDI Network and Pacific Connections (Australia), the report provides a set of seven principles to to design and implement resilient, inclusive and sustainable infrastructure.

RDI Network Manager, Dr Philippa Smales said, “Each Pacific nation has significant and unique infrastructure requirements which the Australian Government is responding to. This report emphasises the critical importance of meaningful partnerships with local civil society to designing and delivering quality infrastructure. When communities lead and co-design infrastructure projects, local priorities are met, legitimacy and support for the project is strengthened and projects serve all local people, not just those in positions of power.”

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade panel which focused on ‘NGOs and Civil Society’ at the ANU Australasian AID Conference 2020. Two of the report’s co-authors, Sally Baker (far left) and Rebecca McNaught, (far right) took part in the panel.

The RDI Network report is based on extensive research and consultations in Australia and the Pacific. Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organisations (PIANGO) — the regional peak-body for non-governmental organisations — was one of the key partners who informed the RDI Network’s report.

The report titled Building Together: Seven principles for engaging civil society to deliver resilient, inclusive and sustainable infrastructure in the Pacific islands provides an ethical and effective approach for transformational infrastructure. Adopting the seven principles outlined in Building Together will help grow local employment, support skills development, help promote gender equality, and create more accessible infrastructure for people with disabilities.

Co-author Rebecca McNaught said:

“The key to quality infrastructure is transparent and collaborative decision-making that includes Pacific people, Pacific civil society and local enterprise.”

“Well-designed infrastructure will promote low-carbon development, help climate change adaptation, and protect the local biodiversity upon which Pacific economies depend. It is also an opportunity to promote shared standards for quality.”

Several countries – including Australia, the US, Britain, France, Japan and China, are financing high-profile projects such as large government buildings, roads, energy and telecommunications infrastructure. This follows a report by the Asian Development Bank which estimated that the Pacific will require USD 3.1billion in infrastructure investment each year until 2030.