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Political Economy of Water Management and Community Perceptions in the Pacific Island Countries

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Access to potable water and sanitation services is available to only 55% and 30% of Pacific islanders, respectively, the latter being the lowest rate globally. The lack of water and basic sanitation services means that the majority of Pacific Island Countries will unlikely achieve SDG6 by 2030. The research reviewed the political context, the water sector, the individuals, agencies, and the role of formal and informal institutions in shaping water resource management across 14 countries in Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia. The research included key informant interviews and a community perceptions survey, and there were found to be significant differences in the political economies of water use and management across the 14 countries. This was due to the differences in governance structures, the different actors, and the impacts of natural disasters on infrastructure and water security.

As important as government ministries and formal legislation and policies are to water resource management, equally important are informal institutions like land tenureship and traditional leadership structures. Community coalitions were found to be effective in addressing water issues in areas impacted by natural disasters and those poorly serviced by the utilities. Donors continue to play an important role in the provision of infrastructure for water and sanitation services, but the challenge lies in the maintenance and expansion of infrastructure to allow for urbanization and increased demand. The upskilling of service providers is also an urgent need. The research findings will be used to inform the continuing engagement of the Australian Water Partnerships in the Pacific region.

Posted October 21, 2022
Related locations: Pacific Islands