A Small Island State of 33 atolls spanning 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean, Kiribati is faced with a number of development challenges, including climate change. While rated as one of the poorest countries in the Pacific, there has been remarkable progress since 2014. Increasing employment opportunities in the public and private sector have been complimented by increases in overseas worker schemes, but unemployment is still high. However, economic progress relies heavily on the continued performance of the national fishery, which can be volatile and is also under threat from climate change.
Recent years have seen significant advances in school enrolment rates, basic literacy, and numeracy, particularly for girls and young women. There have also been improvements in universal accessibility, despite the high costs of service delivery and limited capacity at tertiary institutions.
Kiribati’s health challenges are stark: under 5 and maternal mortality rates remain among the highest in the Pacific; malnutrition is a common issue; non-communicable disease prevalence is high; water issues are acute; and Tuberculosis is persistent.
Gender-based violence and wider gender issues are a key social and economic issue.
Climate change is a serious challenge for Kiribati, affecting almost every facet of daily life. From acute water shortages, tidal inundation, seawater intrusion, and heat and storm events, Kiribati risks reversing recent development gains through climate events and ongoing impacts. There are significant capital works underway in transport, water, power, sanitation, coastal protection and food security, but the pace of climate change threatens to outpace these measures. Importantly, climate change has the potential to disrupt the largest economic resource available to Kiribati – the tuna fishery – through anticipated impacts on tuna migration and spawning patterns across the Pacific.
The SDGs in Kiribati
Following the launch of the SDGs in September 2015, the Government issued the preliminary indicators to all government agencies, community groups, development partners and private sector organisations. This led to the formation of the Kiribati Development Plan (KDP) 2016-19 and a national set of indicators.
In addition to the four-yearly national plan, the Kiribati Government also has a 20-year vision for the development of a wealthy, healthy, and peaceful nation. Covering the period out to 2036, the Kiribati Vision 20(or KV20) is designed around the enabling environment and social benefits from the key economic sectors of tourism and fisheries.
As the KDP broadly aligns to the 2030 Agenda, the integration the Mid-Term Review of the KDP with the Voluntary National Review (VNR) aims to assess national goals alongside international and regional commitments in a single report.
The Process for the Review
The Development Coordination Committee (DCC) is the main governing body that coordinates and reports on all development activity in Kiribati including the review of the KDP.
Following the appointment of a special SDG Taskforce from among DCC members, an intensive consultation period commenced with all stakeholders. Each partner was educated on the importance of the SDGs, data collection, and the timeline for the Review. Stakeholder consultations identified issues with capacity constraints; competing priorities; limited stakeholder engagement; lack of alignment between the national, regional and global indicator sets; insufficient resources; lack of baseline data; and poor capacity to collect and analyze data.
The Review of the KV20, KDP and SDG indicators highlighted several areas of indicator fragmentation and poor data collection. In particular, some global, regional, and even national indicators are currently beyond the capability of Kiribati to effectively measure and report on.
Stakeholders verified what data was available and reviewed the final report prior to it being tabled with the High-Level Political Forum.
Outcomes of the Review
Follow the Review, national goals and indicators will be realigned for the second half of the four-year term of the KDP. Together with the developing framework for the KV20, there is substantial scope to further reduce fragmentation. Time and resource constraints during the Review also meant coverage of the outer islands has been limited – future reviews should aim to provide better coverage of both urban and rural Kiribati, leaving no one behind.
Kiribati continues to face limited institutional and financial capacity to effectively monitor and implement the SDGs. Continued support by development partners is important and valued, especially in light of the potential graduation of Kiribati from least developed country status. To this end, Kiribati extends the invitation to donor partners to continue their support towards achieving the SDGs.