Overview of Australia's Pacific Regional aid program

How we are helping

2014/15 Pacific Regional Program Outcome
$199.5 million

2015/16 Pacific Regional Program Budget Estimate
$166.4 million

2015/16 Total Australian ODA Estimate
$120.0 million

Australia will provide an estimated $166.4 million in 2015–16 to the Pacific through our Pacific Regional Program. In addition to the Pacific Regional Program, $12.5 million will be provided from the Gender Equality Fund for regional and multi-country activities under Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development.

The Pacific Regional Program complements our Pacific bilateral programs in support of a stable, secure and prosperous Pacific. The Program supports regional approaches to address a range of regional development and economic growth challenges. Geographic isolation and small and dispersed populations can make the provision of even basic goods and services logistically difficult and expensive. Natural disasters and economic shocks hinder economic development. Little progress has been made toward the Millennium Development Goals, and the private sector is typically small with large informal economies. Violence, a lack of women in leadership roles and constrained financial opportunities limit women's economic participation.

Many of the Pacific's challenges cannot be addressed solely on a country-by-country basis. The Regional Program adds value where it is more efficient and effective to work through regional approaches.

Working with regional organisations and a range of other partners, our program is organised around the following mutually reinforcing objectives as outlined in the Pacific Regional Aid Investment Plan.

Objective 1: Economic growth

The Pacific region continues to experience significant economic challenges. While entrenched extreme poverty—defined as the proportion of the population living below US$1.25 a day—is rare in the Pacific, poverty remains a big challenge for many countries. Over 20 per cent of people in most Pacific Island Countries live in hardship and are unable to meet their basic needs.

In much of the Pacific, economic growth is not keeping pace with population growth. Distance and weak infrastructure make international trade expensive, but small domestic markets and narrow production bases mean countries rely on it for income and consumption. Inefficient and burdensome regulation, weak contract enforcement, limited access to finance, and low skilled and unhealthy workers make the business environment challenging.

The Pacific Regional Program supports a range of initiatives that are building a better business-enabling environment and encouraging increased private sector activity. Our investments aim to increase global and regional trade, increase finance for business activity, deepen labour markets and create better quality employment opportunities.

Responding to Australia’s new Aid for Trade Strategy the Pacific Regional Program is helping to increase Pacific trade, tourism and investment and to help the region take advantage of the opportunities presented by global trade. We will achieve our aid for trade target of 20 percent of the value of aid in 2015–16.

Through Australia's Seasonal Worker Programme and other regional labour mobility initiatives, we will increase the quantity and capacity of workers coming to Australia, thereby increasing opportunities for remittances. We will work to reduce the cost of remittances, including through our commitments in the G20.

Responding to the Strategy for Australia's Aid Investments in Private Sector Development and the Ministerial Statement on Engaging the Private Sector in Aid and Development, we will work with corporate and multilateral partners to increase access to finance for individuals, businesses and infrastructure projects. We will help remove obstacles to increased economic activity and improve the business environment, bringing innovative approaches to enterprise development.

Economic growth and private sector development in the Pacific region

We will work with Pacific countries, regional organisations and multilateral development banks to extract greater long run income streams from fisheries and agriculture by improving market access and value chain development. We will help Pacific farmers improve the quality of their produce and meet the biosecurity requirements and standards of Australia and other importing countries. We will also strengthen effective management of oceans through better maritime security, improve food and economic security including sustainable fishing operations in offshore tuna operations, and improve the management of coastal and inshore fish resources.

Fisheries assistance in the Pacific region

Australia’s Pacific regional education program focuses on those aspects of Pacific education systems that benefit from a regional approach. Australia supports key education programs and partnerships designed to improve education system performance and ensure that Pacific Islander women and men, girls and boys can develop the skills they need to lead a productive life, promoting economic growth and enabling mobility of skills and qualifications.

We will work with employers to identify their needs to tailor job skill programs through regional technical and vocational and tertiary institutions. The Australia Pacific Technical College (APTC) is valued highly across the region. As our largest single investment under the Pacific Regional Program, the College produces graduates from 14 Pacific island countries with Australian-standard, labour market-relevant skills. Our support for the University of the South Pacific, which is the premier provider of tertiary education in the Pacific region, is often cited as the best example of regional cooperation in the Pacific.

Education in the Pacific region

Objective 2: Effective regional institutions

Australia supports improved regional governance through Pacific regional organisations led by the Pacific Islands Forum. Regional organisations provide an important vehicle for policy dialogue across the region. Our key partners include the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the Forum Fisheries Agency and the South Pacific Regional Environment Program.

Australia also supports a number of discrete initiatives for effective governance. These assist countries across the region to strengthen their public sector capacities, transparency and accountability and adopt and adhere to regional norms and standards.

Our programs are underpinned by robust research and analysis, supported through partnerships with Australian and regional research institutions.

Effective regional institutions in the Pacific region

Objective 3: Healthy and resilient communities

Australia’s support for health in the Pacific contributes to the security, stability and prosperity of the region – ensuring that women, men and children can lead healthy, productive lives. Australia works closely with regional and international organisations, and partner governments to support Pacific Island Countries (PICs) to improve health outcomes.

Managing health's 'double burden' of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) with continued threats from communicable diseases and maternal and child mortality remains a large challenge. Containing communicable disease outbreaks and other health security threats in the Pacific is in Australia’s national interest.

Health assistance in the Pacific region

PICs face a wide variety of natural hazards including cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, floods, storm surges, tsunami and volcanoes. Climate change and natural disasters cut across sectors, erode economic gains and exacerbate existing pressures on food, water, infrastructure, health and economies.

Australia provides funding and technical support across the region to help promote climate resilience and disaster preparedness, response and risk reduction. For example, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology supports the National Meteorological Services (NMSs) of 14 Pacific countries to provide meteorological, sea-level monitoring and early-warning services to Pacific communities. The Pacific Risk Resilience Program (PRRP) is strengthening the resilience of the most disaster prone PICs to natural hazards and climate change risk.

We are working with countries to implement the outcomes of the July 2015 Pacific Islands Forum Foreign Ministers' meeting on Disaster Management and to help PICs access the Green Climate Fund. We will assist the region with the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–30.

Resilience in the Pacific region

Australia supports the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Pacific Disability Forum in their work with Pacific governments and disabled people’s organisations to implement disability-inclusive policies and create opportunities for people with disabilities. Under the Pacific Sports Partnership program, people with disabilities are involved in regular cricket, table tennis and football activities that improve their quality of life and increase their participation in the community.

Objective 4: Empowering women and girls

Women’s empowerment is a cross-cutting component of the Pacific Regional Program. All our investments will support women to participate fully, freely and safely in political, economic and social life. Gender equality and gender-responsive reporting will be a feature of our mutual obligation arrangements with regional and multilateral organisations. Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development (Pacific Women) is a 10-year program working across 14 Pacific Island Countries, providing practical support in partnership with governments, regional and UN organisations, and civil society groups to achieve gender equality. The program has three focus areas: expanding women’s economic opportunities; improving women’s representation and effective leadership; and reducing violence against women. Pacific Women is funded from bilateral and regional programs. Regional and multi-country activities comprise about 30 per cent of the budget and address common issues across the region and complement country activities. In 2015–16 $12.5 million for Pacific regional activities will be funded from the Gender Equality Fund announced in this year’s budget.

Investments for promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls in the Pacific region

Our results

In 2013*, Australia’s Pacific Regional aid program:

  • supported reforms in the Solomon Islands to lower loan-processing times from several weeks to 1–2 days, with improved access to finance increasing commercial loans by a factor of six
  • improved access to financial services for over 300,000 disadvantaged men and women and to financial education for over 200,000 students (48 per cent female) in Samoa and Fiji
  • supported private sector participation in telecommunications and internet services markets, resulting in, for example, an increase in mobile network coverage in the Solomon Islands from 20 to 80 per cent of the population
  • assisted 2,499 students (56 per cent female) to graduate from the University of the South Pacific in 2013, with 60 per cent finding employment within four months of graduation
  • supported Pacific Island Countries to earn more from their tuna resources, with fishing access fees increasing 16 per cent to US$325 million in 2013–14
  • assisted the National Meteorological Services of 14 Pacific countries to provide data and advice to help Pacific Island Countries plan and adapt to climate change
  • improved efficiency, effectiveness and accountability of regional organisations through new multi-year partnerships and financing of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the University of South Pacific and the Forum Fisheries Agency
  • boosted regional capacity by training 459 public servants in public financial management and public policy through the Pacific Islands Centre for Public Administration (PICPA)
  • supported legislative reform in Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Samoa to improve protection of children through strengthening implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child
  • provided 42 specialist clinical service and mentoring visits to nine countries, allowing 4,194 people to receive specialised clinical consultations and 1,128 people to receive life-changing surgical procedures
  • supported the Fiji Women’s Crisis Centre to provide counselling services to 1,905 new clients and 2,776 repeat clients, and
  • facilitated the participation of around 2000 citizens of Pacific Island Countries and Timor-Leste in Australia’s Seasonal Worker Programme, generating estimated total remittances of $10 million.

* Results for 2014 will be available following the release of the 2014-15 annual Aid Program Performance Report.

Our changing program

We have prioritised those programs that are effective, deliver positive change and address priorities identified by Pacific Island governments. We have increased funding to aid-for-trade and economic growth activities, as well as resilience programs. We have maintained funding levels for fisheries and gender equality programs.

Our economic growth portfolio will increase funding for programs which will best support Pacific countries to implement and maximise benefits to them flowing from the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER) Plus. Our work to strengthen the private sector and expand financial inclusion opportunities for people in the Pacific will include leveraging financing for private sector development. We will work closely with corporate partners, including Carnival, Westpac and ANZ Bank, to create commercially sustainable solutions to poverty.

We will continue to focus on regional labour and skills development under the Australia Pacific Technical College. We will work with regional organisations on programs that enhance the ‘blue economy’. We will continue major partnerships with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the Forum Fisheries Agency and the South Pacific Regional Environment Program.

Funding to regional governance, health and education sectors, will continue but at lower levels than in the past, acknowledging ongoing challenges in regional progress and the shift to partner governments taking the lead in these sectors. The health sector will be streamlined to focus on initiatives which complement bilateral investments, for example health workforce and clinical services and which focus on health security including disease surveillance and non-communicable disease.

Last Updated: 16 July 2015