New blueprint for engagement with Pacific region

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 18 Aug 2008

International aid agency Oxfam has produced a blueprint for Australia’s new engagement with Pacific nations, as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd heads to Niue this week for the Pacific Islands Forum.

One of the key recommendations in the Oxfam Australia report, drawn from more than 40 years’ experience working with Pacific communities, is a pilot seasonal work scheme. Such a scheme was announced by the Federal Government yesterday (Sunday).

“A seasonal worker labour program for Pacific Island communities is a winner,” Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said. “With the right standards to protect workers, it can generate income for many Pacific island communities and assist Australian farmers who face severe labour shortages.

“This should be just the beginning of improving Australia’s relations with with Pacific nations. Australia can lead the region in tackling the impacts of climate change, helping prevent violence against women and providing support to citizens of Pacific states in holding their governments to account.”

Oxfam’s report, Partnering with our Neighbours – Realising the Potential of Pacific Partnerships for Development, provides a blueprint for a new, ‘whole of nation’ approach, under four pillars of:

• Building sustainable rural livelihoods;
• Assisting our Pacific neighbours tackle climate change;
• Achieving greater gender equality in the Pacific, including tackling violence against women, and
• Increasing voice and government accountability, including supporting civil society in Pacific nations.

Recommendations include:
• As part of building sustainable rural livelihoods as a framework for economic development, Australia should implement a pilot seasonal work scheme for Pacific Islanders, the remittances of which can be invested in school fees, better housing and local businesses;
• Take urgent and significant action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – at least 40 per cent by 2020 and at least 95 per cent by 2050 (based on 1990 levels), provide funding to help Pacific nations adapt to the impacts of climate change, and commit to assisting communities displaced by the impacts of climate change;
• Trade negotiations with Pacific Island nations (the PACER-Plus negotiations on trade liberalisation) should let Pacific nations set the pace and focus on enhancing development and sustainable rural livelihoods in the region.
Mr Hewett welcomed the Government’s ‘new era of cooperation with the island nations of the Pacific’, as outlined in the Prime Minister’s declaration of engagement with the region made in Port Moresby in March, and invited the Government to build on these commitments.

“Pacific communities are heavily feeling the impacts of climate change and the food crisis,” Mr Hewett said. “Our staff members in Gizo in the Solomon Islands, for example, are reporting that the price of food has increased beyond the means of most families. Petrol and kerosene prices have also risen, making life even more difficult.

“Meanwhile, climate change is threatening to undermine the global fight against poverty. Pacific nations such Kiribati and Tuvalu are experiencing sea level rise and salt water inundation that contributes to crop losses, destruction of fresh water sources and flooding. As one of the world’s major emitters of greenhouse gases per person, Australia has a responsibility to assist.”

The Pacific Islands Forum runs from Tuesday 18 August – Thursday 21 August.

Read the report here

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Laurelle Keough at Oxfam on 0409 960 100,


Oxfam has been working in the Pacific region since the 1960s, particularly in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji. Oxfam’s work focuses on conflict reduction and peace building; livelihoods – particularly the impacts of mining, forestry and trade; disaster management, and sexual health and HIV.

Gender, youth, and social and political citizenship are cross-cutting themes that recognise the significant role of increasing the rights and opportunities of women and young people in the development of the Pacific Islands.

Oxfam has offices in Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby and Goroka), Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.