Session 10a


Sustainable Urbanisation in Small Island Developing States – The Pacific

held on

Monday 24 August 2020 at 13:30 AEST, 15:30 Fiji, 09:00 IST


The programme of events associated with a Call to Action on Sustainable Urbanisation in the Commonwealth was launched on Wednesday 24 June 2020 under the leadership of the Association of Commonwealth Universities, the Commonwealth Association of Architects, the Commonwealth Association of Planners, and the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, with support from The Prince’s Foundation and the Rwandan Government.

This event was jointly hosted by the Commonwealth Local Government Forum and the Commonwealth Association of Planners. It debated strategies for addressing rapid urbanisation in small states facing the specific challenges of remoteness, vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters, and the capacity needed to deal with these and other constraints. The session drew on experiences from small states across the Commonwealth, share innovations and highlight the specificities of managing sustainable urbanisation in a small state context. 

The session was chaired by Rebecca McNaught from the Cities Research Institute and Griffith Business School at Griffith University in Australia. The session included the following panellists and contributors: 

  • Rikiaua Takeke – CEO Kiribati Local Government Association
  • Mere Naulumatua – President, Fiji Institute of Planners
  • Alexei Trundle – Research Fellow in Sustainable Urban Development University of Melbourne
  • Gisa Fuatai Purcell – Acting Secretary-General, Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation
  • Samuela Pohiva – Senior Secretary to Local Government and Community Development, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Tonga.
  • Karibaiti Taoaba – Regional Director Pacific, Commonwealth Local Government Forum (representing Charles Kelly, Town Clerk Gizo Town Council, Solomon Islands)
  • Mohamed Mauroof Jameel – President, Architects Association of the Maldives
  • Eberhard Weber – Professor, School of Geography, Earth Sciences and Environment, University of the South Pacific, Fiji

The event attracted over 57 attendees from 22 countries with circa 41 also watching the Vimeo livestream. Questions to the panel together with expressions of support came from variety of sources including Compass Housing Services, Solomon Islands Ministry of Provincial Government and Institutional Strengthening, Tonga Climate Resilient Transport Project, among many others. The live recording of this session is available to watch by clicking on the image at the top of this webpage. 

key messages

  • Urbanisation is a powerful force and opportunities that urbanisation brings should be embraced in Pacific Island states through strengthened governance of sustainable urbanisation, vision and long term planning. 
  • We need to reframe cities beyond infrastructure and understand them as groups of people and communities that interact in confined spaces. Sustainable urban development should be about understanding and enhancing these connections in order to provide support.
  • The way Pacific cities and towns are planned and managed, and the manner in which infrastructure is developed, need to be strengthened particularly by using traditional knowledge, nature based solutions and technology.
  • Local government, being closest to the people, plays an integral role in assessing, planning for and managing human settlement, but they must be technically and financially able to effectively respond to community needs, volatilities, vulnerabilities and change. 
  • There is a strong case to invest in local government capacity to benefit long-term sustainable urbanisation.
  • It is time to look at the systems and approaches in governance in small island states to work towards more collaborative forms of governance, stronger and more effective partnerships between all stakeholders, drawing on traditions and strengths of Pacific people.
  • Urban and regional planning needs to be taken more seriously at local and national level in the Pacific region.
  • Young people must be brought in to the sustainable urbanisation discourse going forward as they can mobilise action and are the next generation who will inherit the cities and towns of today.
  • Connectivity between Pacific SIDS and Oceania more broadly in sustainable development initiatives is important.
  • Need to also support development in rural areas, such as education, health services and infrastructure, to improve the economy, provide a social safety net in the village during difficult times and slow down rapid urbanisation.
  • Climate change is having a significant impact on Pacific SIDS, affecting fresh water supplies, infrastructure and even future existence. Government and communities must continue to work collaboratively on local adaptation measures.
  • Cities and towns need to update disaster preparedness and response plans.
  • Policy makers, governments at all levels and communities need to acknowledge that informal settlements are now part and parcel of the urban setting with accompanying consideration of land use planning, land tenure, provision of reticulated services and waste management.
  • Need to provide space for listening to Pacific people who have a great deal to contribute, particularly women.

presentations and resources

A copy of Alexei Trundle’s presentation can be found here.
A copy of Mohamed Mauroof Jameel’s presentation can be found here.
A copy of Rikiaua Takeke’s presentation can be found here.
A copy of the animation that Mere Naulumatua shared can be found here.
A copy of Eberhard Weber’s presentation can be found here.
Fifth Pacific Urban Forum

further information

If you are interested in the issues raised in the programme and/or would like to become involved in a Call to Action, then please contact us at