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Urbanisation an emerging challenge

Press release

 

Urbanisation an emerging challenge in the region

Tuesday 13 November 2007, 5th Pacific Community Conference, Apia, Samoa – Pacific Island country and territory members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) have been urged to consider urbanisation as an emerging issue with detrimental social and economic impacts on their people.

And the 5th Pacific Community Conference, on its last day of meetings, heard that increasing urbanisation in the region is a major development challenge and that unmanaged urbanisation could have disastrous consequences.

A Conference paper on the subject stated that issues relating to increasing urbanisation include poor access to land, insecure land tenure, poor housing with inadequate amenities, poor environmental conditions, inadequate infrastructure to meet basic needs of water and sanitation, and lack of access to education and health services.

Vulnerable groups such as youth and female-headed households will face increasing hardships in the face of urbanisation, while poverty is a growing concern in proliferating informal urban settlements and raises the potential for violence, substance abuse and other crime-related activities.

Fiji’s Interim Minister for Health and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Jona Senilagakali, encouraged Conference members to relook at family planning strategies, highlighting a 1970 WHO programme that aimed ‘to develop people so they [could] achieve health for all by 2020’.

‘Fiji went out in a big way and preached family planning, encouraging families to keep their size to no more than three. SPC, together with Pacific Island countries, must look at family planning to solve urbanisation problems,’ Dr Senilagakali said.

The Premier of Niue, Young Vivien, challenged his colleagues to preserve culture and traditions and educate their people to move back to the village. In this decentralisation approach, Premier Vivien said all the amenities and infrastructure that attract people to urban centres should be made accessible in villages.

‘I thought Pacific Island countries were about villages – that is what the Pacific Islands are all about. When people drift to cities, they lose their togetherness, family values, culture and identity and their spiritual being. When you talk about organic practices, safe marine strategies and biodiversity, it is something not new to our people. These are things our people were good

The presenters of the paper, Dr Gerald Haberkorn (SPC) and Dr Padamp Lal (Forum Secretariat), emphasised the need to understand the issues (demographic, social, economic, cultural, institutional) and their root causes, sources and symptoms; and the importance of why changing people’s mindsets is important for tackling urbanisation problems.

SPC's governing council is the Conference of the Pacific Community, which meets every two years. In years when the Conference does not meet, the Committee of Representatives of Governments and Administrations (CRGA – a committee of the Conference) is empowered to make decisions. The Government of Samoa is hosting the 2007 meetings of the SPC governing body in Apia: the 37th Meeting of CRGA (7–9 November 2007) and the 5th Conference of the Pacific Community (12–13 November 2007). The 5th Conference is also the 60th Anniversary Conference of SPC, as 2007 marks SPC’s 60th year of service to the Pacific region.

 
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