BASE and Oxfam in the Pacific led a feasibility study with funding from Convergence Blended Finance to determine the viability of implementing a finance vehicle that enables remittance senders living in Australia and New Zealand to contribute towards strengthening climate-resilient infrastructure for their families and communities in Pacific Island Countries. While contributing very little to global warming, the small island states particularly face the brunt of climate change and natural hazards. Increasing investments in infrastructure (housing, roads, water storage systems) that can withstand climate disasters is critical for protecting vulnerable communities, their lives and livelihoods, and future economic growth.
The RemitResilience project kicked-off in January 2021 and for the past year, the project team, composed of Veronica Corno, Temaleti Moala and Jeremy Hills from BASE and Jale Samuwai, Otto Navunicagi, and George Koran from Oxfam in the Pacific, has carried out the feasibility assessment which included secondary desk research, and community and multi-stakeholder consultations. These consultations aimed to identify the areas of infrastructural improvements that could mitigate the impact of climate-related disasters on the populations of small island states and fathom the level of interest among migrant workers to participate in the finance vehicle.
The community consultations combined both quantitative and qualitative data from remittance receivers in the Pacific and remittance senders in Australia and New Zealand. The objective of the consultations was to understand the decision-making dynamics between remittance receivers and senders, community perceptions of climate resilience, current barriers to investing in sustainable and resilient housing products, and gathering feedback on the draft financial structure to better align it with the local populations’ needs. The team held 13 focus group discussions in the Pacific, 25 one-on-one interviews in Australia and New Zealand with migrants and seasonal workers, and gathered almost 200 surveys in both, sending and receiving countries.
For the focus group discussions, the team used a Talanoa approach, an inclusive, informal, and transparent dialogue common in the Pacific, in order to create a safe environment for community members to share their thoughts and stories without judgement. Food was also provided to participants to incentivise participation and show appreciation for their time and knowledge shared and during some of the consultations, traditional rituals were also performed to build trust and create a space where the respondents felt comfortable to be more open and honest with their answers.
Meanwhile, to undertake the one-on-one interviews, the project had the support of Pacific-focused organisations and Pacific community leaders in Australia and New Zealand. These new partners acknowledged the potential of the initiative and conducted interviews with their network of Fijian, Tongan, and Vanuatuan migrants living abroad.
Lastly, surveys were distributed through a mix of on-line and on-site channels to broaden participation, with the latter primarily being used in the outer islands and areas with low internet access and to adhere to the COVID safety measures in each country. To incentivise the communities to participate, a raffle prize for participants was promoted and is currently being disbursed by the project team.
The community consultations included an important gender aspect since, as in many Pacific Island Countries, underlying inequalities mean that women are often more vulnerable to the consequences of climate change. The team gathered gender-disaggregated data and ensured an equal gender representation, which helped give due weightage to the voices, perspectives, and concerns of men and women alike. Additionally, incorporating a gender lens in the project was vital for understanding the different realities and aspirations of men and women in the Pacific.
The team is currently working to publish a report with the key findings from the feasibility assessment to share the knowledge learned and ascertain the viability of using remittances as a source of climate adaptation finance in the Pacific region.
Furthermore, with the results from the feasibility assessment, the team has designed a finance vehicle that would enable Pacific islanders to receive climate-resilient infrastructure solutions as part of their remittances. Due to the success of the feasibility study and the enthusiasm of communities and key stakeholders alike, BASE aims to launch the implementation (Phase II) of the project in the upcoming months.