Ten Pacific Island countries (excluding Papua New Guinea) are members of the World Bank:

  • Fiji
  • Kiribati
  • Marshall Islands
  • Micronesia, Federated States of
  • Palau
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu

The World Bank’s Pacific Island member countries have a population of about 2.3 million people, spread across hundreds of islands, and scattered over an area equivalent to 15 percent of the globe’s surface. This is a unique and diverse region. Fiji, the largest among the group, has a population of around 880,000, while Tuvalu, with an estimated population of 9,893 is the World Bank Group’s smallest member. Kiribati is one of the most remote and geographically-dispersed countries in the world, consisting of 33 coral atolls spread over 3.5 million square kilometers of ocean – an area larger than India. Solomon Islands is geographically splintered with 1,000 small islands and atolls. It has a low population density with half a million people dispersed across 90 inhabited islands, 78 percent of whom reside in rural areas and is the poorest country in the pacific when measured in terms of Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.

Since independence Pacific Island countries have achieved real progress. Life expectancy has increased, infant mortality rates have declined, and less people are now being struck down with infectious diseases. Economic growth, however, has been well below the global average for developing countries.

Each of these counties share similar challenges as small and remote island economies. Small in size, with limited natural resources, narrowly-based economies, large distances to major markets, and vulnerability to exogenous shocks, can affect growth and have often led to a high degree of economic volatility.

These are also some of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the effects of climate change and natural disasters. Based on a World Bank report, of the 20 countries in the world with the highest average annual disaster losses scaled by gross domestic product, eight are Pacific Island countries: Vanuatu, Niue, Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands and Cook Islands.

Sustained development progress will require long-term cooperation by international partners. More broadly, greater economic integration, more equitable natural resource agreements, more open labor markets and adaptation to climate change will be vital for the long term future of the Pacific Islands.

Last Updated: Oct 05, 2015

The World Bank has been scaling up its assistance in the Pacific Islands and is moving from a regional approach to individual country strategies to better acknowledge country-specific challenges and priorities. In recent years, the World Bank has developed specific country strategies for the Federated States of MicronesiaSolomon IslandsKiribatiMarshall Islands, SamoaTongaTuvalu and Fiji with other Pacific Island countries to follow.

The World Bank Group’s engagement with these Pacific Island countries reflects the influence of the region’s economic geography on their development trajectories, with unique challenges arising from remoteness.

The Bank is supporting rural development through several projects, including the Rural Development Project in Solomon Islands. The project has helped hundreds of communities develop critical infrastructure, including bridges, schools, health clinics and access to water and electricity.

In the health sector, the Bank is supporting Pacific Island countries to reduce the rate of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The regional Non-Communicable Disease Roadmap has been developed in partnership with governments and key stakeholders in the region.

With most Pacific Island countries comprising of low lying islands, they are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and sea level rise. Efforts to help Pacific Island nations promote adaptation to climate change will be essential to ensuring long-term resilience and security. The Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Pilot uses risk pooling to help lower the cost of participating countries’ insurance, while the Pacific Resilience Program and other projects in the region support natural disaster preparedness and mitigation.

Transport, whether via road, air or water, is vital to Pacific Islands as it connects people to markets, schools, hospitals and family, often over vast distances. In Tonga, the World Bank is working with the government through the Tonga Transport Sector Consolidation Project  to improve the reliability and safety of Tonga’s transport network. Through the Pacific Aviation Investment Program, KiribatiTongaTuvalu and Samoa will be supported to make air travel safer and more efficient.

High population growth and high unemployment has become a serious problem in Honiara, the capital of Solomon Islands. The World Bank is helping the government to assist the most vulnerable of Honiara's population, particularly youth and women, by providing short-term employment and training through the Rapid Employment Project.

In the energy sector, the Bank is working with the Government of Vanuatu to increase the number of households with access to electricity for things such as lighting and phone charging. In the Federated States of Micronesia the Energy Sector Development Project will support the government to increase the availability and efficiency of energy supply for the country.

In the mining sector, the World Bank is providing technical assistance to the Solomon Islands Government to review existing policies and regulations. This work includes raising awareness of the importance of women’s role in the negotiation and management of mining royalties, and supporting Solomon Islands to sign up to the Extractives Industry Transparency Initiative.

The World Bank is supporting initiatives to improve access to telecommunications and other information communication technologies in countries across the region. The Pacific Regional Connectivity Program is working with the Governments of Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia and, most recently, Samoa to provide improved communications technology access – connecting people and businesses to services, markets and information, regionally and beyond.

Pacific Island countries derive significant economic and social benefits from their marine resources. This is a major opportunity for the region: twenty million square kilometers of the South Pacific are home to the largest tuna fishery in the world. So far, the Pacific Regional Oceanscape Program is helping Pacific Island countries including the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Solomon Islands and Tuvalu to capture a greater share of the benefits from their fisheries, while supporting conservation.

Last Updated: Oct 05, 2015

In disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation, Tonga was the first country to benefit from a payout under the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Insurance Pilot after Cyclone Ian in January 2014. In March 2015 Vanuatu was struck by Category Five Cyclone Pam and also received an immediate payout under this scheme.

Activities across the region are supporting Pacific Island countries to respond to climate change. Projects include the Kiribati Adaptation Program which, through repairing leaks and reducing waste, is now saving 120kL of water per day while mangrove planting has been completed in five out of seven Outer island sites to increase coastal protection and resilience. In Samoa a project is working to enhance the climate resilience of the West Coast Road, which is a key connector for residents. In Solomon Islands the Community Resilience to Climate Change and Disaster Risk Project is helping rural communities mitigate and manage risks of natural hazards and climate change by strengthening information services, early warning systems and direct investments in community adaptation and risk reduction activities.

Telecommunications in many countries across the Pacific have been significantly improved. A new fiber-optic cable connected Tonga to Fiji in May 2013 leading to faster and more affordable internet access. Now, the wholesale price of internet bandwidth has dropped by more than 80 percent, and access to mobile phones has gone from 59 percent in 2010 to 95 percent at the end of 2014.

Food security is an issue for many Pacific Island countries. The Samoa Agriculture Competitiveness Enhancement Project is working to support fruit and vegetable growers and livestock producers improve their productivity and take greater advantage of market opportunities. Through this project, 110 ‘Fiji Fantastic’ sheep have been procured by Samoa, as well as 46 Droughtmaster cattle and 14 Dorper sheep to help rejuvenate the industry and support the new national breeding program.

The Solomon Islands Rapid Employment Project is providing short-term employment and training for urban youth and women in the capital of Honiara. By September 2015 the project had generated more than 600,000 days of work and trained more than 10,000 people. The project has exceeded its women and youth targets with those benefiting from the project made up by 59% women and 53% youth.

Last Updated: Oct 05, 2015