March 23, 2018. Tuvalu was identified as eligible for graduation from the list of LDCs in 2012, based on its high levels of per capita income and human assets. The country has been recommended for graduation although the decision is still under consideration in the intergovernmental process. Regardless of LDC status, Tuvalu’s extreme vulnerability to external shocks has not changed, and existing support measures for LDCs do not adequately address this issue. Something more is urgently needed.
On July 2017, Tuvalu became the first Pacific Island country to sign the Financing Framework Agreement to access funds for coastal protection activities from the Green Climate Fund. The GCF assists developing countries in adaptation and mitigation practices to counter climate change, with priorities given not only to LDCs, but also to Small Island Developing States and African countries. The project, a $36 million commitment (same as Tuvalu’s GDP), will build coastal resilience in three of Tuvalu’s nine inhabited islands, which together have an average elevation of only 1.83m. The grant will build on existing infrastructure to protect coastal areas, including sea walls. It will also make coastal management more resilient and catalyze other sources of adaptation finance.
One of the components of the project is to fund up to six students to study a discipline relevant for coastal resilience at a specialist university overseas. On February 2018, two students were selected for this scholarship. The seven-year duration of the project allows the scholarship recipients to return home and work on the project directly. It also lays the foundation for some of those same students to move on to a master’s degree to become an expert in the topic, building the knowledge capital of their nation.
The list of international support measures for LDCs has grown over time, and some of them have been indeed very effective in supporting LDCs in overcoming the structural obstacles to sustainable development. Nonetheless, some LDCs and graduated countries that are highly vulnerable to external shocks, such as Kiribati and Tuvalu, can only be supported by more targeted measures. It’s time to explore better ways of assisting those countries.