Building Capacity through Participation: Nauru National Sustainable Development Strategy

Kevin Balm

For years, Nauru, a small Pacific island nation (population 10,000), benefited from the considerable wealth generated from its only major natural resource, phosphate. However, when that resource was almost exhausted and national assets held under the Nauru Phosphate Royalties Trust (NPRT) had been reduced to relatively minor holdings, the Government of Nauru sought and received assistance from Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) to prepare a National Sustainable Development Strategy to guide future development in the country. This case study examines innovative efforts to strengthen participatory capacity in Nauru to support development of the new strategy, focusing on the design and implementation of a participatory planning process which engendered wide community engagement and included communications with communities about the choices and trade-offs facing them moving forward.

Consultation and participation as a new norm need not encompass all manner of decision making at all levels of a country. Such an approach is bound to get stalled enough for people to lose confidence. However, as with the NSDS, a good demonstration of what is possible and how it can be achieved will create expectations for how future decision making needs to be carried out.

The value of the demonstration of effective participation is strengthened if there are beginnings of an authorizing environment in the form of one or more individuals who see the need and value of effective participative processes. A small core group with skill in leading effective consultation and participation processes can ensure an empowering individual and collective experience of participation. The metaphor of a parade is again useful here. It is hard to ignore a parade that is colorful, noisy, and engages people. It makes bystanders want to get involved, in this case, in a continually self-organizing and reorganizing movement, giving voice to the need for reform in support of economic and social development.

Year of publication: 
ADB Capacity Development in the Pacific
Themes and sectors: 
Civil society
Themes and sectors: 
Environmental protection
Case story length: 
40 pages

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