This Pacific Perspectives publication is informed by the 2030 Agenda and the SAMOA Pathway, both of which contain a commitment to leave no-one behind. The study profiles the policy landscape and identifies opportunities for working with the informal systems in the Pacific in the pursuit of sustainable development. In particular, this analysis focuses on existing points of intersection between formal and informal ways of working to identify how these linkages can be enhanced. It unpacks the constraints faced by Pacific island governments in working with multiple, informal systems and explores the potential for enhanced policy hybridity that translates into more effective development programming for Pacific island contexts.
It is offered as a conversation starter to Pacific policymakers and development partners to inform future discussions and research around policies and programmes that draw on aspects of the “Pacific Way” that are part of the lived experience of almost all Pacific islanders and which align with the scope of the 2030 Agenda. Much of what is envisaged by terms such as “the Pacific Way” draws on recognition of the lived experience of Pacific islanders who navigate multiple systems to sustain their livelihoods, access resources and services, and provide for their families and communities. These systems may be traditional, informal, semi-formal or formal in nature. Navigation of them is often opportunistic and requires engagement with government agencies, community governance structures, civil society actors and the private sector.
However, in the policy sphere it is only relatively recently that governments, bureaucrats, and development partners have begun to explore how the resilience and reach of informal systems can be actively harnessed in order to drive development and accelerate achievement of the SDGs. In this study, we examine the opportunities and risks that are associated with developing and implementing policy that explicitly embraces the roles of informal systems with all of the complexity and fluidity this involves. We recognise that the state retains a primary mandate and responsibility to redistribute aggregated public resources via service delivery to the benefit of all citizens. Making more and better use of the intersections between formal and informal systems does not give governments a free pass when it comes to development in our region. However, we identify opportunities for governments and development partners to make strategic investments in key areas to develop and strengthen intersections between multiple systems to foster inclusive development for the benefit of all.
This analysis of global, regional and national policy frameworks has identified several examples of policies that acknowledge the role of informal systems as part of the wider ecosystem in which good policy can be developed and delivered. Areas of policy tension, which may act as constraints are also identified. In addition, there are numerous indications that informal systems are coming under strain as a result of changing demographics, increasing urbanisation, and the impacts of climate change. All of these create challenges for policymakers.
The study draws on a wide range of literature and is also informed by a number of case studies that illustrate aspects of the lived experience in the Pacific. The analysis highlights the complexity and fluidity of informal systems, how they enable and/or constrain development and how points of intersection with formal systems can be appropriately developed and/or enhanced. There is no ready formula and no one size will or should fit all.
This analysis is structured around five areas in which we examine real-life examples of intersections between formal and informal systems: the informal economy (including informal employment); informal social protection (including disaster response); informal settlements; informal justice and dispute resolution; and informal resource management.