Biodiversity-rich natural environments in the South Pacific are under intensive pressure caused by human activities and climate change. AFD and the French GEF are going to finance a regional cooperation project called RESCCUE in order to preserve this wealth. The project involves communities in maintaining ecosystems by developing the services that these ecosystems provide for them.
Ecosystem preservation, a key challenge for the region
The geographical isolation of island communities in the South Pacific, the small size of their territories and their culture make them extremely dependent on their natural environment for their activities and survival: fishing, farming, drinking water, coastal protection…
The risk of the depletion of natural resources compromises their economic opportunities and poses a threat for their food and economic security. Ecosystem preservation is consequently a key regional challenge.
© Marc le Chélard
Strengthening local community governance
For ecosystems to continue to provide communities with the services they rely on, they need to be restored, maintained and strengthened in order to make them more resilient and guarantee their productivity.
This is the philosophy of the RESCCUE (Restoration of Ecosystem Services against Climate Change Unfavorable Effects) project. It aims to come up with long-term economic and financial solutions to ensure that ecosystem services in the Pacific islands are maintained, while strengthening the governance of local communities and their risk management capacities. This will contribute to preserving exceptional biodiversity and helping island societies and communities to adapt to climate change.
A comprehensive territorial approach: the “ridge-to-riff”
RESCCUE focuses on scaling up financing for the integrated management of coastal areas in the South Pacific islands and making it sustainable.
It specifically draws on the results of the Coral Reef InitiativeS for the Pacific (CRISP), implemented from 2005 to 2011 and mainly supported by AFD and the French Global Environment Facility (French GEF).
It will target the countries that are the most involved in this program: two French Pacific territories (New Caledonia and French Polynesia) and two island countries (Fiji and Vanuatu). These countries have a multitude of geographical, ecological, socioeconomic and cultural features, which cover part of the situations encountered in the Pacific.
This choice also aims to further integrate French communities into their regional environment, while promoting French expertise in scientific research and integrated coastal management.
© Marc le Chélard
Very new concept in the Pacific
RESCCUE also offers to set up economic and financial instruments, including payments for ecosystem services at six pilot sites in the Pacific. The aim is to ensure that the funding for the activities to maintain the sites will continue when the project reaches completion. Although this concept is very new in the Pacific, it was immediately approved by the governments taking part in the project, as well as by several donors who will be cofinancing activities at these sites.
The combination of pilot sites in the territories of developed countries (New Caledonia and French Polynesia) and developing countries (Fiji and Vanuatu) has a strong regional interest, as the more advanced countries develop models that will subsequently be implemented in the rest of the Pacific. There is also a component to disseminate the results to other Pacific sites. RESCCUE will consequently strengthen regional cooperation and disseminate French expertise in the South Pacific islands.
In 2013, AFD and the French GEF are both providing EUR 2m of grant financing to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, a regional organization which is leading the project. This project could be extended to other Pacific countries if additional financing is provided. Cofinancing from multilateral donors will be sought in particular, with a view to extending the scope of action for the tools designed under the RESCCUE project to a regional level.
© Marc le Chélard
With a record level of commitments in 2012 (EUR 1.5bn) and the strategic priority given to the private sector in 2013, AFD has underscored its role and specificity in the French overseas provinces: maximize synergies between these communities and neighboring countries in order to find regional solutions.
French overseas province, French overseas provinces: what economic and social disparities are reflected by this broad term?
The move from singular to plural reflects a reality: the overseas provinces are disparate in many respects. Firstly, from a demographic point of view: French Guiana is France’s youngest department and is extremely dynamic, whereas the French West Indies are becoming the oldest French department.
There is then the migration aspect: the Reunionese tend to stay in Réunion, while active West Indian graduates work more easily in mainland France or abroad.
We can also think in terms of comparative advantages. Here again, the overseas provinces are not on the same line. While New Caledonia can rely on substantial nickel reserves, which contribute to its growth and thereby to the high level of per capita GDP, the other provinces are seeking growth drivers that will allow them to further integrate their environment.
Last year, we published a study calculating the Human Development Index (HDI) in the overseas provinces in order to make a comprehensive analysis of development gaps. The results are striking: for example, the index of French Guiana and, especially, Mayotte is significantly lower than in Guadeloupe or New Caledonia. In addition, the improvement in the HDI over the past twenty years, which reflects the catching-up process in these provinces, has not been seen in French Polynesia.
Do the overseas provinces nevertheless face common challenges?
The overseas provinces, however different they may be, share common issues compared to mainland France. They are, with the exception of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, located in the tropical and equatorial region. They account for 10% of the world’s coral reefs and four biodiversity hotspots: the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean Islands, New Caledonia and Polynesia. Furthermore, they are closed economies, particularly in terms of energy. They have a high-carbon energy mix, unlike mainland France, which benefits from less polluting nuclear energy and hydropower.
The overseas provinces are directly confronted with dominant trends, such as the increase in the price of raw materials (agricultural, hydrocarbons…), climate change (rise in temperatures and the sea level) and the loss of biodiversity. Beyond these long-term trends, they face different types of shock: economic, related to speculation on the cost of raw materials and mineral resources; social, due to the high cost of living, the number of people outside the labor market, the lack of housing and infrastructure; climate (cyclones, drought…); geological (volcanism, earthquakes, tsunamis…); epidemiological (chikungunya, dengue fever, avian flu…). This situation severely undermines small isolated economies.
What can AFD bring to these overseas communities?
Solutions adapted to very short and long-term issues. How to better anticipate crises, how to manage them, how to overcome them? The situation in the overseas provinces (closed economies, tropical environment with all the climate implications) is common to many of the foreign countries where we operate. It is a question of sharing the right institutional, organizational and financial solutions.
‘‘AFD is a communicator of solutions between the French overseas provinces and foreign countries.’’
What are the focus sectors?
AFD is very active on the issue of energy transition: demand management, energy efficiency and renewable energy. Using low-carbon energy reduces the impact on the climate and increases resistance to speculative shocks. AFD also has expertise in urban development. It finances more sustainable cities that are better designed for the community by creating public transport, eco-neighborhoods…
AFD also participates in reflection on the climate agenda and biodiversity agenda at the national and international levels. These two topics are core to its strategy and it is able to develop synergies between the experience of foreign countries and the experience of the overseas provinces. The aim is to propose an approach involving ecosystems as the cornerstone for climate change adaptation.
The coexistence of these different areas of operation within a single public institution is one of our strengths. Sharing the experiences of the overseas provinces and foreign countries generates economic activity, stimulates consumption, production and the dissemination of goods and services. In addition, exporting the ideas of the overseas provinces is a way to promote France and its expertise and thereby contribute to a policy of influence.
Is the exchange of good practices a factor of regional integration?
Yes, it is an important driving force for integration. When the Indian Ocean Commission launches a natural disaster warning and response system, when an epidemic surveillance and investigation network is set up in the Indian Ocean, we are fully in this regional dynamic. We can also mention the geothermal system financed by AFD in Dominica, which will contribute to supplying renewable energy to Martinique and Guadeloupe.
We are convinced that while a number of responses are territorial (energy mix, demand management, urban development…), others are regional (biodiversity protection, containment of epidemics, natural disaster prevention and management…), hence the interest of operating in both the overseas provinces and in neighboring countries.
AFD is a communicator of solutions between the overseas provinces and foreign countries: an incubator and a developer of regional responses.
Document de travail n° 131| Approche comparée des évolutions économiques des Outre-mer français sur la période 1998-2010
Claude Parain (INSEE, Reunion) and Sébastien Merceron (ISPF, French Polynesia)
Contacts AFD : Virginie Olive & Françoise Rivière
This document analyses the impact of the 2008 economic crisis in the French overseas terrirories. The authors submit a comparative analysis of the macroeconomic data availablle for these territories beween 1998 and 2010.