Flag of Palau (Background photo created by www.slon.pics - www.freepik.com)

Building inclusive infrastructure to accelerate  sustainable development in a nation of islands and reefs

“Our health is the most important thing in our lives – whether it’s physical, medical, relationships, mental, or emotional – health plays a role in our daily lives, ” stated Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. as he declared 2018 as the year of Good Health in Palau. Yet, like most developing nations, Palau has its own health challenges, such as the ongoing battle with non-communicable diseases (NCDs). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 70% of deaths are caused by NCDs with heart disease, obesity, stroke, cancer, diabetes being the main causes. The situation remained unchanged over the last couple of years, NCDs have lowered Palauan life expectancy, and continue to be a driver of poverty and inequality undermining socio-economic progress.

In line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, ‘Good Health and Well-being’, and to improve the physical state of Palau’s underserved communities and vulnerable populations, the Palau’ Ministry of Health (MoH) conducted an overall assessment of the sector. The findings reveal that in order to bring well-being closer to people, the Community Health Centres, as the primary means of health service delivery system, need to be radically improved. Yet, combating NCDs requires action not just on SDG 3 but across multiple SDGs and sectors.

Building a world that leaves no one behind

To respond to the national needs, the government of Palau is working with UNOPS, the UN’s infrastructure specialist, in a new $1.5 million collaboration project to help improve some of the nation’s most vital health infrastructure. Funded by the India-UN Development Partnership Fund and managed by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, UNOPS will assist Palau’s Ministry of Health to provide local healthcare facilities which deliver patient-focused care, and improved safe and attractive working conditions for medical staff

– both of which are key to efficient and sustainable healthcare systems that support a healthier population.

“I’ve been involved with the UN system since Palau’s independence in 1994. India’s generosity and commitment to supporting Palau’s public health and UNOPS unparalleled

administrative skill will literally save countless lives in my country,” said President of the Republic of Palau, Tommy Remengesau, Jr.

However, achieving global goals and targets cannot be addressed through single sectoral approaches alone. Translating the Agenda 2030 commitment into actions entails the mainstreaming of considerations into a range of development objectives including education, disaster risk management, ocean’s resilience and protection, gender equality – just to name a few. Therefore, to support Palau in providing happy and purposeful lives for its populations, UNOPS aspires to scale-up its current operations, and to improve the quality of education within Palau’s public school system. By revitalizing education facilities, UNOPS aims to provide reliable and safe spaces that foster innovative learning and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Palau is often described as an underwater wonder of the world. An archipelago of islands surrounded by ocean, which is a home to more than 1,300 species of fish and 700 species of coral. To protect these species, find solutions to sustainably manage marine resources and increase the ocean’s resilience, ocean leaders come together during the Our Ocean Conference in August 2020 to commit to positive changes. In cooperation with the Government of the Republic of Palau and the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Palau to the United Nations, UNOPS will support the organization of the conference by providing infrastructure and comprehensive project management services.

A holistic approach to development

Still, painting walls and changing light bulbs solely doesn’t ensure long-term sustainability. That requires taking a holistic approach to the development including work with the communities and engaging with a wide and representative group of stakeholders at each stage of the project development. And such, UNOPS aims to accelerate impact through cross-sectoral collaborations at the country level, build national capacity and enhance standards for infrastructure works.

Sustainable development requires infrastructure that is resilient, inclusive and responsive to the needs of its users. Failure to do so can lead to inappropriate infrastructure, providing services which are inaccessible for marginalized and vulnerable groups – including women, the elderly, the physically disabled and economically disadvantaged – and can even be a burden for communities to operate and maintain.

We need to act fast and adequately respond to the development challenges. The fact remains that, as with other SIDS, Palau is extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change and natural hazards. With the small size of approximately 340 islands and its geographical dispersion, Palau is highly vulnerable to changing and extreme weather patterns triggered by climate change. Adopting practical actions in the planning, delivery, operation and maintenance, and challenging the business as usual approach, can lead to better  quality  materials  and  proactive  asset  management  of  facilities  which are fit for

purpose for the long term. To adapt to the new climate realities, UNOPS’s focus is on quality of asset delivery, climate proofing and use of appropriate materials in aggressive coastal environments, supported by the development of sustainable maintenance plans.

We want to build infrastructure that is durable and can provide inclusive services to meet the needs of the generations to come. However, achieving SDGs requires ‘all hands on deck’. Adapting these principles, UNOPS will continue the dialogue with the Government, key development partners and donors, local communities, and all interested actors, which are governed by joint strategies to achieve higher development effectiveness in Palau.

Samina Kadwani

Multi-Country Director for Thailand, Indonesia and Pacific Countries


Notes to the editors:

Press contact details:

Samina Kadwani – Director Thailand, Indonesia and the Pacific Countries – Thailand Operational Hub – THOH: saminak@unops.org


UNOPS mission is to help people build better lives and countries achieve peace and sustainable development. We help the United Nations, governments and other partners to manage projects, and deliver sustainable infrastructure and procurement in an efficient way. UNOPS is focused on implementation, with a commitment to UN values and private sector efficiency. Read more: www.unops.org

About any partner mentioned in the press release

The Ministry of Health takes positive actions to attain a healthy environment, promote health and social welfare, protect family and health safety, and provide health care services throughout the Republic of Palau. The vision of the Ministry is to achieve “Healthy communities with access to high quality healthcare services.”, which is to be achieved by providing quality, comprehensive, evidence-based and accessible health care services for patients and the community.

The IndiaUN Development Partnership Fund is a dedicated facility within the United Nations Fund for South-South Cooperation established in 2017. It is supported and led by the Government of the Republic of India, managed by the United Nations Office for

South-South Cooperation, and implemented in collaboration with the United Nations system. The Fund supports Southern-owned and led, demand-driven, and transformational

sustainable development projects across the developing world, with a focus on the least developed countries and small island developing states.