The United Nations in Palau
Palau is one of the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) that fall under the leadership of the Pacific Multi-Country Office (MCO).
Palau is an archipelago of over 340 coral and volcanic islands, of which only 10 are inhabited, surrounded by a single barrier reef. Palau covers an area of 460 sq. km, and has a population of 18,008 people (World Bank, 2019). Palau is a former Pacific Trust Territory of the United States and bilateral relations continue under a Compact of Free Association. The United States provides financial assistance and defense to Palau in exchange for rights to maintain a military presence. More than 70% of the population live on the commercial hub of Koror Island, resulting in issues of overcrowding and water insecurity.
The standard of living in Palau is among the highest in the Pacific, with well-established health and education services. Palau’s economy has performed well in recent years, and is reliant on development assistance (from the US Compact and Trust Fund), external grants, and imported food. The islands are divided into 16 states, each with its own governor and legislature. Social relationships and traditions in Palau are governed by kinship obligations, customary exchanges, and respect for all things living and non-living. Palau has some of the most pristine marine environments in the world, although rapid expansion of tourism is placing increasing demands on the country’s fragile environment.
Palau has a mixed record on promoting gender equality and has not ratified The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Palauan society is matrilineal and women have always held positions of power and respect. However, women remain under-represented in the national congress, cabinet and senior leadership positions. A quarter of women have reported experience of gender-based violence.
UN presence in Palau
The UN has been present in Palau since 2008, with 17 agencies implementing programs: FAO, IAEA, ILO, IOM, OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDP, UN Environment, UNESCAP, UNESCO, UNFPA, UNICEF, UNISDR, UNOCHA, UNOPS, UN Women and WHO.
Development goals and objectives
The United Nations Pacific Strategy (UNPS) 2018-2022 is a five year strategic framework that outlines the collective response of the UN system to the development priorities in 14 Pacific Island countries and territories, including Palau, and supports governments and peoples in the Pacific to advance a localised response to the global 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The UNPS complements the Palau National Master Development Plan 2020: “Sustainable and widespread improvement in general standards of living while preserving cultural and environmental values for the people of Palau”; particularly in the areas of climate change, oceans, disaster risk reduction, infrastructure, tourism, health and education.
Palau remains one of only 10 countries globally with no confirmed cases of COVID-19. The Palau government declared an Unavoidable Public Health Emergency on 17 March 2020, and COVID-19 preparedness efforts have been hampered by droughts and water rationing. Non-essential health services were reduced and schools closed. International borders remain closed, however, domestic travel between islands continues. Repatriation flights for citizens have commenced.
The UN’s system-wide and multi-sectoral approach provides a coordinated and comprehensive response that complements the Palau government’s National Emergency Committee COVID-19 Action Plan.
- Health response: stop virus transmission and care for affected people Guided by the regional Joint Incident Management Team; the UN, led by WHO, is supporting Palau to prepare for COVID-19 identification, mitigation and containment including: technical assistance to government partners, procurement of medical supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE), capacity building of healthcare staff, and risk communications and community engagement. WHO and UNICEF procured two GeneXpert testing machines,15 testing kits and 9,995 pieces of PPE including goggles, masks and gowns. Further supplies are being procured through the global COVID-19 Supply Chain System established by the UN Secretary-General’s Supply Chain Task Force. WHO deployed one technical officer to support COVID-19 preparedness and response activities. UNOPS procured one medical waste garbage truck and 18 air purifying respirators.
- Humanitarian response: address immediate multi-sectoral needs Under the Pacific Humanitarian Response Plan the UN supports Palau to respond to urgent humanitarian needs of those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Priority needs in Palau include food security, nutrition and livelihoods; continued education for girls and boys; and protecting women and girls at increased risk of gender-based violence. UNFPA has provided the Ministry of Health with modern contraceptives, delivering 225 couple-years of protection. UNICEF has provided essential nutritional supplements to 1,200 children and 100 pregnant and lactating women; and disseminated resources on COVID-19 and child protection to 11,640 people.
- Socio-economic response: address immediate social and economic impact The UN reprogrammed US$1.4 million (10%) of programs and activities from a total of US$14.8 million from the 2020 UN Palau Joint Country Action Plan to increase support for the response to COVID-19, in consultation with the Palau government. A planned socio-economic impact assessment will identify vulnerabilities in Palau across five pillars of the UN Framework for the Immediate Socio-Economic Response to COVID-19 to guide response plans for the next 12-18 months; including health, social protection and basic services, economic recovery, macroeconomic response and multilateral collaboration. A regional report will be completed for Palau by September 2020.
To learn more visit: https://pacific.un.org/en/about/palau.
To visit the Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) Multi-Country Office website, visit: https://pacific.un.org.
UN Palau Country Team
UN Key Documents
UNDAF/United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (CP)