Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change: Lessons from Tanna Island, Vanuatu


Clarke, Tahlia, Karen E. McNamara, Rachel Clissold, and Patrick D. Nunn. 2019. “Community-Based Adaptation to Climate Change: Lessons from Tanna Island, Vanuatu.” Island Studies Journal 14 (1): 59-80.

Authors: Tahlia Clarke, Karen E. McNamara, Rachel Clissold, Patrick D. Nunn


Community-based adaptation has gained significant international attention as a way for communities to respond to the increasing threats and complex pressures posed by climate change. This bottom-up strategy represents an alternative to the prolonged reliance on, and widespread ineffectiveness of, mitigation methods to halt climate change, in addition to the exacerbation of vulnerability resulting from top-down adaptation approaches. Yet despite the promises of this alternative approach, the efficacy of community-based adaptation remains unknown. Its potential to reduce vulnerability within communities remains a significant gap in knowledge, largely due to limited participatory evaluations with those directly affected by these initiatives, to determine the success and failure of project design, implementation, outcomes and long-term impact. This paper seeks to close this gap by undertaking an in-depth evaluation of multiple community-based adaptation projects in Tanna Island, Vanuatu and exploring community attitudes and behavioural changes. This study found that future community-based adaptation should integrate contextual specificities and gender equality frameworks into community-based adaptation design and implementation, as well as recognise and complement characteristics of local resilience and innovation. In doing this, the critical importance of looking beyond assumptions of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) as homogenous, primarily vulnerable to climate change and lacking resilience, was also recognised.

Keywords: adaptation, climate change, community-based resilience, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), vulnerability

Topics: Development, Environment, Climate Change, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality Regions: Oceania Countries: Vanuatu

Year: 2020

Psychosocial Support during Displacement due to a Natural Disaster: Relationships with Distress in a Lower-Middle Income Country


Zahlawi, Tatiana, Amanda B. Roome, Chim W. Chan, Jacqueline J. Campbell, Bev Tosiro, Max Malanga, Markleen Tagaro, Jimmy Obed, Jerry Iaruel, George Taleo, Len Tarivonda, Kathryn M. Olszowy, and Kelsey N. Dancause. 2019. "Psychosocial Support during Displacement due to a Natural Disaster: Relationships with Distress in a Lower-Middle Income Country." International Health 11 (6): 472-9.

Authors: Tatiana Zahlawi, Amanda B. Roome, Chim W. Chan, Jacqueline J. Campbell, Bev Tosiro, Max Malanga, Markleen Tagaro, Jimmy Obed, Jerry Iaruel, George Taleo, Len Tarivonda, Kathryn M. Olszowy, Kelsey N. Dancause


Background: Past studies show relationships between disaster-related displacement and adverse psychosocial health outcomes. The development of psychosocial interventions following displacement is thus increasingly prioritized. However, data from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are lacking. In October 2017, the population of Ambae Island in Vanuatu, a lower-middle income country, was temporarily displaced due to volcanic activity. We analyzed distress among adults displaced due to the event and differences based on the psychosocial support they received. 
Methods: Data on experiences during displacement, distress and psychosocial support were collected from 443 adults 2–3 wk after repatriation to Ambae Island. Four support categories were identified: Healthcare professional, Traditional/community, Not available and Not wanted. We analyzed differences in distress by sex and group using one-way ANOVA and generalized linear models. 
Results: Mean distress scores were higher among women (1.90, SD=0.97) than men (1.64, SD=0.98) (p<0.004). In multivariate models, psychosocial support group was associated with distress among women (p=0.033), with higher scores among women who reported no available support compared with every other group. Both healthcare professional and traditional support networks were widely used. 
Conclusions: Women might be particularly vulnerable to distress during disaster-related displacement in LMICs, and those who report a lack of support might be at greater risk. Both healthcare professional and traditional networks provide important sources of support that are widely used and might help to ameliorate symptoms.

Keywords: developing country, intervention, mental health, Pacific, Psychological distress, psychosocial health

Topics: Displacement & Migration, Climate Displacement, Environment, Environmental Disasters, Gender, Health, Mental Health Regions: Oceania Countries: Vanuatu

Year: 2019

Women as Recovery Enablers in the Face of Disasters in Vanuatu


Clissold, Rachel, Ross Westoby, and Karen E. McNamara. 2020. "Women as Recovery Enablers in the Face of Disasters in Vanuatu." Geoforum 113: 101-10.

Authors: Rachel Clissold, Ross Westoby, Karen E. McNamara


Women have been framed as both passive victims and resourceful, dynamic actors in the face of acute and gradual disasters. Researchers and practitioners have highlighted the importance of resourcing and strengthening the diverse capacities and roles of women and women’s groups to avoid undermining disaster recovery prospects. Despite this, women’s voices, experiences and skills in disaster recovery, reconstruction and resilience often remain poorly acknowledged, underutilised and largely undocumented in regions like the Pacific. This paper provides insights into the situated and nuanced post-disaster experiences and strategies of ni-Vanuatu women, who are geographically in the most at-risk location globally. Drawing on ten focus groups, we found that, while recovering from the impacts of Cyclone Pam and the severe drought that followed, women demonstrated their critical roles as capital mobilisers, collectivising and leading forces, innovators and entrepreneurs. Despite being central recovery enablers, women continue to operate in, and be burdened by, a gendered and inequitable system. We, therefore, warn that disaster recovery praxis that resources and utilises women’s strengths must include efforts to improve women’s wellbeing, agency, livelihoods and prospects. This must be done through challenging underlying vulnerabilities and gender norms, and avoiding further burdens on women’s workloads.

Keywords: gender, resilience, disaster recovery, disaster response, Pacific Islands, Cyclone Pam

Topics: Environment, Environmental Disasters, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equity, Livelihoods Regions: Oceania Countries: Vanuatu

Year: 2020

Pacific Women Building Peace: A Regional Perspective


George, Nicole. 2011. “Pacific Women Building Peace: A Regional Perspective.” The Contemporary Pacific 23 (1): 37–71.

Author: Nicole George


Contemporary analysis of Pacific Islands regionalism is commonly focused on the institutional realm and examines how frameworks of regional governance have evolved and been strengthened. This article, by contrast, provides insight into the less well understood political content of more informal modes of Pacific Islands regional integration. In particular, it examines Pacific women's regional peacebuilding collaborations since the 1960s and 1970s. It demonstrates the political impact of Pacific women's collective responses to conflict in the region during the past forty years while also discussing the varying nature of this activity over time. Consideration is therefore given both to Pacific women's differing conceptual approaches to peacebuilding and to the differing geopolitical scope of their regional peacebuilding networks. The significance of this discussion is two-fold. First, this research provides insight into the history of "bottom-up" forms of regional engagement in the Pacific, a realm of political activity that might, if more broadly recognized, positively complement existing programs that aim to secure future security in the Pacific through regional institutional consolidation. Second, it challenges conventional perspectives on women and peacebuilding that tend to suggest that women respond to conflict in ways that are singular, homogenous, and marginal to the political mainstream.

Keywords: pacific regionalism, women, peacebuilding, pacific security, advocacy

Topics: Gender, Women, Conflict, Governance, Peacebuilding, Security Regions: Oceania Countries: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu

Year: 2011

Translating and Internalising International Human Rights Law: The Courts of Melanesia Confront Gendered Violence


Zorn, Jean G. 2016. "Translating and Internalising International Human Rights Law: The Courts of Melanesia Confront Gendered Violence." In Gender Violence & Human Rights: Seeking Justice in Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, edited by Aletta Biersack, Margaret Jolly, and Martha Macintyre, 229-70. Australia: ANU Press.

Author: Jean G. Zorn


"CEDAW has had a salutary effect on the island nations of the South Pacific, including Papua New Guinea. To say that, however, is not to say very much. To date, CEDAW’s effect has been limited— and the problems of women’s subordination and of widespread, systemic violence against women remain obdurate and intractable. Nevertheless, it is a beginning. Guided by the analyses of Meyersfeld and Koh, who pointed out that the first impact of an international law on the politics, economy and social ordering of any culture will most likely be found in the legal practices of that culture, I sought for evidence of CEDAW in the decisions handed down by judges of the state courts. And, indeed, I found a number of cases—still scattered, but potentially influential—in which judges have not only mentioned CEDAW’s existence, but have actually relied upon it in framing the common law and in applying domestic statutes. In other words, in the Meyersfeld/Koh terminology, judges are aiding the infiltration of this crucially important piece of international law into the domestic legal system" (Zorn, 2016, p. 262).

Topics: Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, International Law, International Human Rights, Rights, Women's Rights, Sexual Violence, SV against Women, Violence Regions: Oceania Countries: Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu

Year: 2016

Making the Invisible Seen: Putting Women's Rights on the Vanuatu's Land Reform Agenda


Naupa, Anna. 2017. "Making the Invisible Seen: Putting Women’s Rights on Vanuatu’s Land Reform Agenda." In Kastom, Property and Ideology: Land Transformations in Melanesia, edited by McDonnell Siobhan, Allen Matthew G., and Filer Colin, 305-26. Acton ACT, Australia: ANU Press.

Author: Anna Naupa



"While land reform was a key political driver of Vanuatu’s Independence in 1980, land policy reform only recently returned to the political arena in the mid-2000s. Finding the space to raise awareness about women’s land rights in a Vanuatu land reform context is challenged by competing reform priorities, such as redress mechanisms for unscrupulous deals, customary conflict resolution, and anti-corruption measures that had been overlooked for a couple of decades. Predominantly viewed as a male domain, the absence of women is notable in land discussions. Women have been largely invisible in state-managed land decisions, not least due to exclusionary practices by the males who control access to land in the traditional arena. Compounded by the primacy of customary land practice enshrined by Vanuatu’s Constitution and state reinforcement of such gender bias, advocating for women’s land rights—and women’s rights in general—has required culturally and politically strategic approaches to finding a place in the land reform agenda.

"This paper analyses the different strategies used to raise awareness and advocate for the recognition of women’s rights to land in Vanuatu’s policy reform context. Given the cultural context in Vanuatu, it has been necessary to adopt an advocacy model that goes beyond framing the language of rights within accepted socio-cultural constructs, to also address the political-economic dimensions of gendered access to land through identifying male champions, and to combine both upstream (awareness-raising) and downstream (coalition-building) advocacy paths. Future advocacy efforts must include greater engagement by women themselves, not just their advocates, for reform efforts to be sustainable (Naupa, 2017, 306)."

Topics: Gender, Gender Roles, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Land Grabbing, Rights, Land Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Oceania Countries: Vanuatu

Year: 2017

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