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Republic of Palau starts Community Visioning Initiative

Faced with impending changes brought by a new road, the small Pacific Island nation of Palau is gearing up with a new Community Visioning Initiative. Palau, a nation of only 20,000 people, is steeped in tradition. Communities play an integral role in the use of land and resources, and both elected and traditional leaders have governance. The National Government is also very strong, leading to conflicts between National level and local-level community desires.

In an effort to bridge the gaps created by National level and Community level discrepancies, while at the same time laying the foundation for sustainable land use planning, a local non-governmental organization entitled the Palau Conservation Society (PCS) has instituted a program called "Community Visioning."

Community Visioning, put simply, is the identification of a communities' needs, the creation of a Vision Statement that is agreed upon by all stakeholders, and the subsequent creation and implementation of a Strategic Plan that meets the needs while maintaining the goals of the Vision Statement. Having been used successfully in places such as Molokai, Hawaii, PCS and the local communities are hoping that it will work in Palau. The lessons from Molokai are very transferable, given the similar environments and cultures of the two places. In addition, Palau is the ideal location for Community Visioning. Ms. Stacey Crivello, the facilitator for Palau's National Workshop on Community Visioning with experience in Molokai noted, "You folks have so much to be thankful for. You still have your beautiful environment, your culture, and your native language."

This is not the first time that Visioning has been implemented in Palau. In 2001 there was an effort to start visioning, but it was a government-centered try. There were few community individuals involved, and the efforts lost momentum. A new loop road on Palau's big island of Palau connecting previously inaccessible parts of the island has raised the need for visioning once again. The 2004 effort, however, is targeted at communities, who will take ownership of the project. National level recognition of community desires and plans is also being sought.

One of the major activities of the new initiative was a Training Workshop held in August 2004. During the workshop, 19 state representatives from 12 of Palau's 16 states were trained in Community Visioning. They learned how to engage a community and to bring stakeholders together to discuss both the good and the bad things in their community. They were schooled in the methods of creating a Vision Statement, doing a community assessment, and in the basics of strategic planning. It is these Community Visioning State Representatives (CVSRs) who will carry the Community Visioning momentum forward. As one state representative commented: "I think we all agree that this is very important for the future of Palau." After the training, CVSRs returned to his or her states and began discussions on shared values.

In two states, CVSRs and PCS are working together to create photo murals that will be used to graphically illustrate the values and challenges of each state. Disposable cameras were distributed to 70% of the households in each state, and participants were asked to take pictures of those things in their community that they value or like, and those things that need to be changed. The photos from each household were then assembled, and common themes were included on the photo mural, which is built upon a large standing wooden board. For instance, photographs from the state of Ngaremlengui show a common value for local taro patches, and a common desire to remove trash along the shoreline. Once completed, the photo murals will be presented to each community, as a quick way of identifying common likes and dislikes. Using this as a basis, the CVSRs can then work towards the creation of a Vision Statement.

So far attitudes towards Community Visioning have been extremely positive. Although one of the ultimate goals of the process is to result in sustainable land use planning, the project is not viewed with the skepticism often afforded traditional land use planning efforts. The current initiative is viewed as community-led and community-oriented, and thus success is a definite potential.

By Palau Conservation Society, September 2004

 

To get involved, contact :

 
         

National Co-ordinator
Mr Joe Chilton
Palau Community College
PO Box 9
Koror, 96940
Republic of Palau
T: + 680 488 2470
F: + 680 488 6563
Tutiic@yahoo.com

     
Ms. Tiare Holm
Palau Conservation Society
P.O. Box 1811,
Koror, 96940
Republic of Palau
T: ++ 680 488 3993
F: ++ 680 488 3990
pcs@palaunet.com
 

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