A Tuvaluan concept of well-being: reflection on national planning - Te Kakeega II
Well-being is a global term associated with development and public policy making. In Tuvalu, the term well-being is widely used in policies and reports and it is often said that well-being is at the heart of national planning. However, there has been no research to see what well-being means for Tuvaluans living in Tuvalu. Furthermore, a review of national planning found that while the term well-being was used, the actual strategies goals and indicators outlined focussed mainly on economic measures while ‘social’ issues (such as family and community vitality, traditional values and poverty) did not feature highly. In the researcher’s view, economic indicators are only one aspect of well-being and these do not fit the collective nature of Tuvalu’s predominantly family based and semi-subsistence society. As a result, there is a danger of a mismatch between planning and the realities of the Tuvalu people’s daily lives. To address this gap, this study explored Tuvaluan peoples’ perceptions of well-being and whether and how these views were reflected in the national development plan – The Te Kakeega II. The research concludes by proposing a strategy whereby the Tuvaluan concept of well-being can be taken account of in national planning. This qualitative study used the Fonofale research model and talanoa methodology to capture peoples’ views of well-being. Focus groups were held in urban and rural communities (Funafuti and Nukulaelae) and individual interviews were carried out with key informants working in government departments and civil society agencies. It was found that Tuvaluans do have their own concept of well-being as affirmed in Tuvaluan language terms such as ‘olaga tokagamalie’ and ‘olaga lei’. The Tuvaluan concept differs in a number of ways from those outlined in global mandates and reports. For example, it is grounded in the Tuvaluan world view, traditional knowledge and practices and sharing behaviours which give priority to people. In sum, cultural and spiritual values and beliefs, family and community, are central to a Tuvaluan concept of well-being. At the same time the study also highlighted emerging challenges to well-being seen in the growing differences in modern and traditional lifestyles and the different experiences by rural and urban areas. Well-being was also impacted by factors beyond the control of people and communities, such as the effects of climate change and donor priorities.