My Contribution to the EU-UNDP SDGs Debate, March 23rd 2016, Suva, Fiji


I participated in the EU-UNDP SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) debate: Typologies of Pacific Poverty in Suva Fiji on the 23rd of March 2016. I specifically focused on current data from my research based on the financial ecologies of urban squatters in Fiji.

Financial Ecologies

Financial ecologies refer to the systems in which individuals make transactions between one another. They can be composed of a variety of methods of transfer such as post/transportation, face to face, mobile phones, bank transfers, Transfer Money Order (TMO) ect. Many of these methods can be operating simultaneously in Fijian kinship networks. Non-financial transfers also be considered such as traditional wealth items and produce. Financial ecologies are invariably mediated by social and cultural practices which determine meaning the transaction. They are not technologically determined by the method of transaction or the technological devise that mediates them.

I discussed how the financial ecologies of squatters networks often do not include formal financial services. I also argued that this does not prohibit the flow of money, produce, and traditional wealth items between them and their kinship networks across Fiji and internationally. Many of these flows are facilitated by the post office and travel followed by face to face meetings. There is also the use of gifting credit via the mobile.

I supported this with one example of a kinship network centered by a family living in a squatter community. The example showed money and resources flowing from family in the Middle East, to Fiji via family in Vanua Levu, to a squatter community near Suva, then to the Lauan Islands. Most of these transactions were done via Transfer Money Order (TMO). There was limited use of formal financial services. Traditional goods and produce flowed back the other way from the Lauan Islands.

Implications for the EU-SDGs

My closing argument was, do women and youth receive an equitable amount of resources in these financial ecologies? Are they able to exert any influence in these financial ecologies to access these resources? What practices are built into these financial ecologies that allow them to retain or accumulate resources?

2 of the 17 goals in the EU-SDGs include 5) Gender Equality 10) Reduced Inequalities. These are the two goals my research spoke to the most.  9) Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure, however, also invariable shapes how financial ecologies evolve over time and the ensuing implications for those in squatter kinship networks.


I was honoured to be invited to the EU-SDG debate in Suva, Fiji, and I hope my contribution sparked some good discussion.



Lucas Watt is a PhD candidate with the school of Media and Communications at RMIT University. His project title is “The Domestication of Mobile Money in Fiji: An Ethnographic Study”.