Sustainable development in the Pacific

This week we talked to Thomas Gillman, who you may recognise as your post graduate representative in the UCSA, about his PhD research on Sustainable Development Methodologies. Thomas’ research focuses on the gap between humanitarian and development aid in relation to climate change and how Smaller Island States in the Pacific are challenged by the fundamental issue of aid effectiveness; specifically capacity, coordination, monitoring and evaluation, leaving the question how can access to aid funding be expedited in the current volatile geopolitical environment?

Confused? So was I. So we asked Thomas to simply the topic. Broadly speaking this research explores the power dynamics that govern our current world system”. Thomas chuckles and adds, “Unsure how many people will stop reading now, but no stress”. He continues, “Our world is defined by the perceptions and demands of those with power and if we do not engage with this critically then it is very difficult for those who live on the margins of this power to have a strong input into the global agenda. Aid is often utilised as a foreign policy tool by countries and so it can also be understood as a tool of influence. Thus, there is a need to explore the way in which aid is implemented and dispersed in order to question the current power dynamics.

With an undergraduate background in a Bachelor of Arts in English and History (with some Philosophy thrown in), his research is based here at UC and will involve future field work in the Pacific Islands and Europe.

“Those BA’s can get people places!”

Thomas was inspired to undertake his PhD while living in Samoa, working for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UNDP is a division of the United Nations which tackles a whole range of issues in developing countries, aiming to eradicate poverty, inequality and exclusion.

After completing his PhD, he plans to take some time off while working on other projects “I would really like to write some poetry. A mate, who is a photographer, and I would like to put together a short book with pictures and poems talking about the PhD pathway and process. The first poem will be titled, “A balance between Do-Bro’s and scribbling, the perfect amount for effective writing”. From here it would take a slightly more serious turn and explore how the research impacts the world which we are connected to and engage with, and the lives of those on both sides of the text. We are open for others to add to this book, so if you got some awesome texts let us know.“

If you would like to learn more about Thomas’s research or the UNDP, email

UC PGSA Research Spotlight

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