Human development in the Pacific is advancing dramatically but unevenly in the region, a United Nations report has found.
The report - Inequalities in Human Development in the 21st Century - was launched by the UN Development Progam (UNDP) in Colombia this week.
Palau topped the region with a "very high" human development record. Fiji, Tonga and Samoa followed with a "high" human development ranking.
Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Federated States of Micronesia, Vanuatu and the Solomons were in the "medium" category. Papua New Guinea was in the lowest category.
UNDP Pacific development economist Matthew Johnson-Idan said the Pacific and Asia led the world in access to broadband internet and were gaining on more developed regions in life expectancy, education and access to healthcare.
However, the Pacific continued to grapple with widespread complex poverty and were vulnerable to inequalities in higher education and climate resilience.
"One [challenge] is the geography - countries with very dispersed populations across many different islands with huge distances often between them.
"So, being able to reach those communities without access to public services."
The UNDP had seen great progress on access to basic education in the region, but one of the new inequalities they saw was access to higher education and high quality education.
That was going to be "very important" as the economies in the region became more integrated and more advanced into the global economy.
"We have countries with very ambitious national development plans - developing really advanced productive knowledge-based economies and taking advantage of the investments being made in things like fiber-optic cables and the connectivity that that brings," he said.
The NEW #HDR2019 looks at #inequality in three dimensions: beyond income, beyond averages, and beyond today. The good news? Inequality is not beyond solutions. Full report https://t.co/tbKt5RNsXm pic.twitter.com/5ZGNsTaFmo— UNDP Asia-Pacific (@UNDPasiapac) December 10, 2019
"But in order for people to take advantage of those opportunities, they many need these more advanced or enhanced capabilities like access to higher education.
"And if access to that isn't there, then those inequalities are going to become more and more important or more binding over time."
Inequalities also made it much harder to address some of the causes of climate change, he said.
"Having huge inequalities makes it much harder to have a shared vision and a shared response to these sort of issues," he said.
"But within the countries themselves, I think inequalities damage social cohesion and make it harder to work together and to build strong institutions needed for climate resilience in the region at various levels."
Mr Johnson-Idan urged countries to act now and act decisively - that there was still time to take corrective action.
The report was launched by the UNDP's administrator Achim Steiner in Bogota on Tuesday.