By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS: http://www.pina.com.fj/index.php?p=pacnews&m=pacnews
11 July, 2013, Nadi, Fiji - Organisers of the first ever Joint Meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management (DRM) and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in Fiji have described the meeting as an ‘amazing’ experience bringing the two communities together to find common grounds to work together for the benefit of Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs).
Mosese Sikivou, the Manager Community Risk programme said member countries were very supportive of the proposed Roadmap process that paves the way for a regional strategy on DRM and Climate Change (CC) by the end of 2014.
“I think the countries are very supportive of this because this is a regional initiative that builds on what they already have at the national level. They have the leadership and ownership to carry it through.
“They want the regional architecture to provide a better enabling environment to allow them to integrate better. This meeting is part of a process that started two years ago. It is significant because it is the first time that climate and disaster communities have come together, said Sikivou.’’
Dr Netauta Pelesikoti, the director of climate change division at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment echoed the sentiments of Sikivou saying a lot of work needs to be done moving forward.
“A clear message came from Pacific Island Countries and Territories that they want to be involved in the process. Many of them have volunteered to be included in the steering committee and technical working groups that will carry forward the consultations and the drafting.
“The topics that we heard this week provided some insights on the priority areas that can be looked at in the proposed strategy. Today we discussed vulnerable groups and the need to mainstream gender considerations, said Dr Pelesikoti.
At the same time, the joint meeting highlighted synergies between different stakeholders and the role they can play in the Roadmap process and the development of the proposed regional strategy.
“We are talking about a lot more significant penetration and tangible results at the community level and that is something we hope, as we move forward will form the core of the umbrella strategy that we hope to achieve.
Sikivou said the concerns of vulnerable groups will also be incorporated into discussions now being shaped for the regional strategy.
“We are hoping that they will get a visible profile and become a significant focus of the work that we do. The message that came from the session this morning is that they have a lot to contribute in building resilient communities.
“We need to reorient our thinking and not look at them as a vulnerable group but how they can contribute to building resilient communities. If we do that, then we can adopt a ‘whole of country’ approach, said Sikivou.
Dr Pelesikoti of SPREP agrees that vulnerable groups are an important component of the integrated regional strategy.
“It has been raised and they must be included. They are an important group in our society. One of the reasons why they are more vulnerable than others is because they need special attention and assistance, said Dr Pelesikoti.
Another emerging group is the private sector, said Sikivou.
“We are trying to organise a meeting for the private sector before the end of this year and a separate one for civil society as well. If we are able to get these stakeholders together in dedicated groups, we may be able to draw out some key messages.
Both Sikivou and Dr Pelesikoti agree the Joint National Action Plan (JNAPs) on DRM and CC that exists in 13 of the 14 Pacific Island Countries and Territories shows commitment and political will at the national level to move forward with the regional integration proposal.
“Many countries have developed their JNAPS but there is a need for the sectors to take priority and integrate them into their sector action plan. We need to move away from the thinking that CC and DRM are confined to only some sectors. There needs to be national mechanisms to take regional policies down to provinces, outer islands and communities.
“This week, we have seen political leadership shown by the deputy Prime Minister of Tonga, the acting Prime Minister of Fiji, Minister of Finance of Vanuatu and the Minister of Environment from Vanuatu. There is a commitment from decision makers that they see climate change and disaster risk management are key development issue that need to be addressed if governments want to have sustainable development, said Dr Pelesikoti.
If the regional strategy is endorsed by Pacific Leaders in August 2014, the Pacific will be the first region in the world with an integrated plan to tackle disaster risk and climate change.
“We need to be grounded, keep our feet firmly on the ground and just get on and do the work. Our success as a region should be demonstrated by our work and not by what we are saying.
“One of the things that worked for us is that a lot of what we do amongst ourselves as Pacific Islanders is built on the strong foundation of mutual respect and trust. I am optimistic that if we continue to use this as the mainstay for our discussions, we can achieve greater things for our people, said Sikivou.
The joint meeting has brought SPC and SPREP close together, said Sikivou.
“ We’ve always had a strong relationship. This integration agenda going back to 2009 has just brought us much closer together. We were set up to address different things but we are mutually complementary, said Sikivou.
A meeting of the Steering committee will be held in August to discuss outcomes of the Nadi meeting.