Thursday 18 July 2013

Pacific joint meeting provides springboard for global discussions


Dr. Jimmie Rodgers, Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, praised the leadership shown by the nations of the Pacific and their contribution to global efforts to address the challenges posed by climate change and disasters. By embarking on a joint strategy to address these two key challenges, Pacific Island countries and territories are leading the world in rationalizing their approach, which provides a best practice example for other countries and regions of the world.
“We opened a new chapter with this meeting. What we have witnessed this week is a demonstration of vision and leadership arising from the countries of the Pacific region. The final goal is the foundation of a safe and secure future for Pacific people now and for those to come,” says Dr. Rodgers.

The regional initiative has been praised by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction as the springboard that will provide impetus to discussions at the global level in the coming 18 months.

Jerry Velasquez, the Head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) in Asia Pacific, said the region had again demonstrated its global leadership by placing the future of disaster risk reduction work explicitly within a holistic and overarching approach to sustainable development.

“With its identification of national leadership of integrated action in disaster risk management and climate change supported by enlightened regional and international partnership as key, UNISDR is confident that the region will achieve its ambitions and more importantly make a difference to vulnerable communities around the Pacific, which is the ultimate measure of success,” says Velaquez.

Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), David Sheppard, said “This has been a meeting with a rich and exciting programme. Countries have already successfully commenced work on linking their climate and disaster functions and an integrated strategy at the regional level will enable us to support these efforts while avoiding competition and duplication. We now have a clear path forward for bringing an integrated strategy to fruition.” 
The meeting achieved a world first by bringing together the two principal regional conferences on disaster risk management and climate change. The joint meeting will contribute to the formulation of an over-arching regional strategy and framework for climate and disaster-resilient development to be considered for endorsement by the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders in 2015.

An integrated approach to addressing disaster risk reduction and climate change concerns will mean better use of national and regional capacities and resources to address the risks posed by hazards, whether they are extreme weather events such as cyclones and droughts or ‘slow onset’ events such as rising sea levels or ocean acidification associated with climate change. The strategy will further progress the agenda of enabling the Pacific Islands region to build resilience to our changing climate.

The strategy and framework will be developed in full by 2015 and will replace the current Pacific Disaster Risk Reduction and Disaster Management Framework for Action 2005 -2015 and Pacific Islands Framework for Action on Climate Change 2006 -2015.

The meeting, which ran from Monday 8 July to Thursday 11 July, 2013, was hosted and chaired by the Government of Fiji and jointly convened by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). 

Closing of the Joint meeting on climate change and disaster risk management

By Ben Kedoga, NBC PNG

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - Pacific Island Countries are not only advocates but practitioners of disaster and climate change risk adaptation and mitigation.
Fiji’s Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister for Rural Development and National Disaster, Inia Seruiratu said this during his closing remarks at the conclusion of the Joint meeting of the 2013 Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable today.
“The classic showcase of Choiseul province in the Solomon Islands and SPREP’s Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change, PACC projects in the Rewa delta in Fiji are evidence of our collective collaboration with our partners to get the balance right between adaptation and mitigation for climate change and disaster risks,” Seruiratu said.
He added that Pacific island countries share common approaches in trying to adapt and mitigate between aspects of climate change and disaster risk management.
“Therefore these commonalties must be well discussed at the community, national and regional levels so that a practical, gender-sensitive and pragmatic approach is agreed upon by all key stakeholders to avoid duplication and that efficiencies can be generated through our joint efforts,” he said.
However, he pointed out that to achieve results for the region a collective regional approach and integration is imperative to achieve the desired outcome.

Joint meeting comes to an end

By Bill Jaynes, The Kaselehlie Press:

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - The Joint Meeting of the 2013 Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable meetings came to close this afternoon at the Sofitel Hotel in Denarau, Fiji.  Delivering their closing remarks were SPREP Director General David Sheppard, Timothy Wilcox of the UNISDR, and Dr. Jimmie Rogers of SPC. 
The meeting was officially concluded by Inia Seruiratu, Fji’s Minister for Disaster Management who said, “A strategic policy and a strong political will and commitment are the key tenants of realizing the vision of integrating climate change and disaster response.”
Echoing the sentiments of an earlier speaker Sheppard said that the discussions were historic precedent setting and an example for the rest of the world.
“Any change to our existing systems of work can potentially seem threatening and there have been some discussions about implications of an integrated strategy for issues like funding, and the roles and responsibilities of different agencies, at national and regional levels,” Sheppard said.  “A key lesson I have drawn is that integration is not a threat - it's an opportunity.”
“Any strategy or process is only as good as the outcomes and results it delivers for the countries and peoples of the Pacific.  Our focus must be sharply and clearly on supporting Pacific Island countries adapt and build resilience to climate change and natural disasters, as an essential contribution to sustainable development in our region,” Sheppard reminded the crowd.
Wilcox said that he has very familiar with the drudgery of some meetings and “death by Power Point” but said that he felt that he had seen a lot of productivity at these meetings and could see that the Pacific Region is moving forward.
“Our human relationship with Mother Nature is often one of bitter struggle.  It’s not always as harmonious as we would like it to be.  So now that we have a plan for the future, or working one, hopefully we will be able to have a more harmonious life with the planet as it’s making it’s changes,” Wilcox said.
“It’s clear that this region has much to offer the rest of the world by way of good example…my person experience in going to meeting in other parts of the world is that the Pacific Voice is not heard.  Not because it’s not there but because it gets lost in all the troubles that often seem so overwhelming in other parts of the world.  Peace is a commodity your region and we should be thankful for that” he said.
 Dr. Jimmie Rogers gave the final closing statement.  “What I saw this week was a building of character.  It was a demonstration of vision.  It was a demonstration of leadership from our countries of the region.  We were not worried so much in as far as ‘we cannot do this’.  I think the Pacific is saying, “Because we are in this situation—we did not bring ourselves here but we must stand up and be counted.  We need, as a group, to move forward.”
He said that there are many more mountains to cross and more rivers and oceans to cross.  “’Roadmap’ is a nice term but there’s a lot of work in it too,” he said.

Sheppard: Integration is not a threat - it's an opportunity

By Daniel Namosuaia, Solomon Star:

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - The Director General of the Secretariat of Regional Environment Programme, David Sheppard says integration is a great opportunity for the region to deal with the impacts of climate change and disasters.
In his closing remarks at the Joint Meeting of the 2013 Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management(PPDRM) and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable(PCCR), he said any strategy or process is only as good as the outcomes and the results it delivers for the countries and people of the Pacific.
Quoting British wartime prime minister, Winston Churchill, Sheppard said, “no matter how beautiful the strategy, it is always good to look at the results."
“Our focus must be sharply and clearly on supporting Pacific Island countries adapt and build resilience to climate change and natural disasters, as an essential contribution to sustainable development in our region,” Sheppard said
He highlighted four key points from the meeting;
1. There is no one size that fits all - any regional strategy must focus on enabling and supporting national action, and must also support and guide Governments to develop the systems and processes that will work best in their context, in their own unique circumstances.
2. Ownership is essential if any strategy is to work. Inclusion, real inclusion, of different groups is crucial for any integrated strategy.
3. Any integrated strategy should be underpinned by good governance .
4. The work in this region must inform international efforts on disaster risk reduction and climate.
Sheppard stressed that responses to climate change and natural disasters must involve a mix of responses, including those related to infrastructure and those related to ecosystem protection.
Adding that integrated strategy must reinforce the state of urgency facing the region regarding climate change, associated sea level rise and natural disasters.
He highlighted that good governance will ensure Pacific countries to better respond to a changing climate and to natural disasters.
Adding that national and regional efforts must support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that funding commitments are met.
“Partnerships at all levels are essential and we have seen how partnerships, such as in the Choiseul Province, benefit Pacific countries and their people.”
He said while countries of the world argue about emissions reductions and particularly who is to blame, the countries of the Pacific are the first impacted and will be the first to go under.
“He encouraged the increasing level of partnership and joint work between CROP agencies to continue and accelerate since positive outcomes has been made.
“We must all reach out and better engage new partners, and avoid competition and duplication.
“Partnership are not the end in themselves we must focus on working together to deliver better results to support national priorities and meet local needs,” Sheppard added.
He said SPREP looks forward to working with Pacific countries and territories, other CROP agencies, donors and partners to support the development of the integrated strategy.

Tonga’s’ Director of Education quoted at the closing program of the Joint Meeting in Fiji

By Sini Latu, Tonga Broadcasting Commission:

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - “Work hard but always look at the scoreboard” were the words of encouragement from the Chief Executive Officer of Tonga’s Ministry of Education Emily Pouvalu.

She said this during her presentation on Education on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management – Priority Areas and Best Practices – on Wednesday morning.

She was quoted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Region Environment Programme’s Director General – David Sheppard – while giving his closing remarks at the end of the Joint Meeting of the 2013 Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable.

Though the meeting has been tiring, Sheppard says “it has been a very interesting and rewarding experience”.
Sheppard said the four day meeting  was “ground breaking, as well as stimulating and challenging”.

The meeting has brought together key related sectors to discuss on issues that are affecting the region.

In moving forward – Mr Sheppard suggests that “we must listen to and we must be willing to learn from each other. We must build approaches based on trust and open and clear communication.”

“The bottom line from any process is that it must deliver improved results and outcomes for Pacific countries on climate change and disaster risk

“We should be opportunistic and use key events such as the Governing Council Meetings of SPREP and SPC to advance the strategy.”

“We should consider how key events for our region such as the landmark SIDS Conference in Samoa next year can be used to showcase and advance
climate change and disaster reduction in our region.”

The Joint Meeting of the 2013 Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable is the first joint meeting to be held in the Pacific Region.

Many positive lessons learnt from Joint Platform meeting on Disaster Risk and Climate Change

By Makereta Komai, 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.

Tongan Leading Climate Change drive in the Region

By Sini Latu, Tonga Broadcasting Commission:

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - Dr Netatua Pelesikoti is a familiar climate change figure throughout the Pacific region and a leading climate change campaigner.

Meet the Director of Climate Change Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme Dr Netatua Pelesikoti who has been presenting, talking and sharing key relevant ideas on climate change  at the Joint Meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable.

Dr Pelesikoti worked in Tonga for over 20 years in the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Lands and Survey, Natural Resources and Environment.

In 2004 she joined SOPAC in Fiji where she worked for six years. In 2010 she joined SPREP.

Dr Pelesikoti, known to many as Neta – not only works in the region but at the international level.

She was involved in the formation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). The AR5 provide scientific reports on Climate Change, cyclones, storms, sea level rise, and many more.

These scientific reports, says Dr Pelesikoti are proof that climate change is already happening in the region.

She is encouraging Tonga and other Pacific countries and territories to make use of these scientific reports to be able to develop a more resilient future in terms of climate change.

Despite her heavy workload, she is still willing to get involved in more regional work to help Tonga and other Pacific islands in any way she can.

Her eagerness is only limited by time, her major challenge at work.

SPREPs Director for Climate Change says people need to get serious and start thinking of climate change when it comes to developments.

As a Tongan campaigning on climate change Dr Netatua Pelesikoti called on related sectors in Tonga to work more closely together, get involved and see how they can share information and resources amongst themselves to better inform and assist people.

The collaboration does not end there – says Dr Pelesikoti, but they need to work together with the media – as the media will help them deliver the information to the communities and rest of the people.

Effective disaster risk reduction and climate change adaption requires active multi-range partnership

By Daniel Namosuaia, Solomon Star:

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - Sustainable and effective disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation in the Pacific requires active participation and engagement of the private and commercial sectors.
This was highlighted at a session of the joint disaster risk management and climate change roundtable this week in Nadi Fiji, that explored the roles that the private and commercial sector play in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.
The General Manager of Westpac, Fiji, Adrian Hughes said there is need for close collaboration and partnership with the government to sharing available resources.
Hughes stressed that lack of coordination between the private sector, government and international agencies is something that needs to be strengthened.
Bruce Clay of Bruce Engineering said the use of Renewable Energy system is commercially viable and significant technical development that can offset the use of fossil fuel and reduce green house gas emissions.
“So getting together with the agencies and identifying what resources they have and get the private sector together and share information and resources where necessary in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation,” Clay said.
Governments were also urged to design policies that support the efforts of the private sector through sharing of information and resources and assist in tariffs, concessions on renewable energy products to boost investments in this sector.
The involvement of the commercial sector like in Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga in the telecommunication sector where  solar systems were  installed in powering telecommunication towers were seen as a positive collaboration between government and the private sector.

Communication challenge for CC

By Ben Kedoga, NBC PNG,

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - Communicating climate change information to local communities in Pacific Island countries remains a major challenge.
This was highlighted at one of the side events of the Joint Meeting of the 2013 Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable.
The side event looked at communication tools for climate change adaptation and risk reduction.
One issue that is critical is the need to simplify technical scientific information to everyday language that can be understood by the receiving communities.
But, Fenno Bruken, Climate Change Advisor of the Federated States of Micronesia says there is some form of understanding of the subject and he called on practitioners to simply not assume that communities cannot understand climate change adaptation and risk reduction information.
He did acknowledge that climate change remains a complex issue, but he says that from experience people tend to understand more clearly when the issues are linked to their everyday life.
 Fenno Bruken, Climate Change Advisor, FSM
“Many scientists think that the things that they are dealing with are way too complex for the likes of normal people and I think that’s basically not the case so you have to definitely  do some translation, you cannot give a scientific paper to a local chief and then expect him to understand what the background but If you explain it to him in a way where he is able to link it to his day to day experience and then I think it’s easy and then you are also able to explain complex thing, because they see that there is a change in the weather pattern in their region” 

Tonga strongly represented at the Pacific joint meeting on climate change and disaster risk management

By Sini Latu, Tonga Broadcasting Commission:

11 July 2013 Nadi Fiji - Leveni ‘Ahois the Director of Tonga’s National Emergency Management Office.
He has been attending the Joint Meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable 2013.
He is a member of the National Emergency Management Committee which comprises of the Police, Fire Services, Education, Tonga Defence, Environment, Lands and Survey.
‘Aho says working together is not a problem, the big issue is the lack of funds and resources for their work.
To promote disaster awareness, the committee uses radio, television and outreach work through community groups, NGOs and the private sector.

Joint meeting urged to include disability into CC and disaster integration plan

By Daniel Namosuaia, Solomon Star:

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - Pacific Island governments have been urged to design disability inclusive approach to disaster risk management and climate change projects.
Katabwena Tawaka of the Pacific Disability Forum said it is important to include the most vulnerable groupings in the community in the integrated strategy for disaster risk management and climate change projects in the region.
“We need disability inclusive projects because it assists in developing resilient communities for the most vulnerable population and understand how persons with disabilities can contribute to a successful project,” Tawaka said.
He said persons with disability faced barriers that disadvantage them and makes them more vulnerable.
“Attitudinal barrier is the most common faced, including negative stereotyping of people with disabilities, social stigma and other forms of overt discrimination.
“It is not uncommon that disability is associated with cultural beliefs about sin, evil and witchcraft. People with disabilities often report that attitudes are the most disabling barriers of all,” Mr Tawaka.
He added that other barriers faced include physical and environmental, communication, policy and institutional barriers.
Adding that when formulating disability inclusive projects, it is important to consider a rights based approach to DRM and CC.
“It is important to recognize that people with disabilities have the same rights as others to health, education, water therefore when implementing programmes it is important to mainstream specific interventions to help meet these rights.”
It has been recommended that the following be considered for a disability inclusive disaster risk management and climate change project;
-collation of desegregated data that caters for all forms of impairment to best inform decisions for DRM&CC initiative
-understanding and working towards eliminating all forms of barriers in DRM&CC initiatives
-genuine partnership in working closely with persons with disabilities and their respective organisations that exists in most Pacific Island Countries as disability advisors to DRM&CC at all levels of programme.