A High-Level Panel held on Tuesday (October 17, 2023) to review progress on the Pacific resilience journey called for collective action and timely resources to safeguard the region against climate change and disaster risks.
Speaking as Chief Guest in a packed Japan-Pacific ICT Theatre at The University of the South Pacific (USP), Laucala Campus, Fiji’s Minister for Rural, Maritime Development and Disaster Management, Honourable Sakiasi Ditoka highlighted that international cooperation is critical in supporting nations that are more susceptible to disasters and in providing assistance that promotes resilience, equitable development, and shared knowledge.
“Disaster risk reduction is not just about making communities more resilient to natural hazards; it is also about ensuring that the benefits of resilience are equitably distributed. A resilient future must be inclusive and considerate of the most vulnerable.”
The discussion, led by five experts in their respective fields and moderated by Lau Dr Viliamu Iese of the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD), focused on the Pacific’s collective resilience journey with the question: “Are we sailing together in the right direction?”
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction and Head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Mami Mizutori, reflected on the recommendations of the Sendai Framework Midterm Review and said, “The private sector, among many other stakeholders, plays an important role in disaster risk management, infrastructure resilient investments, and supply chains – including small and medium enterprises that are the foundation of our economies.”
She added, “The United Nations system is ready to support these actors, but we must do it together and in the right direction. The world is connected; if the world doesn’t do well, the region will suffer, and if the region doesn’t do well, the world will suffer.”
Last year, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders declared that the climate emergency facing the region is an existential threat that requires joint efforts to minimise and mitigate its impacts and strengthen resilience in all communities across the Pacific.
Pacific Community (SPC) Director of Geoscience, Energy and Maritime Division Rhonda Robinson reiterated that “we need to stay true to the intent of integration when it comes to building resilience against climate change and disasters.”
She reaffirmed that the Pacific’s resilience journey is “moving in the right direction, and this is reflected in the endorsement of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent which has a key pillar on ‘Climate Change and Disasters’, the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) and the Pacific Resilience Partnership.”
“Similarly, the Sendai Framework and FRDP mid-term reviews would track our collective progress, identify other priority areas and reinforce learning from what has been achieved to guide us even further,” she added.
The panel discussion reiterated the need for inclusive participation in all spaces and the development of strategies and policies relating to disaster risk reduction and management.
Pacific Disability Forum Chief Executive Officer Setareki Macanawai expressed his gratitude that past and recent Pacific Leaders’ discussions around disaster risk reduction have been inclusive, allowing the voice of those with special needs to be heard and included in DRR strategic development.
“Though a lot still needs to be done, I am grateful we are travelling in the right direction. We now have a second Disability Strategy adopted by our leaders, the Framework for the Rights of Persons with Disability 2016 – 2025.”
Macanawai said that, at the policy level, both globally and regionally, “we are included, and we are travelling together in the right direction.” Mr Macanawai further added that the challenge remains with how relevant policy aspirations are implemented to ensure no one is left behind.
Tuvalu Red Cross Society Secretary General Tagifoe Taomia also shared similar sentiments, adding that for her country, there is an urgent need for data collection to help shape guiding policies and frameworks in relation to climate change impact and strengthening resilience.
The region is currently at the midway point in the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and the FRDP, in addition to the broader sustainable development agenda, the First Global Stock-take of the Paris Agreement, and a midterm Comprehensive Review of the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Decade for Action.
It is a strategic moment of pause to track progress, pinpoint priorities and ensure that the region is sailing together in the right direction regarding Pacific resilience efforts.
The high-level panel discussion was jointly organised by the Government of Fiji, The University of South Pacific (USP), the Pacific Community (SPC), the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).