The words of Mosese Sikivou, the Deputy Director of Secretariat of the Pacific Community Disaster Reduction Programme, referring to the Pacific Platform for Disaster Management."
Pacific leaders have gathered for a two day meeting in Suva to endorse a strategy which Mr Sikivou says will then be presented at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Japan next March.
Presenter: Richard Ewart
Speaker: Mosese Sikivou, Deputy Director of Secretariat of the Pacific Community Disaster Reduction Programme
SIKIVOU: The Pacific is leading the world in developing this regional strategy in terms of integration of climate change and disastrous management. It was a single policy frramework.
EWART: Just to stress that point, what this gathering is all about is progressing this policy of linking the threat posed by natural disaster and also by climate change. The two are being interlinked as far as possible right across the Pacific?
SIKIVOU: Correct. Thirteen of the 14 Pacific Island countries in the region over the course of the last four, five years really have made commitment in some shape or form in terms of policy, in terms of legislation, to bring together their efforts in climate change and disastrous management. For example, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Congress there approved a new policy to guide activity at a state level on climate change and disastrous management in an integrated way. Cook Islands and Tonga were some of the first countries off the ranks with strategic action plans. Vanuatu has actually developed a new governance mechanism for climate change and disastrous management. So the countries actually took the lead with this initiative. So what we're doing at a regional level is to create this policy environment that will better support that work moving forward into the future.
EWART: Is this something that is necessary for the countries of the Pacific to do, partly because on a global scale, such agreements are proving so hard to achieve and, of course, that there is the start of the renegotiating process on something to follow up on Kyoto yet to come. Who knows how long that might take. So the Pacific can't really afford to sit back and wait?
SIKIVOU: No, no, that's correct and to the correct of the countries, they have not waited, they've moved forward with the tangible actions at a national level and definitely at a community level.
When you talk to individuals that live in our communities, our coast communities, inland communities, they are issues about trying to address nature and the extent of vulnerability that they face. They understand that there are risks out there, but at that level, you're looking generally in terms of risk to development.
What the countries are seeing is a commonsense approach in terms of integrating their efforts, because they know they have constraint bureaucracies, for example, limited resources, financial and human, that does not allow them the comfort of treating these issues in isolation, and because both climate change and disaster are dealing with similar issues in terms of vulnerability and risk, particularly at a local level, it makes a lot of sense for them to integrate their efforts.
EWART: The platform has been co-convened by yourselves at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and also the United Nations Office for Disaster, Risk Reduction. We've seen on a number of occasion in the last few years impassioned speeches from Pacific leaders at the UN General Assembly on the theme of climate change and what needs to be done to mitigate the effects. In future, might we see something more in terms of speeches on behalf of the Pacific, rather than on behalf of individual countries?
SIKIVOU: I think that's already happening, but certainly, with this integrated approach with the prominence of the whole climate and disaster discourse, in the upcoming meeting on small island developing states in September in Samoa. Hopefully, there will be a further strengthening of
the way that these issues are addressed, individually and collectively by our leaders at the global level.
EWART: And what you're doing collectively is being described as a world first. So what sort of signal, what sort of message, does this send out to the rest of the world, particularly those countries who are perhaps climate sceptic than others?
SIKIVOU: The biggest message is for other developing states, the other developing regions. We've already received interest from other regions, from the Caribbean, from East Africa, for example, to find out more exactly about how we are approaching the whole integration agenda.
EWART: What about interest from closer to home, closer to the Pacific. Any interest from Australia or from New Zealand?
SIKIVOU: A couple of years ago, Australia in particular, was looking at developing a new policy to bring together their efforts in climate and disaster risk from a donor prospective. The European Union has also been a strong advocate of this, in fact a new line of funding has been provided to the region through SPC, approximately 20 million euros and firmly encourages the work on integration. So our traditional, metropolitan partners are working closely with us on this strategy and have been very encouraging to us in their support.
EWART: So in the event of future natural disasters, be they linked to climate change or not and we know they're going to happen inevitably, the Pacific will be better placed to deal with them when they come and a better place to deal with matters in a unified way?
SIKIVOU: This strategy is a renewed starting point and it's part of a continuing process. There's been some discussion about the time frame from this strategy and some of the discussion is talking about 20 years and perhaps more, because there is going to have to be a renewed and a significant effort put in over an extended period of time. This strategy has, and of itself, was not going to render any miracles. The countries are going to have to stay committed to it, the regional architecture, the organisations like SPC and SPREP and other regional organisations need to stay committed to it, and our donor and development partners need to stay committed to it. We're very enthusiastic about it now, there's a lot of energy, there's a lot of interest and so hopefully we can maintain this.
And one of the reasons we started this process in 2011, was to try to get a significant groundswell of support to carry us through to the finalisation of the strategy, and more importantly, for the period of implementation.