Main Navigation

Pacific leaders unite to address climate change and disasters

Leaders from 14 Pacific island nations commit to building strong, sustainable local organisations to meet the challenges facing the region.

Friday November 11, 2016

Pacific disaster management officers
Regional collaboration is key to addressing the common challenges facing the Pacific. Photo: IFRC/Corinne Ambler

As a region where many countries comprise scattered small islands, the Pacific is uniquely vulnerable to natural disasters.

In the last two years, both Vanuatu and Fiji experienced their strongest ever cyclones, leaving thousands homeless. Small, remote islands in both countries bore the brunt of the damage. Meanwhile, the El Niño climate cycle created water shortages from Vanuatu to Papua New Guinea, and rising sea levels threaten to displace thousands in Kiribati and other island nations.  

The impact of these disasters, and the growing threat of climate change, were key topics at the Red Cross Pacific Leadership meeting in Nadi last week.  

The summit brought together leaders from Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga, Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand.  

"As the largest humanitarian organisation in the Pacific, it is important for our leaders to come together each year to discuss our priorities and collective contribution to regional issues," said Kathryn Clarkson from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.  

Photo: IFRC/Corinne Ambler 

Five key commitments were made at the summit.

Leaders agreed to strengthen governance and management across the region, as a key step in ensuring  Red Cross National Societies remain leading humanitarian agencies. Achieving financial sustainability was seen as critical; not only through stronger financial management systems but also by building new partnerships with government and the private sector.  

The next commitment was for National Societies in the region to learn from each other and share examples of good practice .  

Leaders will also increase their investment in resilience: an approach that will see communities better able to anticipate and cope with disasters and other effects of climate change.  

The final commitment was to ensure that all National Societies work to address women's empowerment, youth engagement, disability inclusion and the impacts of lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes.

"Regional cooperation in the Pacific enables us to be much stronger when dealing with disasters and helping people become more resilient," said Ms Clarkson.  

"We are confident that this meeting, held at the start of the 2016-17 cyclone season, has better prepared us to respond to whatever eventuates this year."  

Read the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (PDF)