This morning Lieutenant Colonel Inia Seruiratu, Fiji’s Minister for Rural & Maritime Development and National Disaster Management and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forests, officially opened the 6th Session of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management that runs from 2-4 June at the Novotel Hotel in Suva, Fiji. The 6th Pacific Platform is co-convened by the Secretariat of Pacific Community (SPC) and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).

The 6th Pacific Platform provides the region with a pivotal opportunity to shape disaster risk and climate change efforts for at least the next 20 years. It will seek to gain support for the draft Strategy for Climate and Disaster Resilient Development in the Pacific (SRDP). It will also seek support for the development of the Post- 2015 Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction which is to be endorsed at the 3rd World Conference on Disaster Reduction (3WCDRR) in Sendai, Japan in March 2015.

With the development of the SRDP, the Pacific is leading the way globally, as the first region in the world to develop a regional strategy that integrates climate change and disaster risk management, while also nesting these priorities within the context of resilient development.  The representation of international leaders at the 6th Pacific Platform, such as the HE Thani Thongphakdi,  Thai Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and  HE Kenichi Suganuma, Japanese Ambassador for 3WCDRR, Government of Japan, shows that the wider region is looking to the Pacific as leading the integration of climate change and disaster risk management into development practices.

Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, who gave a special video address to the Platform, said the Pacific constantly demonstrates its “can do” attitude and strong leadership on disaster risk reduction and climate change.

“In fact, the Pacific was one of the first regions in the world to clearly foresee the obvious links between climate change, disaster risk reduction and sustainable development policies and that no development can be sustainable without linking these three agendas together to be part of the same solution,” she said.

In his opening address the Honourable Minister for Rural& Maritime Development and National Disaster Management and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries & Forests, said that Fiji fully supports the proposed Strategy integrating climate change and disaster risk resilience (SRDP), as a successor to the Pacific Regional Framework for Climate Change, and the DRR Framework for Action.

“I believe that the new Strategy or SRDP is a ‘world first’ and collectively you should be proud of your contributions and achievements. For us in the region the climate and disaster instruments are integrated and inseparable, unique to our island nature and the SRDP is the right approach to take us into the future.  

“For Fiji, a good example of this integrated approach is the Vunidogoloa village disaster risk and climate change mitigation project where the government and the community work together relocating the whole community to higher ground, to reduce disaster risk and climate change effect and where sustainable growths and developments are promoted unhindered. More than 40 communities in Fiji are also identified, will undergo the same program. It is time to ‘walk the talk’ and make things possible,” he said.

In her address Ms. Fekita Utoikamanu, Deputy Director General Secretariat of the Pacific Community, said that many Pacific Island Countries have already made significant progress on efforts to integrate climate change and disaster risk management at the national level.

“Vanuatu has already established a National Advisory Board on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management (DRM) which coordinates activities in these areas on behalf of the Government. In 2013 the Federated States of Micronesia developed a nation-wide Climate Change and DRM Policy to guide integrated implementation of Climate Change and DRM activities at the State level in their country.

“At the regional level SPC is also developing a special unit that will coordinate all Climate Change and DRM activities across SPC’s seven divisions. Once fully established this Unit will be the hub for cross-cutting development issues and allow us to work with the Governments in the region in a more effective way,” she said.

Stephan Baas, Climate, Energy and Tenure Division of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) was also full of praise for the strategy integrating climate change and disaster risk resilience.

“It is forward-thinking and moving in the right direction of better integration and linking both Disaster Risk Reduction/Management and Climate Change Adaptation strictly to development; and reducing duplication and risk for competition around limited resources among different actors,” he said.

The inaugural Pacific Innovation & Leadership Award for Resilience (PILAR) is also being launched by UNISDR at this year’s Platform.  This Award, which will be announced this evening, aims to recognize innovative Pacific examples of disaster risk reduction initiatives over the last 12 months.

While the 6th Session of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management (2-4 June) will focus on regional and global policy initiatives, the following 20th Regional Disaster Managers Meeting (5-6 June) will look at specific priorities for strengthening Pacific Island countries and territories capacity in disaster preparedness and response.


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