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Source: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Remarks by Dr. Filimon Manoni, Deputy Secretary General, Pacific Islands Forum

Pacific Climate Change Migration and Human Security Programme Regional Policy Dialogue

Virtual Webinar #6: Framing a Pacific regional response

12:00 – 2:00pm, Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Honourable Minister, Excellencies & Senior Officials, Representatives of civil society

Members of our Development, UN and CROP family -Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to address this final session of the Regional Policy Dialogue on Climate Change Migration and Human Security.

I note that my colleagues from the Resilience and Regional Security teams have participated in the earlier webinars and provided relevant input. Today, I will share my perspective on potential entry points to advance this work to the attention of our Forum Leaders.

Colleagues, climate change is the single greatest threat facing our Blue Pacific continent, as reaffirmed by Leaders last year when they issued the Kainaki II Declaration, and in 2018 when they elevated climate change as a regional security issue through the Boe Declaration.

With COVID-19, the Blue Pacific region is now faced with a three-pronged crisis: the health pandemic, the consequent economic downturn and the ongoing existential threat we face from climate change impacts. The next few years is projected to be a very challenging period for many of our Members as they endeavor to recover from COVID-19 and respond to the heightening impacts of climate change.

Therefore, I am pleased with the approach taken by the Pacific Climate Change Migration and Human Security programme which puts Members at the centre of this policy dialogue consultation. This engagement would assist partners to frame the best regional response to progress this work during such unprecedented times.

If I may, allow me to provide some perspectives on the four questions put before us today.

Firstly, what is the potential value-add of a regional response?

As Small Island Developing States, we have a better chance of being heard and to influence global political consensus when we stand together as a collective – One Blue Pacific continent.

In addition, a regional approach better articulates the magnitude of the issue for the whole region which may not be as evident on a bilateral basis. In securing support from Forum Leaders, a collective regional response has the potential to facilitate access to sustainable financing and capacity building opportunities, and also commits Members to mainstream such responses at the national level, including through relevant laws and policies and integration into development planning processes.

Secondly, what could be the scope for a regional process?

Let me emphasise that any work to design the scope for a regional process must be informed by the latest science.

We are now at 1.1 degrees of global warming, and on this current trajectory, many of our atoll states will be uninhabitable within our lifetime or to put it bluntly – as early as 2030.

In recognition of what science is telling us, it is critical that the scope of a regional process should be more responsive to the needs of Member countries and promote a ‘whole-of-government’, multi-stakeholder approach that addresses the whole spectrum of climate and disaster induced human mobility issues.

An example of a positive display of a regional response is the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 to collectively respond to the pandemic, as one Blue Pacific family. So far, this mechanism has successfully facilitated the mobilisation of PPE and medical supplies to Member countries and now exploring the movement of stranded citizens across borders. This regional initiative emphasizes the need to undertake a whole of government and multi-stakeholder approach.

Thirdly, what should be the nature of the regional process/framework?

Whilst this question is appropriate, I wish to underline the importance of undertaking the necessary preparatory work to inform our Leaders consideration and ensuring there is clear alignment and complementarity with existing regional frameworks and processes.

The Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP) recognises that human mobility aspects need to be integrated through targeted national policies and actions as a means to anticipate and prepare for future displacement and highlights that “both rapid- and slow-onset events can result in displacement of affected people and communities. In my own country in Papua New Guinea, we have seen the residents of Carteret Island became the world’s first climate change refugees.

The 2019 Pacific Resilience Meeting – one of the key governance arrangements for the Pacific Resilience Partnership (PRP) – held a dedicated session on disaster-induced displacement and recommended for coordinated and targeted actions that are informed by community needs and experiences, integrated into development plans underpinned by a ‘whole of government and society’ approach. The next Pacific Resilience Meeting is scheduled for 2021 and can continue to elevate this issue.

Similarly, the Boe Declaration Action Plan through Strategic Focus Areas 1 and 2 also recognise the importance of a regional response to Climate and Human Security issues.

Finally, what would be the key steps for the development of a regional process?

First and foremost, we should utilise existing regional frameworks and mechanisms where necessary. This work could be anchored under the FRDP and the Boe Declaration Action Plan. There is also a dedicated PRP Technical Working Group on Human Mobility with specific focus on climate and disaster-induced displacement, planned relocation and migration.

Another pathway is through the consolidation of the drivers of change for the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific, supported by a dedicated FOC Sub-Committee co-chaired by Fiji and Vanuatu.

In saying that, if Members feel strongly that there should be a new and separate regional process or framework on Climate Change Migration and Human Security it first has to be raised as an agenda item for consideration by the Forum Officials Committee before it can be elevated to the Forum Leaders’ attention.

I thank you again, moderator for the opportunity and congratulate you all for the successful conclusion of the Regional Policy Dialogue series.

MIL OSI Asia Pacific News