Opening Remarks at the 2021 Pacific Resilience Meeting
Delivered by the Honourable Kausea Natano
Prime Minister of Tuvalu and Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum
06 July 2021
Talofa and warm Pacific greetings from Tuvalu.
Let me first of all thank the Chair of the Pacific Resilience Partnership for the warm and kind welcome remarks and for allowing me this opportunity to address you on the Opening of this, the 2nd Pacific Resilience meeting.
I would also like to thank the reverend for the spiritual inspiration to guide us through this meeting.
In 2016 when the Pacific Forum Leaders endorsed the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP), I am sure they did not have COVID-19 in mind. The current circumstances we find ourselves in, not only in the Pacific, but globally, highlights the need to constantly strive for better ways and systems of building resilience in all sectors and all parts of societies. The presence of the pandemic in what seems an interminable way has made the need for resilience building ever more important.
Of course, the unique vulnerabilities of our Pacific Nations cannot be stressed enough, and we must not forget that our nations were built and founded on the resilience of our ancestors. They were renowned for their resilience and ability to endure storms and rough seas to traverse and journey the great Blue Pacific Ocean. Whether it is COVID-19, a financial crisis or the ever-present threat of Climate Change and disasters, we, Pacific people must strive to build resilience at all levels, especially for the most vulnerable.
This is now the second Pacific Resilience meeting, (PRM), with the first one held in 2019 under vastly different circumstances. I understand that this is the pinnacle event for the Pacific Resilience Partnership, which is now being held virtually. This year’s meeting is a good example of how we can leverage digital technology and adapt to the circumstances. I am impressed by the setup employed to enable this meeting to take place.
Today, as we come together to discuss, share, demonstrate and elevate relevant Pacific-led resilience actions, we must not forget that resilience starts at home and it starts with us. As our forefathers started their journeys into the vast unknow Blue Pacific, let us be reminded that it was their journeys that brought us new horizons. Let me therefore take this opportunity to remind us all our own journey of Resilience; it starts with us taking action now. I am therefore pleased to note that this year’s PRM captures this great Pacific spirit with the theme of “Our people, Our Journey: nurturing Pacific Resilience from Home.”
I am also pleased to learn that yesterday our Pacific Youth representatives from across our member countries engaged in their own Pacific Youth Resilience Forum with discussions from that Forum being fed through to this meeting. As Forum Chair this gives me great confidence that we have future leaders already engaged in the discussions, dynamics and decision making for our Blue Pacific resilience.
As we embark and engage in our discussions over the next three days, let us honour and acknowledge the many cultural approaches to resilience employed by our own communities in the face of disasters whilst recognizing the increasing risks posed by climate change and the need to transition towards carbon neutral communities and economies. Let us maintain an interest in our own traditional practices to help guide us while pivoting on advancements in science and technology to protect, restore and sustain our communities, nations and our Blue Pacific Region in the face of Climate change and disaster risks.
Let me now quickly turn to the current and immediate challenge facing our region and indeed the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that most of us in the Pacific were not prepared for a disaster or pandemic of this scale and for some countries, the pandemic at times was overlaid by cyclones which caused even greater challenges. This pandemic has highlighted that we will need to do better. Resilience building is everyone’s business and we need to work smarter and more collaboratively to tackle this raging pandemic. The Pacific Humanitarian Pathways for COVID-19 (PHP-C), established by Pacific leaders is one way we are working together to combat this pandemic. This is a concept firmly rooted in our Pacific principles of communal lifestyles, of being good neighbours and sharing responsibilities. In Tuvalu we captured them in the concepts of fale-pili and kaitasi and I know there are similar concepts throughout the Pacific.
We should collectively be advocating for the need to have in place pre-disaster, and indeed, pre-pandemic emergency management and response plans and carry out regular drills to test them. Resilience should not be something we try to achieve after we have faced a disaster or an emergency. As I have already emphasized, we have the knowledge and the technology, both traditional and scientific, to make Resilience an ingrained state of readiness and preparedness.
We must ensure that resilience is an integral part of how we plan for, resource, implement and then monitor our development. Our development policies and practices, at all levels, must integrate considerations of resilience to climate change and disasters including pandemics. In doing so, we must ensure that we focus our efforts on addressing the needs of the most vulnerable and those most at risk in our societies and elevate them.
A commitment to this kind of approach will ensure that every Pacific nation enjoys development that is sustainable over longer periods Such a commitment should reflect our cultural values of not only inter-dependence but also of always being prepared and well protected as found in many Pacific nations.
Of course, such foresight and initiatives require resources to bring them to fruition and I call on all our Pacific development partners to engage with us through the Pacific Resilience Partnership in true and genuine partnerships to achieve Pacific Resilience. As emphasized in our cultural values, we are stronger when we come together and act as one while at the same time understanding and respecting our individual uniqueness.
And true to the theme of “Resilience starts at home”, I want to highlight the establishment and launch of the Pacific Resilience Facility (PRF). This is an initiative by our leaders to ensure we have a regional financing facility that will help vulnerable communities exposed to climate change and disaster risks, especially women and girls, children, the elderly and those with disabilities. It will help build resilience, preparedness and adaptive capacity for the most vulnerable before disasters strike. This is a clear example that we, not only know how to help ourselves, but that we know how to be self-reliant and resilient.
I have mentioned the journeys of our forebears and their reliance on their own traditional knowledge and I have also mentioned how we have leveraged technology in the current circumstances. This clearly illustrates that we must not forget our past and the great traditional knowledge embedded in our unique cultures, while at the same time we must take advantage of advances in scientific knowledge and technologies. It is not a matter of one over the other, but a need to bring all thoughts and knowledge together. We must find the intersection of different approaches, learn from them and forge new and innovative ways of enhancing our resilience.
At this juncture I want to remind us all that our actions start with each and everyone of us. Our actions in our homes, in our communities, in our individual countries and in our region, are ours to own. We are a resilient people. We must ensure that everyone is engaged in helping drive Pacific-led resilience actions. These actions will not only help protect our deep cultures and traditions, it will help us become stronger together in the face of climate change and disasters. I call on all of you to engage and be involved in elevating Pacific-led resilience actions from our homes to the globe for the future of our planet and all of humanity.
Ladies and Gentlemen, with those remarks, I now declare the second Pacific Resilience Meeting Open.