01 December 2021, Suva, Fiji: As the World Health Assembly meets to consider pandemic preparedness and response, in the face of the new Omicron strain of COVID-19 and at the start of the Pacific cyclone season, Forum Foreign Ministers have released a Joint Statement on Blue Pacific Leadership in Disaster Preparedness Planning.
Forum Foreign Ministers voice deep concern over the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis facing Pacific Island Countries, and commit to learning lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic that are culturally, regionally and internationally applicable.
Forum Foreign Ministers Joint Statement notes that while Pacific Island Forum Members acted quickly and collaboratively to invoke the Biketawa Declaration and establish the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19, many Forum Member countries did not have detailed pandemic emergency management plans and arrangements in place when COVID-19 took hold.
As the World Health Assembly meets in Geneva this week to consider an international instrument on pandemic preparedness and response, Forum Foreign Ministers call for improved disaster preparedness planning across all sectors and at the national, regional and international level through multi-stakeholder partnerships and guided by regional frameworks including the upcoming 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
“Our approach to disaster preparedness planning must respect the sovereignty of individual nations while promoting shared responsibility, particularly in recognition of the Pacific as a deeply interconnected family of nations. Our approach must also respect cultural values of countries and ensure the inclusion of the interests of different groups including women, men, girls and boys, the elderly, persons with disability and other disadvantaged groups” reads Statement.
Forum Foreign Ministers are also calling on development partners to provide financing and assistance to strengthen national and regional disaster preparedness and resilience-building efforts including through the Pacific Resilience Facility and preparedness training for Forum Island Countries.
Forum Foreign Ministers state that “we are in a new era of disaster risk management facing complex and systemic challenges, grappling with the health, economic and social shocks of COVID-19, on top of climate change and conflict related challenges. We need to broaden our focus from managing emergencies to managing disaster risks, from thinking about individual hazards, to thinking about interdependent systems.”
Read the Joint Statement on Blue Pacific Leadership in Disaster Preparedness Planning HERE
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