Delivered by the Zarak Khan, Director Programme and Initiatives, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat
Resilience Learning Event
03 August 2022
Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I bid you all warm greetings from the Forum Secretariat and welcome to this first ‘Resilience Learning Event’. Thanks to you all for taking the time to be here today in-person and online. We hope that at the end of this 2-day event you will have found this learning opportunity a rewarding one.
Why are we here?
Earlier this year a few colleagues working in climate and disaster resilience in the regional space felt that following two years of exclusively virtual interaction, the time was right to create an opportunity to have people come together in-person once again to interact in a truly ‘Pacific way’.
We felt that people from around the region would welcome a change where they could sit together and share knowledge and experiences on how we can all improve resilience to climate change and disasters.
Our Leaders have stated many times, climate change is an existential threat and addressing this and other hazards and shocks such as earthquakes and tsunamis, requires, amongst other things, that we continue cultivate a culture of learning and knowledge sharing. By broadening our knowledge we can generate new ideas and be creative and innovative in terms of how we address resilience moving forward. The complexity of the environment in which we live requires this of us.
In the last few years Pacific Island countries have continued to suffer extreme economic setbacks whenever disasters hit. The impacts of climate change have further exacerbated these vulnerabilities. The impacts combine physical damage and the related economic and social losses. Statistics like 15 percent to 30 percent of GDP impacts are now commonly reflected in the post-disaster assessments of Pacific countries hit by disasters but what is not commonly reflected is the even more devastating development setbacks and the number of years it takes to get back to pre-disaster levels of wellbeing
The recent example of the Hunga Tonga – Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption is a good case in point where damage was estimated at 18.5% of GDP or USD500 million.
These statistics are unfortunately bandied about with monotonous frequency, as I have just done here, and we can risk growing immune to the important messages that they convey about our vulnerability and exposure because we hear them all too often. We however, must not be overwhelmed and become complacent. If anything, the statistics and lessons learned from our experiences in addressing such events and in building our resilience to climate change and disasters must be shared widely and often.
This Resilience Learning Event, like other similar opportunities, will try to do that.
The main objective of the RLE is to support a holistic understanding of resilience building drawing from the experiences and lessons of a range of resilience building activities being undertaken in the Pacific.
On this first day of the RLE, you will all be able to reflect and share your thoughts in relation to key pillars or building blocks for resilience and to consider the types of improvements or strengthening that may be needed.
On the second day, the focus shifts from the foundational elements of resilience to the showcasing of a range of initiatives that countries and partners have collaborated on. Hopefully, the lessons learned from the sharing of experiences will be of value to you as you reflect on how you can strengthen the resilience agenda of your country and the region as a whole.
This event has been made possible through the collaboration of a number of organisations who have joined with us at the Forum Secretariat. I acknowledge with gratitude the SPC, UNDP, SPREP and the University of the South Pacific for their tireless efforts in making this event possible.
I would also like to acknowledge with thanks the funding support for the event by the World Bank through the Pacific Resilience Program. I further acknowledge the funding and technical support provided by our partner organisations the SPC, UNDP, SPREP and USP for enabling the participation of a number of stakeholders.
I urge us all to make the most of the opportunity over these two days. I hope you will find it rewarding and wish you all the best.