Remarks by Hon. Mona Ainuu, Pacific political climate champion and Niue’s Minister for natural resources, at the 2023 Pacific Early Childhood Development Forum
Nadi, Thursday 23rd February, 2023
SONG – iehova nae ma iki naa e… Fofoga mai ke he aho nei..takitaki a mautolu ma iki nae ma Iesu..
Excellencies, fellow ministers, senior officals, partners, ladies and gentlemen.
Fakaalofa Lahi Atu ke he higoa he ha tautolu a Iki ko Iesu Keriso.
Our stories elevate more when we tell them in song, dance, poetry and picture, but the verse I tried to sing is a verse asking God to look down upon us, and guide our journey. Our Ancestors pas,t this respect down through generations to us and it must be past onto our future generations.
- I bring warm greetings from my island home Niue. It is my great pleasure and honour to be with you here today, to talk about our young children and the future we want for them in our Blue Pacific Continent. This conference reminds us all what is obvious, and that is, the importance of been INCLUSIVE, because Early Childhood Development is cross sectoral with so many linkages and this is one that is so dear to my heart.
OUR CHILDREN, TAU FAKAHELEHELE, TAU MATAKIKILA, Atuhau Anoiha. Our Pikiniinis, Tamaliki and many more endearing terms we call them in our mother tongue, and My most favourite. OUR HEARTBEATS.
- I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors, beating and echoing the drums for our survival, for our future and the generations yet to come. I hear the voices of the children, OF OUR our children, their mokopunas, their moko tupunas asking ….WHY… Why Why why…. The voices of tomorrow drumming louder and louder for us to do more, daring us to be innovative without compromising, TO WALK OUR TALK and to keep beating the drums, that our elders and our ancestors have carved for us today, and for our children to cherish tomorrow.
- Our children are the keepers of the environment in the future. Our role is key, in providing the best we can, for their upbringing and especially a secured future climate.
- Investing in early childhood development cannot be stressed enough – It is important that we learn from our past to strengthen their future.\
- Our Leaders endorsed the 2050 Strategy for a resilient Pacific underpinned by peace, harmony, security social inclusion and prosperity, that ensures all Pacific peoples can lead free, healthy and productive lives. This is our guide for the preservation of the future of our children.
- It is on this foundation that I frame my message this morning, particularly on building from our strengths, our cultural and traditional knowledge, practices and structures, to educate, which are a key aspect of daily life in the Pacific, with the close linkages between people and the environment shaping a unique Pacific way of life. This philosophy underpins the Pacific Cultural Strategy (2022 – 2032) which recognizes the mutually reinforcing relationship between culture and sustainable development.
- Culture and traditions hold us together, provide care and assistance when in need.
- It is to these traditional systems and practices, and way of navigating challenging situations that we should look too, and consider as a pathway to ensure our young children in the Pacific receive the best start to life particularly in the face of the climate change crisis.
- Children born today enter a world where the climate change crisis, has exacerbated existing social, economic and political challenges. They will need strong foundations in resilience to maintain physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health to be able to respond to the climate change crisis and its impacts.
- I want to highlight the Pacific’s malnutrition burden to illustrate how we can use our past to strengthen our resilience.
- We know that the foundation of the Pacific’s human capital relies on the full realization of every young child’s development potential. According to the World Bank’s Human Capital Index, a young child born today in the Pacific will only be 47% productive when he/she reaches 18 – only reaching half of their full potential.
- The 2019 State of the World’s Children Report also tells us that at least one in three children under five years of age is either undernourished or overweight
- This is alarming and requires us all to take action. Transforming the narrative of poor child outcomes in the Pacific demands not only an accelerated response, but also a new way of doing things by looking to time tested lessons.
- Good nutrition by eating the right foods is the foundation of child development.
- As Pacific communities we need to encourage the cultivation and consumption of our traditional food, including those that are climate resilient, to give the children of the Pacific the best and healthy start in life.
- This is not as simple as it sounds, especially when climate change and disasters cause severe food crises in our region making the availability of traditional foods difficult after these crisis’s. This is compounded by increasing urbanization and scarcity of land ,resulting in conflict and loss of local knowledge of sustainable practices. However, we need to make a conscience start and build healthy food environments for children by using proven approaches to strengthen our resilience and address the region’s malnutrition in young children challenges.
- Let me share with you a story from my island home.
- In 2019, a community group the Niue Girls and Boys Brigade embarked on a new journey with the Niue Meteorological Service under the Community-Based Early Warning Systems program, linking climate and traditional knowledge. Breaking down the barriers in highly technical scientific terms and translating the information into local and practical us,e has taken climate science awareness to a new level. Young children and youth participated in climate traditional knowledge activities such as planting yams, a local crop that responds to tropical cyclones. This has not only shown that knowledge passed on by our ancestors has confirmed the behavior of our natural system response, but sustains yam as food security for all, sustains our cultural practices and especially sustains adaptation knowledge for future generations.
- The Niue Primary School Climate Warriors program advocated to the world in calling for urgent climate action. The young children along with their parents developed short 3-minute videos in their understanding about climate change and shared their stories on what they want the world to do in order to leave behind a better environment for their future. This school program gained regional and international recognition especially in supporting the 350.Org an international movement of ordinary people, working to end the age of fossil fuels and build a world of community-led climate action.
- I also want to share with you one of the major undertaking Niue has made over the last few years with our Exclusive economic Zone, in particular, the establishment of a Marine Protected Area comprising 40% of its EEZ or its Marine Estate. A major commitment by the Government to its global obligation. Recognising the significant commitment and the need to sustain it, Niue is finalizing the capitalization model – Ocean Conservation Credit – and a Trust Fund, as an innovative mechanism to raise funds that can support further research, promote and support programs for the children to be future guardians of our ocean and our environment, among other priority areas. The Government of Niue has committed to fund one Ocean Conservation Credit for every man, woman and child on the island. The goal is to raise NZD $32 million and an annual drawdown of $1.5 million is made available to support the core areas that have been identified. WE ALL NEED TO BE INOVATIVE WITH WHAT WE HAVE to secure a future where our children can experience and appreciate the environment we enjoy now.
- We learn from our past so Pacific children of today can grow into strong and healthy Pacific leaders.
- To do so, we need to tap into our traditional collective knowledge of the land, sea and sky and systems that have stood the test of time, to complement scientific solutions not only for climate mitigation and adaptation actions, but also for actions to address Pacific children’s developmental challenges. These could hold the answers we are looking for to ensure our young children are given the best start in life particularly in the face of the climate change crisis.
- The drumbeats are getting louder, with greater urgency for action. Let’s continue to ensure our drumbeats are sounds of action, so we can hear the sounds of celebrations and acknowledgement by our future generation for all that we can do, with what we have without compromise. Our future is our past. Build from what we know to strengthen our resilience and climate action. Most of all, WE LEAVE NOONE BEHIND
Thank you and fakaue lahi mahaki.