Submitted by admin on Thu, 07/11/2013 - 19:49
July 11, 2013 by admin
11 July, 2013, Nadi Fiji

Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga,
Delegates to this Joint Meeting,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

David1It is my pleasure to provide some closing remarks to this joint meeting.

We have had a very busy four days this week, which has come on top of a packed programme last week for many of us.

It's been a marathon effort, particularly for those that have worked so hard ,and for so long, to put these events together.

Given that we have had 3 major events rolled into one perhaps it is better to refer to this as a triathlon rather than a marathon.

It has been tiring, but most of all it has been a very interesting and rewarding experience.

All meetings have come together this week in this Joint Meeting of the 2013 Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable.

We heard from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction on Monday that our discussions at this meeting are historic, will set a precedent, and will be an example to other communities and regions around the world.

I agree with that sentiment, as I've found our Joint Meeting to be ground breaking, as well as stimulating and challenging.

I've learnt a lot - for example, before this meeting I was not aware of the wide ranging climate and disaster related programmes of the World Health Organisation or of many NGO's, such as the Red Cross.

This week has opened my eyes to the wide ranging and excellent work of Disaster Management Organisations in Pacific countries, as well as the fantastic work of many other agencies and individuals.

It has underlined to me the many and clear synergies with SPREP's work on climate change.

We have at times moved beyond our comfort zones.

Any change to our existing systems of work can potentially seem threatening and there have been some discussions about implications of an integrated strategy for issues like funding, and the roles and responsibilities of different agencies, at national and regional levels.

In fact, we have seen the results of an integrated approach in many countries that have been already linked their climate and disaster functions, including through the JNAP processes.

Presentations such as those by the Vanuatu Minister on Tuesday have outlined integration through their new government agency which will combine the functions of climate adaptation, meteorology, disaster management and environment.

It's already happening at the level that counts - within each country - and there are lessons that can be drawn from this for an integrated regional strategy.

A key lesson I have drawn is that integration is not a threat - it's an opportunity.

Winston Churchill once said "no matter how beautiful the strategy it is always good to look at the results".

The presentation from Emily from Tonga on Wednesday reminded us to work hard but always to look at the scoreboard.

Any strategy or process is only as good as the outcomes and results it delivers for the countries and peoples of the Pacific.

Our focus must be sharply and clearly on supporting Pacific Island countries adapt and build resilience to climate change and natural disasters, as an essential contribution to sustainable development in our region.

An absolute wealth of practical, exciting and ground breaking experiences has been presented to us this week. The case studies and presentations show how much work and how much innovation there is in our region.

There is too much to summarize however I would highlight four key points:

First, that there is no one size that fits all - any regional strategy must focus on enabling and supporting national action, and must also support and guide Governments to develop the systems and processes that will work best in their context, in their own unique circumstances.

Responses to climate change and natural disasters must involve a mix of responses, including those related to infrastructure and those related to ecosystem protection.

Second, ownership is essential if any strategy is to work. Inclusion, real inclusion, of different groups is crucial for any integrated strategy.

The past week has underlined the key role of groups such as faith based organisations and NGOs - such as those in the Vanuatu NGO network - in supporting national governments respond to natural disasters and climate change.

Third, any integrated strategy should be underpinned by good governance and we should learn from examples such as those outlined by Minister Mark Brown on Tuesday who outlined the reforms and improvements to the finance sector in the Cook Islands.

Better governance will ensure Pacific countries can better respond to a changing climate and to natural disasters. It will also support efforts by Pacific countries to access and benefit from international and regional funding instruments.

Good information, both from cutting edge science, and from traditional knowledge from Pacific communities, are also important elements of improved governance.

National Meteorological Services can and must play a key role through the provision of weather related data and climate services.

Fourth, and finally, the work in this region must inform international efforts on disaster risk reduction and climate. Our integrated strategy must reinforce the state of urgency facing our region regarding climate change, associated sea level rise and natural disasters.

As I said on Monday, while the countries of the world argue about emissions reductions and particularly who is to blame, the countries of the Pacific are the first impacted and will be the first to go under.

Our efforts nationally and regionally must support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that funding commitments are met.

These are some observations from me, but please take the time to go over the wealth of material presented to you over the last week - all available on the Joint Meeting website - and draw your own conclusions.

Partnerships at all levels are essential and we have seen how partnerships, such as in the Choiseul Province, benefit Pacific countries and their people.

The increasing level of partnership and joint work between CROP agencies is positive and must continue and accelerate.

We must all reach out and better engage new partners, and avoid competition and duplication.

Partnership are not the end in themselves - we must focus on working together to deliver better results to support national priorities and meet local needs.

SPREP looks forward to working with Pacific countries and territories, other CROP agencies, donors and partners to support the development of the Integrated Strategy.

I think this has been a very successful Joint Meeting with such a rich and exciting programme.

We have a clear path forward to ensure the integrated strategy comes to fruition.

The process towards this end must be inclusive and it must focus on areas of synergy and commonality between climate change and disaster risk reduction.

The integrated strategy should include output based indicators which allow us to assess delivery and results, where possible linking, and building on, other indicators under development in this region to track progress towards sustainable development.

As we move forward we must listen to and respect differing points of view and we must be willing to learn from each other. We must build approaches based on trust and open and clear communication.

The bottom line from any process is that it must deliver improved results and outcomes for Pacific countries on climate change and disaster risk reduction.

We should be opportunistic and use key events such as the Governing Council Meetings of SPREP and SPC to advance the strategy.

We should consider how key events for our region such as the landmark SIDS Conference in Samoa next year can be used to showcase and advance climate change and disaster reduction in our region.

Enough from me, I think it has been an excellent, in fact outstanding, Joint Meeting and I would now like to thank some of the many persons and agencies involved.

Thank you to all presenters for excellent and cutting edge presentations. Thank you to all participants for excellent questions and active involvement. Thank you to facilitators and chairs for keeping us on track in such a positive and friendly way.

Thanks to the Steering Committee for this Joint Meeting for putting together such an excellent and ambitious programme.

Thank you to SPREP and SPC staff who have worked really hard as one team over the last few months to make this Joint Meeting a reality. This is not talking about partnership, it is partnership in action - thank you.

Thank you to all CROP agencies - there has been a positive and open approach to partnership - we have all joined hands to better support our member countries through this Joint Meeting.

Thank you to all donors and partners for your valued support to countries and territories of our region - this support is deeply valued and appreciated. Please stay with us.

From SPREP I would particularly like to thank the Governments and people of Switzerland, Australia and Germany for their financial support.

Thank you to all Pacific countries and territories for the excellent work you are doing to respond to the many challenges of climate change, and disaster reduction, in such difficult circumstances.

All of the efforts of the integrated strategy are directed at supporting your efforts.

Finally, thank you to the Government and people of Fiji for your warm welcome and for hosting us so professionally and effectively in your beautiful country.

It has been an amazing effort by you to so positively host such a series of meetings last week and the Joint Meeting this week. And all this at the same time as hosting the Pacific Small Island Developing States Preparatory Meeting which started on Wednesday.

We are in awe of your efforts and your capability, and how you have hosted us in such a gracious and friendly way.

Thank you and I'm look forward to seeing you at the SPREP cocktail tonight.