STATEMENT BY DR PAULA VIVILI
DELIVERED AT OPENING OF THE
POST DISASTER NEEDS ASSESSMENT TRAINING
19 JULY 2021
Minister for Rural, Maritime Development and Disaster Management, and Minister for Defence, National Security and Policing – Hon Inia Seruiratu
UNDP Pacific Office Resident Representative, Levan Bouadze
ADB Regional Director for the Pacific, Masayuki Tachiiri
Country representatives, colleagues, ladies, and gentlemen
Bula vinaka, welcome and it indeed a pleasure for me to join you today for this important workshop.
Can I in the first instance acknowledge the challenging times everyone is going through here in Fiji and commend the good work of many of the participants and partners based here in Fiji in supporting government’s efforts and COVID-19 response. Indeed, together we can!
As Pacific citizens and residents, one of the things we learn quite early on in life is that our region has among the most vulnerable countries in the world. We are all aware of the 2018 World Risk Index which ranked 172 countries at risk of natural disasters. Vanuatu was number 1 and Tonga number 2. Solomon Islands, PNG, Fiji, and Kiribati were also among nine island states in the top 15 nations. The report by German researchers said these countries are extremely vulnerable to cyclones, earthquakes, flooding, and sea level rise.
Our Leaders recognised this in 2018 when they passed the Boe Declaration in Nauru. This was a recognition that Regional Security needed to be extended beyond the usual definition of security as was the intention with the Biketawa Declaration.
Regional Security needs to recognise other challenges impacting our security including Climate change, environmental challenges, water security and even health security as we are now seeing with COVID-19.
We all know that in terms of natural disasters in our region, it has always been a question of when, not if.
In recent years we have experienced several catastrophic events in the Pacific region:
- Measles outbreak affecting a few countries including Fiji and Samoa
- Geological hazards such as the volcanic eruption in Vanuatu
- Droughts affecting RMI and Kiribati among others
- And of course, tropical cyclones of significant magnitude and impact affecting many of our countries.
These events have impacted our peoples’ lives and have affected the vulnerable groups in our societies disproportionately. At the personal level the effect can be measured in many ways including loss of life which is devastating for the families and communities involved. At the national level, our economies can be adversely impacted as we are seeing in all our countries now.
This PDNA workshop and training is critical and timely. Without a properly done PDNA, a targeted, effective, and robust response is more difficult.
I would like to acknowledge and thank our partners UNDP and the ADB for organising this training. When we don’t work together as partners, we are often responsible for making things more difficult on the ground for the countries. Working together as partners is critical if we are to have a chance of succeeding with this work. Through more collaboration, coordination, and role delineation, we can better serve the countries.
Training as many people as possible is important so that in the countries we have people who can carry out a PDNA and can be mobilised quickly after disasters without having to rely on external expertise to be brought in as this can be difficult and time consuming.
For its part, SPC is committed to supporting PDNAs in the areas we have expertise in, working together with the governments and our partners.
While this week will focus on undertaking PDNAs, it is also important that we continue to build resilience in our communities to mitigate the risks from these hazards.
I wish you well and look forward to drawing upon your expertise in the future
This training is supported by the Pacific Community’s Geoscience, Energy and Maritime Division and our partners at World Bank as part of the UNDP-ADB Partnership Project on Knowledge and support technical assistance (KSTA) on Building Disaster-Resilient Infrastructure through Enhanced Knowledge Project.