RIGHT: Children look out to sea while standing on a sea wall in Betio town, South Tarawa, Kiribati. LEFT: Child advocate on DRR and climate change adaptation Tokasa Senibiau. Picture: SUPPLIED
08/07/2021 By: Ariela Zibiah
The Fiji Times
Pacific youth are asking their leadership — whether regional or national, organisational, or community-based — to consider them as serious partners and valid voices in spaces where disaster risk reduction (DRR), mitigation, adaptation and other aspects of the climate change issue are being discussed.
Tokasa Seinibiau, a child advocate on DRR and climate change adaptation, spoke of the unique perspectives that children and youth can bring to such spaces because of their own experiences and vulnerabilities, and responses to the various manifestations of climate change.
Speaking during the official opening of the inaugural Pacific Resilience Meeting Youth Forum on Monday, Seinibiau, who lives in the Valenicina Settlement on the outskirts of Suva, spoke of the potential for anxiety in children and young people who are experiencing and observing environmental changes such as sea level rise and coral bleaching.
“This has now developed into a great concern, thus pushing many concerned children and youth to play an important role in disaster risk reduction, climate change (adaptation), disaster preparedness, response and recovery,” she said.
“We would like to be leaders, advocates, agents of change and educators in the implementation of resilience activities and be included in the decision-making processes at all levels.”
Seinibiau is a member of the Valenicina DRR Club, an initiative of the Save the Children Fund that focuses on child-centred approaches aimed at strengthening resilience within national and local disaster preparation and management processes.
She shared the virtual stage with Pacific Community (SPC) director general Dr Stuart Minchin and Pacific Islands Forum secretary general Henry Puna.
Reflections from group work by the participants referred to tokenistic approaches and the need to end them; pointed out the need to ensure that “the right people” were at the table; underlined the need for an intersectional response in DRR and climate change adaptation; emphasised the need for relevant training in data collection and effectively communicating findings and creating appropriate messaging; reminded of the opportunity of social media platforms as advocacy tools; and called for in-country youth information hubs.
At least 700 young people participated in the Youth Forum.
Ernest Gibson, a member of the United Nations Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change who facilitated the forum, remarked that it was clear the region’s youth had information and ambition to meet DRR and climate change adaptation targets – but that there was a need for “communications, information and data analysis taking place in a way that is accessible and as inclusive as possible”.
Dr Minchin said the youth forum was an example of a commitment by the Pacific Community to the delivery of integrated services aimed at supporting Pacific ocean states address development challenges and achieve aspirations.
More than half of the Pacific’s total population are under 25 years. Some 90 per cent of the “youth bulge” are in Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji.
A Pacific Resilience Meeting Youth Forum Outcome Statement will be issued at the end of the meeting.
* Ariela Zibiah is a communications and media practitioner based in Suva (Fiji). The views expressed are the author’s and not necessarily of this newspaper.