The impacts of climate change and disasters on human mobility in the Pacific have presented a lot of challenges to islanders.
This was highlighted last week at a climate change workshop held at Novotel Hote in Lami Bay, Suva, Fiji
The workshop was held from18-20 August and Solomon Islands was represented at the workshop by a local student Michae Ha’apio.
The workshop highlighted that Pacific region is prone to a wide range of natural hazards, including severe storm surges, cyclones, flooding, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.
“Therefore the effects of climate change are being felt across the Pacific region, adversely affecting many people’s daily routines, livelihoods and lifestyles.
“Some communities face a particularly acute situation, as climate change threatens their very existence. Coastal inundation and erosion, increased salinization, and flooding caused by more intense storms already temporarily displace people and contribute to making a number of community locations unfit for continued habitation.
“For example, between 2008 and 2012 an estimated 56,000 people were displaced each year in the Pacific,” the workshop concept paper outlined.
It further highlighted that Pacific islanders have repeatedly expressed their strong desire to remain in their homes for as long as possible.
“However, planned relocation, a climate-change adaptation of last resort, is now an option being taken up by some affected communities, such in Fiji and the Solomon Islands.
“Furthermore, while the planned relocation efforts remain within national borders, some states have explored the possibility of moving their citizens abroad, or are undertaking efforts to support the voluntary movement of citizens to seek work abroad and support the adaptation capacity of people who remain behind.”
The overall objectives of the regional CSO workshop on climate change, disasters and human mobility are to raise awareness of the issue of climate change, disasters and human mobility (displacement, migration and planned relocation) among CSOs within the region, introduce the work of the Nansen Initiative and the role churches play in migration accompaniment, and identify opportunities for follow up within the region.
More specifically, the regional workshop looked at other areas such as:
– examine the climate science related to the Pacific region and its potential impact on human mobility;
– highlight the experiences of communities on human mobility and planned relocation in particular;
– consider existing local, national and regional mechanisms to assist affected communities;
– identify and analyse legal, policy and procedural gaps related to human mobility;
– learn about and identify opportunities to support the work of the state-led Nansen Initiative within the Pacific region, and the Pacific Conference of Churches’ work on climate change related planned relocation.
The meeting was jointly organized by the Pacific Conference of Churches and the Nansen Initiative Secretariat in Geneva, and is made possible by generous funding from the Federal Republic of Germany.
The meeting’s outcomes will be compiled in a report that will provide an overview of the discussions during the workshop.
It will include a set of messages for the Nansen Initiative as it continues its work at the regional and global level to build consensus on a protection agenda for people displaced across international borders in the context of disasters including the effects of climate change.
Outcomes will also contribute to the Pacific Conference of Churches’ ongoing work on climate change related planned relocation.
Michael Ha’apio a local student currently studying at the University of the South Pacific (USP) was a participant at the workshop.
Speaking to the Solomon Star in Suva after the workshop said he had learned that climate change is a real issue within the Pacific region and its time that relevant governments and institutions within the region to take firm initiatives with their policies and strategies in confronting its impact.
“From the workshop, one of the tools that I have learned as an adaptive measure to impact of climate change is the concept of migration with dignity either internally or regionally and internationally across borders. Majority of Solomon Island people never pause and think for a while about the impact this policy may have on its people.
“But this is real amongst the smaller Island countries, particularly countries such as Tuvalu and Kiribati who’s reported has a highest ground level of 3 metres above the sea level rise. According to science this will be totally submerge by 2050 if the current rate of sea rise continues.
“Having said this I also note the difficulty that people in several parts of Solomon Islands whom also are desperately in need to migrate to high sea level areas. Let alone my friends in the Langa Langa Lagoon and the Malaita outer Island to name a few.”
He pointed out that from the workshop he learnt that its time the government should develop a holistic migration policy with dignity and respect which also takes into account customs, tradition, human rights, cultures, religion, values and norms of both the migrating and host people in the whole process.
“This will ensure that people which involve in such exercise are not psychologically affected. The governments within the region should continue to work on existing agreements such as the “Free Labour Movement” among the Melanesian Spear head group (MSG) as means of extension and implementing this migration policy across its member countries.
“The current agreement between Australia and Kiribati on their Migration with Dignity policy be enhanced, strengthened and even extended to other countries. The current seasonal labour migration by Australia and New Zealand to some of the pacific islands countries should be relooked into and extended to cover the climate change spectrum.
“Furthermore, I have learned that churches have major role in this climate change migration with dignity strategy.”
He added that the governments should strengthened the churches’ position in designing policy that enhances the church leadership in this endeavour to mitigate associate physiological effect on the people and ensure coherent migration process either locally or regionally or internationally across borders.
“Lastly it was noted that while the above measures may experience obstacles higher education could also been as alternate adaptive measure to climate change by individual families within the region.”
By MOFFAT MAMU
In Suva, FIJI