PM in Istanbul
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says Fiji supports a move to build consensus among countries to protect people displaced across borders in natural disasters.
The move is called the Nansen Initiative. Mr Bainimarama made the remarks at the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul, Turkey. He said Fiji supported the Nansen process. It is about building consensus among States to protect people displaced across borders in disasters caused by natural hazards, including those linked to climate change.
“The launch of the follow-up to the Nansen Initiative – the Platform for Disaster Displacement, is one of the most important events for Fiji at this conference,” he said. The reason, he said, was that because Fiji had already made a commitment to give permanent refuge to many thousands of people displaced by climate change and because of its very recent experience of natural disaster in the form of Tropical Cyclone Winston. He said Fiji hoped that the Platform for Disaster Displacement would build the consensus needed to establish an effective international mechanism to protect people displaced across borders because of natural disasters and climate change.
He said Fiji had offered to give a permanent home to the populations of two of its closest neighbours - Kiribati and Tuvalu - in the event that current scientific projections were realised and the rising seas envelop them altogether.
“We will naturally need the assistance of the global community to carry out that mass movement of people when the time comes, and help them adapt to new lives in Fiji.” As things stand, he said they had yet to establish an international legal framework for this to occur, but with this initiative, they were at least building the consensus they needed to adequately respond to a situation that was unique in human history.
“Entire sovereign nations - members of the United Nations - disappearing beneath the waves and their people having to be accommodated elsewhere.”
He said that all this, of course, was still some way down the track, although some of the more alarming recent projections of global warming could make it sooner than they thought. However, with the launch of this initiative, he said they had at least begun the process of recognising the magnitude of the task ahead of them and for its part, Fiji had allocated funding to explore the unresearched legal areas of climate change, including giving refuge to the citizens of Kiribati and Tuvalu. In the meantime, he said Fiji had facilitated the purchase by Kiribati of a large area of land on its second biggest island, Vanua Levu, to ensure its food security. And at the same time, Fiji had begun the process of moving its own people out of the way of the rising seas. Mr Bainimarama said there was no suggestion of any Fijian having to move to another country because of climate change. Nonetheless three entire villages have been moved so far and they have identified more than 600 settlements in Fiji that are threatened by the rising seas. Fiji has also lost a significant amount of arable coastal land, including in its important sugar cane industry, and are currently mapping the areas that are most at risk. But Fiji’s more immediate concern is the threat to the welfare of its people and its economy posed by the extreme weather events caused by climate change – droughts, floods and cyclones - which are more ferocious now than ever before. As they build on the Protection Agenda in the work of the Platform for Disaster Displacement, Mr Bainimarama has assured the world that Fijians will welcome the people of Kiribati and Tuvalu as Pacific brothers and sisters with open arms. However he said they would need the assistance of the global community to do so and the search for a proper framework had started now.
Participants at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Tutkey, and the Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, is attending.