PM in Is­tan­bul

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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.

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