4th Session of the Pacific Platform for DRM and Regional Water & Sanitation Consultations opens in Noumea, New Caledonia

Noumea, September 17

The Pacific is one of the most disaster prone regions on earth. The frequent floods, droughts, hurricanes and salt water intrusion also impact the fragile freshwater resources and infrastructure of many countries, adding further pressure to communities and governments. Added to this is increased climate variability and change, which has the potential to increase the severity of related natural disasters and impact water supply.


With this in mind the theme for the 4th Session of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management (DRM), is “Disaster Risk Management, Water Security and Climate Change – Integrating our efforts for a more resilient Pacific”. Among the key aims of the meeting is to develop a new Regional Action Plan for water and sanitation in the Pacific and to come up with a roadmap to integrate disaster risk reduction and climate change adaption beyond 2015.


At today’s opening, Dr Jimmie Rodgers, Secretary General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, said Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTS) development partners, and donors must change the way they do business in order to deal with the issues and challenges of disaster and climate risk in smarter way.


“There are many of you here who represent the core leadership group for disaster risk management in our region and you have done a sterling job. For the future however I think you need to embrace more meaningfully the contributions of the various sectors and interest groups and work with them to bring about change and improvement,” Dr Rodgers said. “The collaboration with the Water & Sanitation sector at this year’s meeting is a shining example but I think more can be done.


“We need to adopt a ‘many partners-one team’ approach and focus on improved coordination to address important cross-cutting challenges such as disaster reduction, climate change, food and water security. We must embrace strong engagement with civil society and the private sector.”


The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) is a key partner and funder of the Pacific Platform. In a video greeting to delegates its head, Margareta Wahlström, Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction, said the meeting is a “strong sign that the region is alive to the challenges and working hard to come up with solutions which will preserve your communities and build their ability to adapt in smart, innovative ways”.


“There is no other region in the world that has more reason to embrace the principles of disaster risk reduction than the Pacific. Few other parts of the world understand as well as you do what it takes to build resilience in response to growing environmental threats,” Ms Wahlström said. “This is particularly clear in your leadership on the integration of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation.”


In welcoming delegates to Noumea, New Caledonia’s government representative, Mr. Jean-Claude Briault said, “ This is the first time that this important meeting is taking place in a French territory.  New Caledonia is proud to host the Pacific Platform for DRM and Regional Water & Sanitation Consultations and we are happy to participate in it together with the other French territories invited, French Polynesia and Wallis and Futuna.


“In the face of challenges shared by Pacific Island Countries and Territories, the sharing of our experiences will help us all progress in this field and a regional strategy will make us more visible and coherent.”


The Pacific Platform is an annual opportunity for countries, development partners and donors to share experiences and knowledge in building the resilience of their island communities to disasters.


The overall fragility of life in small island countries was recognized again this year at the UN Summit for Sustainable Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In the outcome document, “The Future We Want” it was reaffirmed that “small island developing States remain a special case for sustainable development in view of their unique and particular vulnerabilities….”


As part of a South-South partnership Pacific island delegates will be joined this year by colleagues from the Caribbean in order to discuss the similarities and challenges faced by small islands states.


Both the ‘disaster’ and ‘water & sanitation’ communities in the Pacific play a key role in helping the region undertake measures to reduce vulnerability and risk related to both geophysical and climate related hazards. This year Regional Water & Sanitation Consultations will be conducted alongside the Platform to provide an opportunity for the representatives of both the disaster and water/sanitation communities to interact and discuss crosscutting issues in dealing with disasters, water management and climate risk.


It gives the two communities the opportunity to discuss the issues and challenges of an integrated agenda for DRM and Climate Change (CC) within the specific context of the emerging regional policy framework for the sustainable management of water resources.


The Pacific Platform will also look at strengthening end-to-end early warning systems for all hazards, building capacity at the national level, integrating disaster risk reduction/ climate change adaptation within the educational system and improving collaboration and coordination at both the regional and international level.


The Pacific Platform is run by SPC in partnership with the UNISDR. It is supported by partner organisations like, The Asia Foundation, United States Agency for International Development, the University of the South Pacific, United Nations Development Programme Pacific Centre, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, AusAID, the European Union and the French Pacific Fund.

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