Of critical importance to resilience-building efforts is the need for strong and consistent leadership at the national and regional levels. This is to catalyze and galvanise efforts to build resilience - strengthening disaster risk reduction/climate change adaptation, preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. In recent times, the challenge of addressing these imperatives has been further exacerbated by the compounding effects of a multiple hazard front that the region has experiences over the period 2020 to 2022 through the COVID-19 pandemic and its convergence with natural hazards such as Tropical Cyclone Harold (Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, April 2020) Tropical Cyclone Yasa (Fiji, December 2020) and the more recent volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga in January 2022.
The Pacific DRR Ministers Meeting represents the first opportunity in the region for a Ministers level meeting on disaster risk and resilience. Previous regional meetings dating back to 1992 included national officials through the participation of the heads of the National Disaster Management Office from each country. It is increasingly evident however that, given the frequency and emerging complexity of hazard events, the increasing exposure and vulnerability of Pacific communities to these events and other external shocks, there is a need for higher level dialogue and leadership. Ministers responsible for DRR within Pacific island countries can be a potent force: they can more compellingly influence increased action at national and sub national level within each country and provide the necessary political leadership and sustained commitment to support sub regional and regional initiatives to deal with transboundary risks. National officials require this support to help fulfill their responsibilities. Regional and international partners welcome high-level guidance to better focus their support for the greater benefit of Pacific Island Countries.
In addition, the meeting provides an opportunity for Pacific Ministers responsible for DRR to present a collective voice in helping to guide the implementation of the FRDP, Boe Declaration and 2050 Blue Pacific Strategy. This will complement other relevant Ministers arrangements that meet regularly and support this agenda e.g. Climate Change Ministers, Finance & Economic Ministers, and Foreign Ministers.
Finally, the Pacific DRR Ministers Meeting will be a strategic precursor for the Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (APMCDRR), jointly hosted by the Government of Australia and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction in Brisbane, Australia from 19th – 22nd September 2022. The APMCDRR is also an inaugural event in which the Pacific will receive significant prominence with the ability to share, in a wider setting, its experiences and know-how in climate and disaster resilience building.