Pacific countries consulted to help strengthen regional approaches to disaster management

Suva

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Recent consultations on how to progress strengthened approaches to disaster management across the Pacific region were recently held in Suva, Fiji.

The consultations were the first step towards the development of a Regional Strategic Emergency Management Roadmap (SREM). Leading towards the eventual establishment of a regional mechanism for emergency response. It is expected this will bolster the Pacific’s ability to support each other during disasters such as the current response to the impact of Cyclone Harold across Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga & Solomon Islands.

Collectively, there is a vast range of capacity that exists within the region. The workshop provided a platform to discuss the beginnings of a plan for how the Pacific can best utilise the array of expertise, assets and people at its disposal to respond to disasters.

His Majesty’s Armed Forces (HMAF) Tonga, Lieutenant Colonel Maama Misi shared the cultural benefits and experiences of providing emergency response during Cyclone Winston in Fiji and Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu.

“When our soldiers were deployed to Fiji after Cyclone Winston hit in 2016 and Cyclone Pam in 2015, our boys felt right at home as the culture and language is similar.

“We can work together closely with the local people and that will make the operation more effective in a way. It’s like supporting your own people. We feel like a home when we come here (Fiji) or Vanuatu to support those people. It’s from the heart and the local people can feel that too,” he said.

The same views were also echoed by Mr Mafua Maka, Director National Emergency Management Office in Tonga, who spoke passionately about the benefit for the Pacific to support each other during disaster across the region with a  focus on the national priorities at country level to inform the development of regional support into the future.

“With this kind of cultural understanding that we have, we know when we bring our regional counterparts, they know exactly what we want them to do, there’s no need to train them on the culture as they are already fully skilled and can support us,” he said.

Mr Mafua noted the support from a regional level is one that bolsters the national capabilities and ensures support can be provided in areas that will increase the national response capacity.

“What I don’t have at the national level I will seek the assistance at the regional level and if it is not available at the regional level then this is when we can request support from our regional partners to seek assistance outside the Pacific,” he said.

This work is being coordinated by the Pacific Community (SPC) through the Pacific Islands Emergency Management Alliance (PIEMA) Project, working in close collaboration with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS). The workshop was convened from 12 -13 March 2020.

This work supports both human and climate security stipulated under the Boe Declaration. As a tangible product, the PIEMA Project will deliver the Regional SREM that outlines the Pacific’s approach to responding to emergencies and disasters.  It will provide a framework for how we see the Pacific ‘helping itself’ in support of localisation and regionalism.

Please note: due to the imminent COVID-19 threat and subsequent travel restrictions imposed by Governments, not all the member countries were able to participate. Participants were drawn from six PIF member countries, including technical experts, and a cross section of Fiji national agencies (National Disaster Management Office (NDMOs), National Fire Authority (NFA), Fiji Police Force (FPF), Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), etc.) and regional and international organisations that currently assist national authorities in strengthening disaster response.

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Background
The Pacific Islands Emergency Management Alliance (PIEMA) project is supported by Australia and New Zealand, with SPC bringing experience in emergency and disaster preparedness, to deliver a broad strategic direction and improve sustainability of disaster management in the Pacific. It supports improved collaboration, strengthened communication and ultimately an increased effectiveness when responding to disasters, under the lead of National Disaster Management Offices in the region. It is built on trust, leadership and teamwork.

More here: https://gem.spc.int/projects/piema

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