Dunn raises her voice for Pacific

REIGNING Miss Pacific Islands Anne Dunn is part of a group of youths from the Pacific who are attending the high-level international meeting on climate change in Bonn, Germany. Today, she talks to The Fiji Times chief of staff AVINESH GOPAL on her role at the high-level meeting in Bonn and what she hopes to achieve.

FT: What is the Pacific Voices in Unison Project about and how are you part of it?

The Pacific Voices in Unison project was created to empower Pacific youths to demonstrate to the world how they build resilience to climate change through Pacific solutions.

As a key element of the project, we — a team of six youth representatives (including me) from six Pacific Island nations — are in Bonn, Germany, to attend the 23rd Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP23).

They are:

* Broderick Menke, climate change activist and environmental studies major, Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI)

* Eddy Maliliu, resilience program officer at CARE International Vanuatu, Vanuatu

* Iulah Pitamama, fisheries officer in Choiseul Province, Solomon Islands

* Kaboua John, agriculture extension officer on Abaiang, Ministry of Lands, Environment and Agricultural Development, Kiribati

* Samantha Kwan, marine conservation officer of the Samoan Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and president of the Youth Climate Action Network of Samoa.

FT: What do you hope to achieve?

While Pacific Island states contribute little to the emission of greenhouse gases and global warming, they are at the frontline of experiencing the impacts of climate change.

Rising air and sea surface temperatures and associated sea level rise, increasing weather extremes, changes in rainfall patterns and ocean acidification decrease agricultural and coastal fisheries productivity, cause coastal erosion and threaten water availability and quality.

Already today, some communities have to be relocated. The recent tropical cyclones Pam in Vanuatu and Tuvalu (Category 4 in 2015) and Cyclone Winston in Fiji and Tonga (Category 5 in 2016) were the most severe storms that ever made landfall in the southern hemisphere and destroyed houses, schools, health centres, roads and entire landscapes including forests, farming areas and coral reefs.

In Fiji, the total damage amounted to a third of its gross domestic product, and many people were and still are displaced. Pacific islanders will continue to be confronted by even more severe effects as climate change continues to take its toll.

We are here to use this as a platform to share our journey of resilience and share Pacific solutions, which are mostly traditional knowledge.

This is a great platform to share our stories with everyone, not just at COP23 but world over, and to empower others to become resilient to climate change by sharing stories and using traditional knowledge. We farm, we fish, we hunt, we dream, we live just like you.

FT: What platforms are you using at COP 23?

The main side event Pacific Voices in Unison is hosted by the Fijian Pavilion through the Fijian COP23 Secretariat on November 8, 2017 from 9.30-10.30am in the Bonn Zone. Fiji’s Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation Mereseini Vuniwaqa will chair the event.

It will be the premiere of our live performance Pacific Voices in Unison — Climate Change Experiences and Solutions, which showcases our journeys of resilience. We will tell our personal stories of climate change to introduce the premiere of seven compelling documentaries from our nations.

In the true Fijian talanoa spirit, Mereseini Vuniwaqa; Ingrid-Gabriela Hoven, head of department at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development (BMZ), and youth representatives will empower the youths and Pacific islanders with a response as to what they are doing to help our plight.

This high-level side event is in partnership with the Fijian COP23 Secretariat, BMZ and the German Development Co-operation Agency (GIZ).

On Wednesday, November 8, 2017, from 6 to 8pm in the Climate Planet Globe, a policy forum named “Climate Dialogue: Is it possible to escape climate change?” will be held.

Here Kaboua John and I will be part of the panel and share how climate change affects our lives and islands, Pacific island resilience and what we expect from political decision makers.

Dr Friedrich Kitschelt, the secretary of state of the BMZ and major development and research experts will be part of the panel to discuss how climate change and migration inter-relate. On Friday November 10, 2017, from 1.30 to 2.30pm there will be another policy forum in the Climate Planet Globe titled “Our World — Our Future”.

Eddy Maliliu and John Kaboua will be Pacific experts on a panel of youth activists from the Pacific Islands Region, Europe, Morocco and Canada in an event designed to communicate the effects of climate change and resiliency strategies to the young German public through video documentaries and a quiz.

We as the Voices were also part of the launch of the Climate Action Campaign of Fiji’s High Level Climate Champion Minister Inia Seruiratu on November 6 in the Bonn Zone, of the opening of the UNFCCC Youth Day on November 9 in the Talanoa Space and of the Intergenerational Enquiry with Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Secretary, on the same day.

Prior to this, we already spoke at the Conference of Youths (November 2-4) and were at the opening ceremony of the Climate Tour of the City of Bonn (November 5 at the market place),

FT: Why does all this matter to you?

My family is from Toguru settlement in Navua, Fiji, where my paternal ancestral burial grounds are being clawed away by rising sea levels.

Climate change to me means my family and I could not use these burial grounds to bury my late father and uncle who passed away this year.

It just does not stop here! Those like us around the globe dealing with the changing climate are losing our traditional knowledge, resources, and our culture. We value what we have inherited from our ancestors. We defy reliance, we strive in our resilience.

FT: Do you think that you are fighting a losing battle given that there are many scientists and common people who do not believe in climate change?

Traditional knowledge uses our natural resources. Our customs and our cultures give us strength and resilience.

I join all the Voices around the world in Unison. We are strong, we are united, and we are here to share our stories with any people in the world who have felt the effects of climate change.

I don’t have to be a scientist. I see the effects of climate change every day in my country.

I see basic needs such as water turn brackish, food supply running low and homes being relocated as the sea is taking them away from us.

FT: What is your message for those who are in the “same canoe” like you?

We are going to rise like the rising waters, raising our voices … not the sea level, show resistance … to civilians who deny our existence. We value what we have inherited from our ancestors. We defy reliance … we strive in our resilience.

FT: What do you think could be done for Pacific Islanders and those that are from Small Island States?

We are all in the same canoe and we all have to row together.

With nations rapidly moving towards clean and affordable energy solutions, it shows that we can achieve this 1.5 degrees Celsius target.

FT: How will you continue to build momentum?

As a daughter of the Pacific, I will continue with other voices around the world and the Pacific Voices in Unison to use various platforms to advocate for resilience in youths, especially for women across the Pacific to blend traditional knowledge as well as to make use of the technological advances to adapt to climate change among other social issues.

On November 15 and 16, I will be hosting a livestream from Fiji which will showcase perspectives on climate change and Pacific cultures through live performances by Pacifika Voices Choir and Oceania Dance Theatre.

The events will be streamed live via Facebook into the UN Climate Change Conference, COP23, for people in Bonn, and audiences around the world, to experience the spirit of the Pacific islands.

These live events will showcase how Fiji and the Pacific Islands are moving further, faster, and together for climate solutions. The initiative is a partnership between the Fijian COP23 Presidency, Connect4Climate program of the World Bank Group, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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