Key Note Address By Hon. Vice President, Teima Onorio
(On the occasion of the Nansen Initiative Pacific Regional Consultations, Edgewater Resort, Rarotonga, May 21 – 25 2013)
Jodtjif Nansen said and I quote “Nothing great and good can be furthered without international cooperation” and might I add through friendship and with respect.
Our gracious host HE Henry Puna, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands,
I recognize the presence of HE Sprent Dabwido, President of Nauru,
Deputy Prime Ministers,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I bring to you warm greetings from the Government and people of Kiribati.
Kam na bane ni mauri and Kia orana!
Allow me Chair, to reciprocate the friendship and warm hospitality extended to us and members of our delegations by thanking most sincerely HE Prime Minister Puna, the Government and the people of the Cook Islands: “Meitaki Ma’ata!”
Let me extend my country’s and my own heartfelt gratitude to the movers of the Nansen Initiative, Norway and Switzerland and to the other members of the Initiative Steering Group and the European Union for their contributions to this important initiative.
I wish also to thank the organisers of these consultations, Nansen Initiative Secretariat staff and of course the Forum and SPREP for the excellent coordination to this event.
Kiribati attaches the highest importance to this consultation and follow up activities and I wish to convey President Tong’s support and apologies for being unable to attend due to a prior engagement and on whose behalf, I present this statement.
Kiribati has decided on a Climate Change and Climate Change Adaptation framework as a response to adapt to the slow onset of climate change and sea level rise, the framework that has the consensus and mandate of the people. The Framework outlines that (with the exception of Tuvalu and the Republic of the Marshall Islands), Kiribati will always be different when compared with other countries in the region, the difference of having no land to retreat to. That is, if the catastrophe is inevitable, we need to prepare ourselves and our people for eventual migration.
Kiribati has also embarked on radical changes to improve course offerings for training and upskilling in the technical and vocational skills areas to prepare our population in the event that if they wish to migrate, they do so with dignity. These include, the improvements of the technical and vocational programs accredited to International standards to prepare our young people for competition in the global labor market such as the; TVET upskilling and training (Australian standards) and infrastructure expansion; Maritime Training for Merchant and Fishing seafarers (STCW 95 approved); Nursing Training (require alignment with international standards); Kiribati Teachers’ College and the Police Service.
Movement of People within Boarders and Regionally
Within our national boarder, social obligation has seen families providing refuge in their homes and on their lands, providing family members to relocate to, due to massive coastal erosions. A number of villages, public buildings
and schools have been relocated due to extreme spring tides and severe coastal erosions. The alarming rate of coastal erosion that has been reported for the past two years has given rise to massive landmass loss, hence, have raised grave concerns for the Government.
The Seasonal Employment Programmes in Australia and in New Zealand through exposure of IKiribati people participating in the programs, provide life experience and working conditions outside of Kiribati and cultural norms which are different from the local setting. Positive initiatives by the labour receiving countries have shown the willingness to provide on the ground training for the workers whilst on assignment that add knowledge and skill areas, should migration eventuate. The other important project that involves the upskilling of English skills for primary school teachers will also form a firm foundation for the trade courses offered at TVET institutions, as students progress from formal education. These are small, but important stepping stones towards eventual migration.
At this juncture, allow me Chair to acknowledge with appreciation the ongoing seasonal work programs with the Governments of Australia and New Zealand.
The most recent water shortage in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the floods in the Fiji Islands, the tsunami that hit Samoa and Tonga, hurricanes which swept up Tubuai in Maohi Nui, Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, the Solomon Islands, Wallis and Futuna, the northern and eastern sides of the Fiji Islands and surrounding island groups, all figure in the scope of natural disasters that will see the displacement of people within respective boarders and assistance is needed to provide proper protection for those affected. This protection is essential as the young population from Kiribati and the region alike, begin to migrate on their own with the sound knowledge of climate change and what is in store for them, in the future.
I have highlighted the Kiribati perspective which I have no doubt can be put into context by any of the neighboring countries with little or no difference in the island vulnerable experiences, we all are facing.
The Nansen Initiative Protection Agenda kick starts the discussion on what potential recipient countries would need to consider outside of national legal frameworks when imposed upon by forcefully removed people. There are serious questions that need to be answered and I know the Protection Agenda will be agreed to and it is my genuine hope that as we progress with the consultations, we are able to provide insights from our individual country experiences.
The Initiative has shown that indeed there is social responsibility in the international community and that our efforts at the national levels to address internal movement of people affected by the sudden and slow onset of climate change and sea level rise are starting to receive international attention. The Protection Agenda is a soft but essential measure as it addresses a legal gap that exists amongst others, in the protection of displaced people outside of national borders.
The Stage is Set
The outcomes document of COP 18 highlights and correctly so the importance of cooperation between all nations that puts in place a platform of friendship and collaboration upon which adaptation activities may be launched.
Setting aside the character of the disaster to be used as a basis to trigger assistance and replacing it with a more appropriate and practical approach of determining whether or not the disaster in any form triggers displacement, is a better measure. The Nansen Initiative has responded to the challenge and invitation in paragraph 14(f) of the Cancun Outcome Agreement.
The international community is engaging and I acknowledge with appreciation their ongoing support and I challenge us all to be candid in our country specific experiences. I wish the consultations and deliberations in these few days a success with fruitful outcomes for the benefit of our respective peoples.
To conclude, let me bestow upon us all, our traditional Kiribati blessings of Te Mauri (Peace), Te Raoi (Health) ao te Tabomoa (Prosperity).
Kam bati n rabwa, Thank you very much!