Reducing the risks from climate change and disasters would be futile if it does not reduce the risks to those who are most disproportionately impacted.
Therefore, climate change and disaster risk reduction (CCDRR) must ensure that the protection of life, security, and dignity of all people are at the center of its activities.
“Climate change and disasters threaten core human rights and prioritizing those most impacted by disasters and climate change must be the priority of all decision makers,” said the Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa, the Minister for Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation for the Fijian Government.
She added, “as such gender and ‘protection’ must be central to any activity which relates to climate change and/or disasters.”
The Hon. Minister also highlighted a regional collaborative initiative between the Governments of Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu, which was supported by the Pacific Risk Resilience Programme (PRRP) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji, UN Women and the Australian Government.
“The Protection in the Pacific (ProPA) Network is one of the networks that helps Pacific Island countries better understand and address these issues.”
“Whilst still in its early stages the ProPA network has made significant progress in the Pacific in helping to make gender and protection central not only to climate change but also for risk-informing development.”
Echoing the sentiments of the Australian Government’s Ambassador for the Environment, Mr Patrick Suckling, added that “climate change and gender equality represent the ultimate cross-cutting issues that define our ability to meet future challenges.”
“Women, as agents of change, are critical to pursuing sustainable development and the transition to a low emissions climate resilient world.”
“However, their critical role in climate action and management of natural resources is often overlooked in climate negotiations, investments and policies,” said Ambassador Suckling.
“The ProPa network was instrumental to ensuring core principles of protection, gender and social inclusion were incorporated within the regional Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP).
Speaking on behalf of the Vanuatu Government, the Director of the Department of Women’s Affairs under the Ministry of Justice and Community Services, Dorosday Kenneth Watson, shared how the Network has created a platform for regional government gender and protection actors to consult openly.
“It (ProPa Network) also provides us a safe space for learning and improving our own ability to deal with these issues within our own countries and across the Pacific.”
The Government of Tonga’s representative, Mr Samuela Pohiva shared how the Network has managed to influence the regional discourse on climate change and disaster risk management.
“Gender and protection are issues that occur every day and are constantly being exacerbated by the adverse impacts of climate change and disasters,” said Pohiva.
“Therefore, to place gender and protection as central to all climate actions, it must begin with risk informed development.”
“Through the PROPA network we are now able to converge as Network members and participate in discussions to influence regional policy.”
Hon. Vuniwaqa and representatives from Vanuatu, Tonga and the Forum Secretariat were speaking at a side event titled: The Centrality of Gender and Protection for Climate Action in the Pacific in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pavilion at the meeting of the twenty-third session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-23) based on experiences through the UNDP Pacific Risk Resilience Programme (PRRP).
The COP23 Climate Champion, Hon. Minister Inia Seruiratu concluded that the ultimate destination is Sustainable Development and gender and protection must be central in how we get there.
In wrapping up the event, Mr. Pradeep Kurukulasuriya, Head of Climate Change Adaptation, Global Environmental Finance Unit with UNDP reiterated the need for better gender and protection integration.
“The centrality of gender and protection helps us take a more human development perspective for climate change adaptation.”
“The ProPA network highlights the power of countries coming together and serves a great purpose in the Pacific.”
The ProPa Network is a unique collaboration of government officials from Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu working to advance gender and protection issues in their own countries.