The Vice-Chair of the Pacific Youth Council, Ms. Inangaro Vakaafi, was one of six youth delegates selected to make a presentation before the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon at the Youth and Children Forum held parallel to the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan.
The UN Chief made a special request to visit the forum to meet the young participants, a moment Ms. Vakaafi will recall for years to come.
“I am totally humbled to be the voice of our youth even if for only 2-3 minutes it was surreal meeting the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon I was trying to keep my composure and represent. However my thoughts kept drifting away thinking of the people back home and our Pasifika people whose lives and worlds have been rocked by Cyclone Pam, our prayers are coming your way,” said Ms. Vakaafi
Below is the full statement presented by Ms. Vakaafi on behalf of the Oceania youth –
“Warm Pacific Greetings to one and all here today.
I come from a region that has many Small Island Developing States situated in the largest ocean in the world, the Pacific or Oceania. We experience floods, cyclones, droughts, landslides, king tides, tsunamis and climate change.
Personally I experienced a major disaster in 2004 when my island Niue was hit by a Category 5 cyclone, Cyclone Heta. Many people doubted we would ever recover and recommended that we become completely merged as part of New Zealand but it was the determination of our government and our people that enabled us to bounce back stronger than before because resilience is part of our culture.
This experience changed my direction and perspective on disasters and that has led me here today.
Right now and over the past few days my people in the Pacific are living through a disaster, Cyclone Pam, that has left 45% Tuvalu population displaced, also affecting Kiribati, Vanuatu, Fiji and the rest of the region one way or another. We are a close knit Pacific family.
I am proud to say we have young people who are working as volunteers with the Red Cross, 350 Pacific and other volunteer organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations who are on the ground doing their part.
Through disasters come opportunities and as young leaders we should take the initiative to be part of the developments in our communities, countries and regions before we go global.
Small Island Developing States continue to face the effects of disasters some of which have increased in intensity and some of which have been exacerbated by climate change that also impedes their progress towards sustainable development.
As a region our leaders have agreed that, the Pacific priorities are Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction. We have taken on board a regional approach where our countries and regional organisations have come together to develop the Integrated Strategy for Climate and Disaster Resilient Development in the Pacific.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme is a participating partner alongside UNISDR, PIFS, SPC, USP and the Pacific Island Countries and territories, all of whom are working together.
So where do young people fit into this?
Our young people are already working together as part of networks such as Pacific Youth Council, 350 Pacific, SPREP’s Pacific Youth Environment Network and Pacific Emerging Environment Leaders Network, Pacific Youth Looking Beyond Disasters, the Pacific Partnership Gender, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (PPGCSD) and the Red Cross Society to name a few.
There is a word in Solomons pidgin Wansolwara, meaning One Ocean. So our approach is as one ocean, one people and one voice.
We as young people will inherit Integrated Strategy for Climate and Disaster Resilient Development in the Pacifi and as such we will need to work together. Investing in youth is a strategic choice to be highlighted as a major path towards positive change in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management.
Oue Tulou, Fakaaue Lahi!”