ANALYSIS: How the US Is Aiding Training For Resilient Communities

The United States government supports various training and climate change-related programmes with the ultimate goal of building resilient communities in the Pacific. Through its Embassy in Fiji, it has funded
11 Nov 2017 19:55
ANALYSIS: How the US Is Aiding Training For Resilient Communities
Judith Cefkin.

The United States government supports various training and climate change-related programmes with the ultimate goal of building resilient communities in the Pacific.

Through its Embassy in Fiji, it has funded several relief efforts including the distribution of aid through the Fiji Red Cross Society in the immediate aftermath of Cyclone Winston.

Last Thursday, US Ambassador to the South Pacific, Judith Cefkin, opened a two-week long workshop held at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Suva dedicated to Ocean Acidification Measuring and Monitoring.

The phenomenon has been recognised as a major threat to the wider global marine ecosystem.

The US Government has also made a pledge to forward gender equality initiatives in the region, with expectations that climate change may give rise to further inequalities.

Ambassador Cefkin, in an interview, discussed the plans behind the goal of building stronger,  more resilient communities in the Pacific.

Here are excerpts from the interview:

Fiji Sun: Tell me a bit about the work the United States is doing in the Pacific with regard to climate change?

Ambassador Cefkin: I wanted to talk about some of the various programmes we’ve had going on and the various areas of environmental co-operation and conservation. We have been supportive of an initiative called Fish 2.0. It’s a public-private partnership so we are working together with an organisation in the United States, based in California. It is a global competition that seeks to match entrepreneurs working in the fisheries business with investors, but it is specifically to support those involved in the fisheries sector that have very innovative techniques that are environmentally sound and help fish in a sustainable manner.

This competition took place in 2015 and we had a workshop in Nadi and people involved in fisheries from throughout the South Pacific attended; and the workshop gave them mentoring and ideas on how to effectively advance their businesses and pitch their businesses and eventually it goes to a final competition that takes place in California. So a second competition has been taking place this year and the finals are taking place now in California and there are three finalists from the South Pacific – one each from Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Palau. We are trying to help share our knowledge in innovation, technology and entrepreneurship to support both business and environmental protection.

Fiji Sun: How important is strengthening the science behind ocean acidification as a basis for sound decision—making and action?

Ambassador Cefkin: Let me talk a little bit about the workshop that’s been going on here that we are sponsoring: that’s exactly what the point of the workshop is. It is trying to train Pacific scientists on how to effectively monitor and measure the impact of acidification in the ocean so that they can be part of a global network that’s in the process of doing this work.

And, in addition to the support that the State Department has provided, we have some experts from our National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that have been part of this workshop because that’s part of their mandate. We really have to understand the science that underlies the problem in order to be able to understand how we can mitigate the problem.

This workshop was done by the State Department in collaboration with the University of the South Pacific, the Ocean Foundation based in California and the Swedish Development Agency has provided support for it as well, and I think it’s quite exciting because it’s increasing scientific and technical know-how here in the Pacific.

Fiji Sun: Climate change has greater impact on women. Do you agree?

Ambassador Cefkin: I think that it is true that in communities, especially the rural communities, often the women are very much engaged with trying to ensure that food is available, and taking care of the families, so if climate change is impacting food security or the ability of the children to go to school then that’s a big concern to the women so I think they are very directly affected that way.

There’s a programme called the Global Entrepreneurship Summit that is particularly supporting women entrepreneurs and that will be taking place in Hyderabad, India at the end of November. We will be supporting the travel of three Fijian women entrepreneurs to attend that summit.

That will be a chance for them to network and to learn from other women entrepreneurs from around the world.

Fiji Sun: Tell us a bit about your work with Fiji Red Cross?

Ambassador Cefkin: There is an aid programme that the United States government is funding with the Fiji Red Cross Society called ‘Resilient Communities.’ I know that, in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston, we provided immediate relief through Fiji Red Cross. I know as part of the broader programme that there are certain areas of focus, but unfortunately they might not have the resources as broad and ideally as they would like so they’ve probably chosen some key areas to do the work in. They are doing a lot of training and identifying key responders in the communities that know what to do if another natural disaster strikes so that’s really the focus of the programme. The focus in the Pacific is very much on building resilience.

Fiji Sun: Do you have anything else you want to add on?

Ambassador Cefkin: For the media, one thing they can do is  try to go and see people that are affected by this just to see close-up what they are doing and how they are doing it. I think media can play a very big role in helping to advance understanding of that kind of work. You, as journalists, could look at some of the fisheries companies that were part of the programme Fish 2.0 the last time – that is just an example of the in-depth profiling you could do to educate the public.

Edited by Rusiate Mataika


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