The Pacific Islands conjures pictures of swaying palm trees and unspoiled beaches. But, after civil wars and unrest since the 1980’s, experts in the region are clear that Pacific Islanders cannot afford to be complacent about the future, even after almost a decade of relative peace and stability. And preventing conflict goes beyond ensuring law and order.
Women leaders in the Pacific Islands have acclaimed the agreement on reducing global warming achieved at the United Nations (COP21) Climate Change conference in Paris as an unprecedented moment of world solidarity on an issue which has been marked to date by division between the developing and industrialized world. But for Pacific small island developing states, which name climate change as the single greatest threat to their survival, it will only be a success if inspirational words are followed by real action.
High up in the mountainous interior of Papua New Guinea (PNG), the most populous Pacific Island state of 7.3 million people, rural lives are marked by strenuous work toiling land in rugged terrain with low access to basic services.
An estimated one-third of the population of Papua New Guinea, the most populous Pacific Island state, is now suffering in from the country’s worst drought this century and experts predict El Nino’s influence will carry on through March 2016.
The charred foundations are all that is left of the homes that made up Kenemote village in the mountainous Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Islands.
It has only been six months since Iveti, 37, lost her husband of 18 years, but already she is facing hardship and worry about the future.
Zibie Wari, a former teacher and founder of the Tropical Gems grassroots youth group in the town of Madang on the north coast of Papua New Guinea, has seen the hopes of many young people for a decent future quashed by the impacts of corruption and unfulfilled promises of development.
A referendum on independence within the next five years dominated campaigning in the recent general election held in Bougainville, an autonomous region of 300,000 people in the east of Papua New Guinea (PNG), which emerged from a decade-long civil war 15 years ago.
Fourteen Pacific Island Forum countries are currently locked in negotiations with their two largest economic neighbours, Australia and New Zealand, to forge a new regional free trade agreement called ‘PACER Plus’, which supporters believe will boost economic growth in the region.
From Arawa, once the capital city of Bougainville, an autonomous region in eastern Papua New Guinea in the southwest Pacific Ocean, a long, winding road leads high up into the Crown Prince Ranges in the centre of the island through impenetrable rainforest.
The recent dramatic fall in world oil prices, with Brent crude plummeting from a high of 115 dollars per barrel in June last year to around 47 dollars in January 2015, is beginning to benefit Pacific Islanders who are seeing lower prices for fuel and energy.
Severe Tropical Cyclone Pam, which swept through the South Pacific Island state of Vanuatu in mid-March, has deepened hardships faced by people living in the informal settlements of the capital, Port Vila. Winds of up to 340 kph and torrential rain shattered precarious homes, cut off fragile public services and flooded communities with unsealed roads, poor drainage and sanitation.
As Pacific Islanders contemplate the scale of devastation wrought by Cyclone Pam this month across four Pacific Island states, including Vanuatu, leaders in the region are calling with renewed urgency for global action on climate finance, which they say is vital for building climate resilience and arresting development losses.
Rising multi-drug resistance in patients suffering from tuberculosis, a debilitating infectious lung disease which mainly impacts the developing world, has led to a public health emergency in the southwest Pacific Island state of Papua New Guinea, according to state officials.
As conflicts in the Middle East and elsewhere pushed the number of refugees to 13 million last year, the international community is struggling to shoulder the humanitarian responsibility of protecting those fleeing violence and persecution in their homelands.