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.
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.
Rampant unsustainable logging in the southwest Pacific Island states of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, where the majority of land is covered in tropical rainforest, is worsening hardship, human insecurity and conflict in rural communities.
The recent blockade of ships entering the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle, Australia, has brought much-needed attention to the negative impacts of the fossil fuel industry on global climate patterns. But it will take more than a single action to bring the change required to prevent catastrophic levels of climate change.
A pledge by political leaders two years ago to accelerate efforts toward closing the gender gap in the Pacific Islands has been boosted with the announcement that three women will take the helm of the regional intergovernmental organisation, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, headquartered in Suva, Fiji.
Populations of many Melanesian countries in the southwest Pacific Islands region are expected to double in a generation, threatening regional and national efforts to improve low economic and human development indicators.
You can count the inhabitants of this isolated, tidy village of multi-coloured houses and flower bushes among global warming’s first victims – but not in the usual sense.
Natural reserves such as gold, copper, nickel, gas and timber are being extracted in the western Pacific island states of Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands to feed the soaring economies of East and South East Asia. But despite these Pacific nations recording economic growth rates of 6-11 percent over the past seven years, opportunities for human development have not been grasped.
Women’s political representation in the Pacific Islands region is globally the lowest at 3.65 percent, compared to the world average of 18 percent. Leadership is still widely perceived as ‘men’s business’ and voting is heavily influenced by nepotism and money politics. However, Rhoda Sikilabu, minister for community affairs in Isabel Province in the Solomon Islands is demonstrating that women leaders can drive development progress and win voter support.
Logging is the largest industry in the Solomon Islands, an archipelago located northwest of Fiji, where 80 percent of the islands are covered in tropical rainforest. But, although timber accounts for 60 percent of this South Pacific nation’s export earnings, most local communities have experienced no beneficial development.
Anguish over the whereabouts of loved ones who went missing during a five-year civil conflict that ended a decade ago continues for countless families in the Solomon Islands. Searching for the remains of those who disappeared is vital to enduring peace in this culturally diverse south-west Pacific island nation of 550,000.
In the Solomon Islands in the south-west Pacific, where two in three of the estimated female population of 252,000 have experienced physical and sexual partner abuse, recognition is growing that ending the cycle of violence cannot be achieved without the partnership of men as catalysts of change. And initiatives by men are gaining support.
Many Pacific Island nations are celebrating the success of rising school enrolment rates, with 14 members of the 16-member Pacific Island Forum on target to meet Millennium Development Goal 2: achieving universal primary education by 2015.
The immense scale of the Pacific Ocean, at 165 million square kilometres, inspires awe and fascination, but for those who inhabit the 22 Pacific island countries and territories, it is the very source of life. Without it, livelihoods and economies would collapse, hunger and ill-health would become endemic and human survival would be threatened.
Forty-five-year-old Serah Kei began building her artificial island and eco-lodge resort 26 years ago in Langa Langa Lagoon, located on the Solomon Island’s Malaita Province, about four hours by boat from the nation’s capital, Honiara. Kei, a single mother, paid for the construction by undertaking the laborious task of making and selling ‘shell money’ and finally opened Serah’s Lagoon Hideaway, which accommodates up to twelve visitors, in 2006.