'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Prime Minister of Samoa - 'The Pacific islands are drowning, we need the world’s help'
“Seeing is believing”, it is often said, so I want world leaders to see for themselves what our islands are doing to deal with climate change, natural disasters and the tough economic challenges thrust upon us.
Samoa will host the third international conference on small island developing states (Sids) from 1 September, and I want leaders from the 193 nations attending to rise above rhetoric and grandstanding, and move closer to binding international agreements on climate change. We understand the concerns of industrialised countries about economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions, but if we don’t act now it will be too late for many of our small islands that are already being inundated by rising sea levels. The international community has to understand that in an increasingly interrelated world, critical problems recognise no borders and ride roughshod over sovereignty.
Sids such as mine have come together, not as part of some glorified talking shop, but to review the progress we have made and to come up with solutions and reach agreement on what more needs to be done to meet the most pressing global challenges of our time.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, who supports the need for action for small, vulnerable nations like ours, will join us in Samoa. When he visited one of our neighbours, Kiribati, in 2011 he recalled meeting a young boy who told him that he was afraid to go to bed at night for fear of being inundated by sea water. That was brought home to the secretary general further by the fact that there was a life-jacket in his room. He later learned that the government had bought land in Fiji in case the entire population needed to be relocated if predictions that the sea will rise by one metre by the end of the century prove accurate.
I hope that agreement reached in Samoa will impact directly on the secretary general’s climate change summit in New York on 23 September. Countries like mine have played second fiddle to the agenda of the large powers in the world. In Samoa and in New York, our experience as the “canaries in the coalmine” must finally be understood by the international community and acted on.
We come together not to plead for aid but to forge genuine partnerships to fill the void of declining official assistance. Partnerships should not be held hostage to the north-south ideological divide. We want the rest of the world to understand that our problems are shared problems. These partnerships are practical and they ensure our countries are better prepared for climate disasters such as hurricanes, volcanoes and earthquakes as well as the critically important task of protecting the oceans and bio-diversity.
While we in sea-locked nations represent a small physical land mass and population, our surroundings – the oceans – cover three-quarters of the planet. Oceans are the world’s most important shared resource connecting and feeding people, while acting as a vast ecosystem regulating climate and weather. They are a key driving force in the global economy. The seas bring us together, not simply in terms of the bad news that is the global rise in sea level, but as an asset whose sustainable development binds us together and can contribute to our collective wealth as nations.
Our isolation from industrial centres has hindered our development in the past, but we are turning this to our advantage through responsible tourism for discerning tourists who value unspoilt and distant islands. Tourism is now the leading income earner for the majority of oceanic states.
The theme song for the Samoa summit is “There is hope”, but for our islands to realise this hope we need solutions to our challenges and the means to implement them. We also need meaningful, deliverable targets. We think we are getting there – and should anyone have any doubts about how serious I am, I would gently remind them that I know a thing or two about targets since I won a silver medal in target archery as the first prime minister to represent my country at the South Pacific Games in 2007.