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Climate change is a controversial issue which is discussed by people globally. Greenhouse gases continue to rise, which leads to global warming causing long-lasting changes to our climate system. Indeed, most of the countries in the world are experiencing firsthand the drastic effect of climate change.
As a coastal country, Fiji is exposed to substantial climate risks. In 2016, the most intense tropical cyclone – Cyclone Winston made landfall in Fiji which caused widespread damage. According to the post-disaster needs assessment, Tropical Cyclone Winston caused an overall $1.4 billion in damage, and 62% of the population was adversely affected. Hundreds of felicities and houses were destroyed, which resulted in a serious concern for Fijians’ health and safety. The sustainable development goals are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. SDG goal 13 emphasizes the importance of taking urgent actions to combat climate change and its risks. In response to international commitments and national needs, cooperating with NGOs, the Fiji government implemented urgent actions to combat climate change. This essay illustrates the role of NGOs and the measures the Fiji government took with the climate change case study.
Fiji- as well as other low- and middle-income countries more broadly- are somewhat unique in that NGOs play a much more prominent role in service delivery, both during routine operations and more importantly during emergencies such as Cyclone Winston. The Federation of Red cross (national level) is a non-government organization, which plays an important, well-articulated, and government-endorsed role in response to an emergency.
Through multiple community-based branches and members, on the instruction of the National Disaster Management Organization, Red Cross activate their emergency policy and plan. As a first responder of disaster, the Red Cross took several actions in response to the cyclone. The president of the Red Cross submitted a disaster report to the police center immediately after the disaster. Volunteers from each branch sent all the supplements to the local communities, such as emergency shelters. Collaborating with MOH, Red Cross in Fiji helped to recover the community and carry out psychological aid to help the villager go through the disaster.
In terms of long-term development, it is essential to help Fijian adapt the climate change and prepare for climate-related disasters. Working with pilot communities, the Red Cross society in Fiji has developed seasonal calendars through focus group discussions to identify traditional indicators of climate variability and change. The seasonal calendars were used by communities as a simple Early Warning System which generates and disseminate warning information of disasters.
Furthermore, targeting on disaster preparedness, the Red Cross in Fiji has been conducting pieces of training and workshops throughout the country. The training focuses on life-saving skills and listening to important information via mobile phone. In collaboration with community representatives, knowledge and training can be passed on to others in their community. The training ensures that Fijian are well prepared for climate change.
Moreover, the Federation of Red Cross has formed a bridge between policymakers and local communities. As the president of the Red Cross in the Suva community illustrated, ‘We have a good relationship with the government. In our disaster plan, the Red Cross is part of the emergency operation throughout Fiji.’
Due to the limited recourse in Fiji, Red Cross is an auxiliary to the public authorities and a partner in disaster response and recovery. The Red Cross in Fiji has a seat for disaster response planning, which advocates for the establishment of the disaster management framework. The Federation of Red Cross and the National Disaster Management Office signed of a memorandum of understanding to review Fiji’s disaster risk management legislation in Suva in 2018. National Red Cross is obligated to support the government to develop policy approaches that protect vulnerable communities, particularly from disasters, crises, and emergencies.
Helping more vulnerable regions such as Nagigi village adapt to climate change must go hand-in-hand with our efforts to integrate disaster risk measures into national strategies. Besides the contributions from the Red Cross, the Fiji government exerts efforts on combating climate change and its consequences.
The Fiji government released the National Adaptation Plan in 2018. The NAP intends to influence and accelerate the national development pathway towards climate-resilient development. This NAP established 160 adaptation measures to be prioritized over the five-year period. For example, to reduce vulnerability to major assets, affordable serviced land close to employment nodes will be provided for households across all income brackets. Indeed, the implementation of the NAP will not only reduce vulnerability by tackling environmental and climate risks but also enhances the resilience of the nation.
The NAP is sitting on top of the policy-program process, allocating the resources to respond to the problem. A series of programs have been developed, each with a distinct set of actions to be implemented. In response to the consequences of climate change and regarding sustainable development, the Fiji government relocated vulnerable communities into the mainland immediately after Cyclone Winston. Relocation will be one adaptation strategy in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects.
In terms of safety and substantial development of the country, relocation contributes to reducing the vulnerability of individuals and communities, strengthening their resilience, and reducing their exposure to hazards. Moreover, it is the most appropriate solution for post-disaster recovery, in particular for those who lost their home. UN-HABITAT program manager has illustrated the need for the program in an interview, ‘relocation, planned or otherwise, is an option of last resort, and great care needs to be taken to ensure that the identified climate change threats are indeed the key cause of the need to relocate’.
However, the implementation of relocation is challenging, which is constricted by a number of barriers. As illustrated in a research paper, ‘Relocation is costly—financially, psychologically, and socially’. Financial capacity directly influents all the implementation of adaptation measures. More specifically, national budgets are still allocating scarce resources towards recovery efforts regarding Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston. As part of the relocation, the earthworks alone cost the Fiji Government around FJ $500,000, which converts to approximately USD 230,000. Under this circumstance, the new accommodations in the mainland are built with a poor standard. Furthermore, due to the urgency of relocation, there is no document addressing the national development on a long-term basis. Infrastructure construction and improving education, health service, and institutional capacity are other concerns.
Migration into the mainland might inhibit Fijian from accessing environmental resources which damages their livelihoods. Additionally, the ocean forms a ‘social network’ which links coastal residents together. Compound with pre-existing pressures such as overcrowding, unemployment, and poor infrastructure, relocation might disadvantage the community. Consequently, some villagers are not willing to move.
In general, climate change has exacerbated different circumstances. The deterioration of our environment and the extreme climate events are a vital signal from nature, which urges us to take actions to combat climate change and its consequences.
Climate change is a global issue which requires extensive participation and efforts from all stakeholders. The contribution of NGOs on climate change is crucial, complementing with the effort the Fiji government exerted to strengthen national resilience and capacity. Particularly, the Federation of the Red Cross in Fiji provides an essential function during an emergency and is the only NGO that has a seat with the government’s emergency management framework.
Furthermore, through the case study of relocation, the policy-program development process is influenced by a series of uncertainties, which is bound to be complicated in reality. The complexity of the policy-program process gives rise to several challenges on measures implementation, which requires pre-assessment and follow-up revisions. More specifically, relocation must be done in a manner that accounts for the substantial development of the community putting local priorities at the center of this process.
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