30 November 2011

First Conference on regional integration of French Caribbean Departments

By S. Coward

Forum DFA, the first conference on regional integration of the French Departments in the Americas (DFA) will be held from November 30th to December 2nd at U.A.G. (University of the French Antilles and French Guyana) at Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, F.W.I.

The theme of the Forum DFA is not just about the regional integration of the French Departments in the Americas with the greater Caribbean region. “Today it necessary to redraw our borders and to engage in a dialogue with the continents to the North and the South, by learning about our history and by interrogating about the future of this melting pot of civilization and development; regional integration must be managed while protecting and favouring its rich diversity” according to Xavier d’Arthuys of the organizer’s office in Paris.

"The French Caribbean has an important role to play and has to find a way to work with the other countries of the (English, Spanish and Dutch speaking) Caribbean to make their contribution to the economic development –through training, research & development and co-operation, as well as ecological development –through geopolitical dialogues- and artistic & cultural development of the region," (said d’Arthuys).

Numerous academics and professional experts from France, the French West Indies, Barbados, Cuba, Jamaica & Mexico will be participating in the 3-day conference, which will be inaugurated by Mr. Victorin Lurel, President of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe and Mr. Pascal Saffache, President U.A.G, as well as Ms. Marie-Luce Penchard, Minister of French Overseas Departments & Territories and Immigration.

The 3-day conference is held at the campus of Fouillole (Amphitheatre Le Pointe, Salle du Conseil & Salle L of the Faculty of Law) in Point-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, where the University of the French Antilles & French Guyana is headquartered, 

The Paris-based association Al’Chimie has been assigned by the commission ‘L’année des Outre-Mer français 2011’ to organise Forum DFA, in partnership with the Université Antilles Guyane (University of the French Antilles & French Guyana), DRAC (French Regional Institute of Cultural Affairs) of Guadeloupe, and the French Embassy in St. Lucia. 

For a copy of the conference programme and further information, please contact:
Katy Borie
c/o AZUL s.a.r.l.
26, rue Saint Gilles
75003 Paris, FRANCE
Tel.: +33 6 13 54 32 56 (France)
Email: katy.borie@azulamericas.com

29 November 2011

French Préfet in St. Martin criticized for exceeding authority

Mussington against the Préfet chairing commission meeting

Daily Herald (Sint Maarten)

MARIGOT--Movement for the Advancement of the People (MAP) leader Louis Mussington said Tuesday he was firmly against Préfet Jacques Simonnet chairing the upcoming joint mixed commission meeting now scheduled for December 3. French Minister for Overseas Territories Marie-Luce Penchard is expected to be in St. Martin for the inauguration of the meeting.

"I cannot accept under Article 74 that the Préfet is calling the shots on this one," said Mussington. "I've always been a strong advocate of north side south side cooperation and that's why I joined the discussion on status change in Paris. I was very insistent that we have the political authority to discuss issues with our Dutch side counterparts without interference from the State's representative."

"Article LO-6352 clearly states professional training, economic development, social development, infrastructure development, tourism, transportation etc, all fall within our Collectivité's competences. So I cannot accept that he is leading a delegation. It is not his area of competence. In my opinion he should be playing a supportive role and not a leading role."

Mussington added he wanted to make his point because he does not want the new Préfet to assume this is the normal way of doing things.

"I believe President Frantz Gumbs and Senator Fleming have failed in their mission to show leadership and assume responsibilities and play their role efficiently. There is a great need for north-south cooperation, yes, but everyone must assume their roles accordingly."

He continued: "What is under the State's jurisdiction such as security, immigration, and health matters, falls under the Préfet's responsibility but the buck stops there. People are not sensing a real change because the State is conducting meetings for us. We need to be acting more responsibly and acting as though we really are in charge."

28 November 2011

Colonial pioneer files suit against Guam's self-determination

Guam Shows the Way

The misnamed Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is filing a lawsuit against the government of Guam, charging it with “discrimination” – on the grounds that voter qualifications in the upcoming plebiscite on the island’s status are “undemocratic.” 

The problem? Guam has decided that the American invaders who seized control of the Pacific isle after the defeat of the Spanish Empire – and incorporated the territory into the American Borg by order of Harry Truman in 1950 – aren’t going to get to vote. According to the Decolonization Registry set up by the elected government of Guam, those qualified to vote include:
Those persons designated as Native Inhabitants of Guam or their descendant, defined within Chapter 21 of Title 3 of the Guam Code Annotated, who are eighteen (18) years of age or older on the date of the Political Plebiscite, and are registered voters of Guam. ‘Native Inhabitants’ shall mean those persons who became U.S. citizens by virtue of the authority and enactment of the 1950 Organic Act of Guam and descendants of those persons. ‘Descendant’” shall mean a person who has proceeded by birth, such as a child or grandchild, to the remotest degree, from any Native Inhabitant of Guam, as defined in Subsection (e), and who is considered placed in a line of succession from such ancestor where such succession is by virtue of blood relations.”

National Review reports the story as follows:

“The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Arnold Davis, is a former Air Force officer who has been a resident of the island since 1977. When he tried to register for the plebiscite, his application was rejected and marked as ‘void’ by the Guam Election Commission because Davis is white.”

This is demonstrably false: as the above cited ruling by the Registry makes clear, anyone who was living on Guam in 1950, when the US declared Guam a “non self-governing territory,” and officially colonized it, is eligible to vote, as are their descendants, no matter what their race. 

The plebiscite, which should have been held in 1950, effectively nullifies the conquest of Guam by the US and the denial of its right to national self-determination. That this injustice may soon be coming to an end is what sticks in the craw of Mr. Davis and Neocon National Review. Guam is booty in the game of Empire, an important symbol of American hegemony in the Pacific, and the very idea that the Guamanians want their country back is an affront to the neocons.

Guam has been systematically pillaged by the American conquistadors, its natural resources and beauty despoiled by military encroachment, its native peoples outnumbered by acquisitive invaders – and corrupted by a generous welfare system that has turned Chamorro communities into the Pacific equivalent of our own infamous Indian reservations. 

To make matters worse, an expected flood of US military personnel – as many as 10,000, and their families – are expected to arrive on the island in due course, after having been kicked out of Okinawa by the Japanese. The rapid expansion of numerous military facilities on and around the island is also projected. What this amounts to is, quite literally, an invasion – and the Guamanians are fighting back.

With typical neoconnish rhetoric about “democracy” and “equality,” the CIR lawsuit contends the plebiscite will amount to a massive act of “discrimination,” but this is nonsensical if we consider the crucial context in which the vote is occurring.

Let’s say an invading army occupies your town, and declares it a “non self-governing territory.” They make Main Street the center of a vast and sprawling military base, and commandeer the town’s resources to this end. Tens of thousands of soldiers converge on the place, turning it into a playground for hordes of barely-educated juvenile delinquents.

You and the original inhabitants of your town have had enough, and decide to organize a vote on the question of the town’s future, a plebiscite offering three options: independence, becoming a protectorate of the invading army, or outright union with the invaders. In an act of “discrimination” and “racism,” you disqualify any of the invaders or their spawn from voting: only the original townspeople, whose property was overrun, are permitted to participate.

Is this “undemocratic”? Maybe. Is it, however, an injustice? The answer is an emphatic no!

It is, indeed, an act of supreme justice, one that doesn’t recognize temporal limits to the concept of right, but carries it to its logical conclusion: the idea that the restoration of lost rights is the precondition of liberty. A conquered people surely “discriminates” against their conquerors by disdaining them, and regretting their very presence – they would have to be inhuman not to.

In the battle between “democracy” and justice, libertarians take the side of the latter in any and all cases – and, in this case, the line is sharply drawn. On one side, we have those who uphold the alleged democratic “right” of the majority to expropriate the property and liberty of the minority. On the other side of the barricades stands a people who just want their country back.

Well, then, the smartasses among my readers – of which there are many – might say, doesn’t this mean you want to give America back to the Indians? The short answer is: yes – especially the isle of Manhattan. A somewhat longer answer is: while true justice knows no statute of limitations, the reality is that the passage of time clouds the record, including conflicting claims over just land titles, and so it is not always practical to carry out this restorative principle in actual practice. Yet that doesn’t invalidate the principle itself: it only impels us to apply it whenever and wherever possible.

In the case of Guam, the historical record is relatively recent – and clear. The ongoing rape of a once beautiful and blessed isle is a crime, and there is no reason why the rapist and his descendants and agents should have a say in its future – any more than the German army marching into Austria, in 1938, had any “right” to vote in the “plebiscite” that incorporated the country into the German Reich.

In 1950, Truman and the US Congress passed the “Guam Organic Act,” [.pdf] which absorbed the island into the archipelago of colonial possessions that would serve as lily-pads for the projection of US power into Eastasia. Nobody asked the Guamanians what they wanted: as a subject people, they had no say in the matter. Now they are determined to have their say, and let the US “exceptionalists,” neocon democracy-mongers, and born-again “anti-racists” over at National Review make the most of it!

To underscore the contempt for which the Empire holds its subjects, a recent delegation of 15 US Senators on their way to a China junket didn’t bother meeting with Governor Eddie Calvo, a snub that had the Governor livid:

“This morning, Guam Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo asked whether I would be greeting the 15 U.S. Senators scheduled to arrive at Guam’s Andersen Air Force Base today. We were both surprised and extremely upset that no one in the federal establishment informed Guam of their visit. We called the Navy to verify this stopover and we were told that the U.S. Senators will not entertain any meeting or discussions with Guam leaders or the Guamanian people. Instead of landing at the A.B. Won Pat International Airport, Guam, they have decided to shield their visit in secrecy and land within the confines of Andersen Air Force Base.

“In the 100 years we have been a colony of the United States, the U.S. government hardly did anything to resolve our colonial status. What kind of democracy allows colonialism to flourish? I am livid the U.S. Senate, a body created by the will of the people of 13 colonies who wanted freedom and democracy, would turn its back on the Guamanian people. It is obvious we are not part of their constituency, and they do not consider us a valuable part of the American family. This only serves to inflame our long-held belief that we are an American colony of second-class citizens who matter only when our geopolitical position is needed by the U.S. government.”

Adding to the insult was President Obama’s refusal to meet with Guam officials when his plane stopped for refueling en route to the Eastasia Summit: the White House didn’t even take the time to issue a statement to the people of Guam. Which brings to mind the Governor’s trenchant question to the 15 Senators:

“If Guam was so important to U.S. strategic interests, then why would the nation’s leaders continue snubbing Guamanians? If the Senate wants to thumb its nose at Guamanians, then perhaps it is time for Guamanians to call in every injustice ever committed upon our people by the US government.”

As always, the reflexive arrogance of the high and mighty sets the stage for their ultimate undoing. Guam may be a forgotten outpost of empire, a resting place for Uncle Sam’s boot as he performs a “Pacific pivot,” but the Guamanians’ desire to regain control over their destiny ought to be a lesson – and an inspiring example – to the whole world.

26 November 2011

Turks & Caicos Civil Servants: "We want our country back"

By Vivian Tyson 
Senior Editor

“We’ve had enough of the Brits. It’s time for them to leave the Turks and Caicos Islands because all they are doing in messing up our country and inflicting pain and suffering on our people, while they are living it up and enjoying themselves like they are on an extended vacation." - A Turks & Caicos Islander

Hundreds of angry Civil Servants in the Turks and Caicos Islands went on strike early Tuesday morning, disconnecting the power to Government’s administrative building in the island-capital of Grand Turk and marching to the Governor’s office where they chained doors to a building in which a meeting of UK-advisors was being held. 

Wearing red shirts and brandishing strongly-worded placards, the civil servants vented their rage at the Interim’s Government’s austerity measures which include plans to sever 300 of them by the end of the year. 

The majority of Government services in Grand Turk, where most of the country’s 2,500 civil servants are located, ground to a crippling halt. In Providenciales, the most populous of the 30 Turks and Caicos Islands and which is located 22 miles from Grand Turk, about 50 civil servants also took industrial action, blocking the entry to the Immigration Department where they held a rally.

Government schools were closed country-wide, as well as the Treasury Departments, Labour, Immigration, the Maritime Division and a section of the Judiciary, including the Labour Tribunal. There were reports that the strike action had affected domestic and international flights, but John Smith, CEO for the Turks and Caicos Islands Airports Authority said the industrial action did not affect aviation. In a few instances there were slight delays, he said, but this could be attributed to several factors, including the weathy.

Later in the afternoon, about 60 civil servants descended on the Providenciales International Airport where they chanted “We want our country back! We want our country back!”

Dr. Rufus Ewing, President of the Civil Service Association (CSA) which organised the strike, took a microphone and encouraged the civil servants to stand up for their rights.

“We’ve had enough of the British Government and their oppressive policies,” he stated. “Enough is enough.” 

He then led a motorcade from the airport to the Hilly Ewing Building (named after his father, a former political leader) which houses the (British) Special Investigation and Prosecution Team (SIPT) and the (British) Governor’s office in Providenciales.

Ewing said Civil Servants are protesting because of the Interim Government’s failure to extend the deadline for expression of interest in the voluntary severance scheme for all civil servants and its failure to provide a severance package based on civil servants' highest basis salary during their period of employment. 

The CSA is also against Government’s failure to reduce the period of ban from the civil service from 4 years to 2 years and its failure to consider staff redeployment before voluntary or compulsory redundancy, and its unwillingness to complete a proper public sector reform assessment before redundancy. The association is also up in arms because of increased taxation, significantly reduced scholarship opportunities, reduced social services support, increasing unemployment, reduced support for Youth programmes, unfair laws and unfair policies that are detrimental to the well-being of Turks and Caicos Islands’ children.

In a telephone interview from Grand Turk, one irate protestor told The SUN: “We’ve had enough of the Brits. It’s time for them to leave the Turks and Caicos Islands because all they are doing in messing up our country and inflicting pain and suffering on our people, while they are living it up and enjoying themselves like they are on an extended vacation. They just don’t care about our people. Enough is enough!” 

A range of UK Government funded advisers are now in place to offer support and guidance to the Governor and to the public service after the British suspended parts of the Turks and Caicos Islands Constitution on August 14, 2009. Ministerial government and the House of Assembly were suspended meaning that Cabinet no longer exists and the House of Assembly was dissolved and Members’ seats are vacated. The constitutional right to trial by jury was also suspended.

Reacting to the strike action, British-appointed Chief Executive, Martin Stanley, who is currently acting as Governor, threatened to dock a day’s pay from the striking workers, while adding that Government has contingency plans in place for such events.

“During the strike as we concentrate on essential and emergency services, we ask the people of TCI to be patient as they will not receive the usual high standard of public service on strike days,” 

Stanley said in a press release. “I would also ask those strikers who work with the vulnerable members of our society to continue to balance their desire to protest with ensuring that there is adequate service provision to the needy. While there is no law against striking in the TCI , clearly there are consequences for workers who do strike, such as losing a day’s pay.”

In a separate statement issued on Monday night, Stanley said he was surprised that the CSA called a strike concerning the terms of the voluntary severance scheme.

“This scheme offers public servants the opportunity to volunteer to leave the service in return for severance payments which can amount to as much as two years salary. Furthermore, the original offer was improved following representations from the CSA. The offer to weekly paid staff was approximately doubled, for example,” he said.

“I appreciate that the CSA would have preferred the scheme to be even more generous but – as we have already received nearly 500 expressions of interest in this scheme – there is clearly a large number of civil servants who see this as an opportunity. We are currently generating individual offers for each of these people, and we will ask them to indicate whether or not they wish to accept by Friday, 9 Dec 2011.”

He also stated that the Interim Administration is “deeply sympathetic to the challenging circumstances faced by public servants” as it works to improve the Government’s financial situation and rebalance the TCI civil service to better meet local needs and priorities.

“I am therefore keen to continue to meet with the Civil Service Association to discuss their concerns and would ask again for their support in making the changes and improvements required for the greater good of the TCI,” Stanley added.

Climate Change in Latin America and the Caribbean


Adopted at the fourth plenary session 
of the Organization of American States (OAS)


            HAVING SEEN resolutions CIDI/RES. 241 (XV-O/10), AG/RES. 2588 (XL-O/10), and CIDI/RES. 260 (XVI-O/11), “Climate Change in the Countries of the Hemisphere”;


            That socioeconomic development and environmental protection are interdependent pillars of sustainable development, of which poverty eradication is an essential target;

            That climate change generates adverse impacts throughout the Hemisphere, causing deterioration in the quality of life and the environment for present and future generations;

            That the most recent scientific evidence, including the Fourth Assessment Report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), indicates that it is necessary to reduce global emissions in order to stabilize the earth’s temperature in the medium and long terms;

            That the OAS member states face significant risks from the adverse impacts of climate change, particularly those vulnerable in accordance with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and require adaptation strategies to counteract such effects;

            That the Organization of American States (OAS) member states and the international community share the responsibility of finding effective and equitable solutions to climate change in accordance with the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and their respective capabilities, and all other principles, objectives and provisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change;

            That the OAS member states endorse the efforts underway to mobilize financial and technological support in the Hemisphere to address adaptation and mitigation needs of its developing countries;

            That the OAS has adopted resolutions and declarations to support the efforts of the member states in climate change and sustainable development, including: resolutions AG/RES. 1674 (XXIX-0/99), “Climate Change in the Americas”; AG/RES. 1736 (XXX-O/00) and AG/RES. 1821 (XXXI-O/01), “The Socioeconomic and Environmental Impact of Climate Change on the Countries of the Hemisphere”; AG/RES. 2588 (XL-O/10), “Climate Change in the Countries of the Hemisphere”; and the Declaration of Santo Domingo for the Sustainable Development of the Americas (CIDI/RIMDS-II/DEC.1/10)[1]/; and

            That the sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 16) and the sixth session of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP-CMP 6) were held from November 29 to December 10, 2010, in Cancún, Mexico,


1.                   To reaffirm the commitments undertaken in the relevant instruments, resolutions, and declarations on sustainable development and climate change within the framework of the Organization of American States (OAS).

2.                   To support the efforts of the OAS member states to promote economic and social development and environmental protection in a comprehensive manner, consistent with the actions to eradicate poverty.

3.                   To welcome with appreciation the Cancún outcomes of the sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 16) and, for those who are Party to the Kyoto Protocol, the sixth session of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 6), held in Cancún, Mexico, from November 29 to December 10, 2010.[2]/

4.                   To work to strengthen the resilience of the OAS member states to the adverse impacts of climate change, especially the most vulnerable states of the Hemisphere, and to support the development of climate change adaptation activities.

5.                   To support the efforts of the OAS member states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including the promotion of capacity-building and information exchange activities.

6.                   To urge all OAS member states to work together to build on the decisions adopted at the thirteenth and sixteenth sessions of the Conference of the Parties, including both implementation tasks and issues to be resolved, in order to ensure the success of COP 17/CMP 7..[3]/[4]/

7.                   To promote capacity-building and information exchange, related to climate change, including the development and strengthening of the meteorological capacities of the OAS member states.

8.                   To highlight the special needs of people, communities, and ecosystems vulnerable to climate change in the countries of the Hemisphere and take them into account in OAS plans, programs and activities in the area of climate change.

9.                   To urge also all OAS member states to seek and agree upon ambitious equitable, effective, and efficient results of an inclusive and transparent negotiation process to ensure the success of the Seventeenth Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 17) and the seventh session of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP 7), to be held in Durban, South Africa.

10.               To support the General Secretariat’s efforts to mobilize resources aimed at furthering implementation of climate change-related activities.

11.               To request the Inter-American Council for Integral Development to report to the General Assembly, at its forty-third regular session on the implementation of this resolution.

[1].         The Plurinational State of Bolivia places on record that it is not party to the Declaration of Santo Domingo for the Sustainable Development of the Americas, adopted ….
[2].             The Plurinational State of Bolivia places on record that it presented a formal and express objection to the results of COP 16 and CMP 6 because they…
[3].             The Plurinational State of Bolivia places on record that at the sixteenth session of the Conference of the Parties, held in Cancún, for the first time in the history…
[4].             The Delegation of Mexico states that all the decisions of the Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change have been adopted, …

Ua Mau Ke Ea: Sovereignty Endures – book announcement

Purchase the book online at http://www.puafoundation.org/products/ 

$35.00 plus $5.00 shipping and handling.

Recommended by Overseas Territories Review.

24 November 2011

Improving access to climate financing for the Pacific Islands

by Nic Maclellan


In a Lowy Institute Analysis, Nic Maclellan discusses the challenges and opportunities for Pacific Island governments to access adaptation funding, to respond to the adverse effects of climate change. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) commits developed countries to provide climate financing to developing nations, to address climate impacts on food security, water supply, agriculture and public health. But despite recent commitments of 'fast start' climate funding from donors, Pacific Island governments face significant obstacles in accessing resources to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. The Analysis outlines innovative approaches that could strengthen Pacific access to climate finance and improve outcomes for vulnerable communities in our region.

A Policy Brief on the topic by the author is available here.

23 November 2011

Cook Islands PM speaks on alarming effects of climate change

Danger posed by climate change, alarming

At a speech in Noumea, (Cook Islands) Prime Minister Hon Henry Puna told delegates the danger imposed by climate change on the Cook Islands was alarming. Puna was one of two political leaders invited as special guests speakers for the 7th SPC Conference in Noumea which began on Monday. The conference theme was ‘Climate Change and Food Security – challenges and solutions in the Pacific Islands countries and territories.'  Puna was joined by the Chair of the 7th Conference, Hon John Silk, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Marshall Islands.  The President of New Caledonia, His Excellency Mr Harold Martin opened the conference, for Ministers from the 22 Pacific Island Countries and Territories including American Samoa, Tonga, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Samoa.

Statement by Hon. Henry Puna
Prime Minister
Cook Islands

In 2010, the Pacific Small Island Developing States five-year review of the Mauritius Strategy for Further Implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action for Sustainable Development of SIDS (MSI+5) found that since the Rio Meeting in 1992 our vulnerability has increased whilst our capacity to cope has not. This has been due in no small part to the additional pressures of climate change, climate variability and sea-level rise which have been compounded by the international fuel, food and financial crises. These new pressures have exacerbated those that were identified in 1992. 

We share much in common. However, we each have our own particular challenges and opportunities, many of which stem from our largest shared resource, the Pacific Ocean. We have, are, and will continue forever to exist in a Blue World, the vast Pacific Ocean, which comprises over 95% of our sovereign territory and over which we have stewardship in the interest of the Global Commons.

Socially, the context of widespread small communities on generally small if not tiny islands provided, and still largely does provide, the basis for our traditional and cultural social fabric. The ocean feeds us (and a large part of the global community), it endangers us (cyclones, storm surges, and tsunamis), and underpins the many challenges we face (isolation from markets, high cost of imports and exports, cost of internal transport) and opportunities they have for economic development (tourism, fisheries, seabed minerals). 

Pacific Leaders have stated quite clearly that climate change is singularly the biggest threat facing our region now and into the future. I fear a recent report I read about over the weekend that indicates that greenhouse gas emissions may exceed the worst case scenario of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report in 2007. Unfortunately, this report over the weekend indicates that the problem is pretty close to running away from us.

For over a decade the science tells us that without dramatic reductions in green house gas emissions the futures of our island nations is under threat. The current and impending impacts of climate change will affect every aspect of our very survival into the future. 

The Cook Islands, like many of your countries has made great efforts to advance our data gathering, understanding and knowledge in order to enhance our preparedness to build our resilience to mitigate against disasters particularly now resulting from climate change. We are attempting to consider our vulnerabilities from national, regional and international perspectives, and quite frankly, what we have learnt is most alarming, and is going to require a concerted effort of those of us here today as well as many others in order to reduce the risks across our development agenda these vulnerabilities bring. 

Colleagues, let me now highlight the issue of “The Level of Acceptable Risk”, and of course who is responsible for determining the level of acceptable risk. It is within this context of risk that I will address our collective task here at this 7th Conference of the SPC the them of which is “Climate Change and Food Security – Managing risks for sustainable development”. 
There is no such circumstance as “No Risk”. Having accepted that as a reality, the task at hand is to “Know Risk”. In other words it is our collective responsibility to work together to assemble all the necessary data and information leading to knowledge and a better understanding of risk, and ultimately the determination of the level of acceptable risk. 

Who determines the level of acceptable risk? The answer of course differs around the region. For sure it is not the SPC’s responsibility. The SPC’s task is to provide the platform for informing all stakeholders, including through dialogue such as we are now engaged in here at this Conference. 

The Cook Islands, like your countries and territories, recognise that to manage risks will require an integrated approach across the development agenda and significant and appropriate adaptation actions are required to respond to the challenges posed by climate change and food security. Without a doubt, our own Joint National Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction highlights the impacts of climate change on the livelihoods of our people including the impacts of climate change on Food Security and thereby resulting in disaster risk reduction. 

While having a common reliance in the Pacific on our fragile and limited natural resources, the Cook Islands’ vulnerable sectors have some variation from the rest of the Pacific. In our case being the almost entire reliance of our livelihoods on a limited set of socio-economic activities led by tourism, pearl farming and especially subsistence agriculture and fisheries. These sectors in turn are proving to be most sensitive to current and anticipated parameters impacted by climate change including temperature increases, sea level rise, ocean acidity, changes in seasonal weather patterns and more frequent and intense extreme events including cyclones and droughts.

In July my Government hosted the 3rd Regional Integrated Water Resources Management Meeting organised by the SOPAC Division of the SPC. Our attention was drawn to the impacts not only of cyclones but also droughts on the security (or rather insecurity) of our fresh water supplies.

In November we hosted the international World Meteorological Climate and Fisheries workshop, which emphasised what we already knew – that climate influences where and how productive our fisheries are – but also brought together new research that suggests that our collective regional fishing practices can make the difference between whether our large ocean of resources can cope with climate change. 

The big challenge it seems, is that we are not just facing one impact of climate change, but several in combination. 

The declaration on 28th September of a State of Emergency by Tuvalu in response to extreme drought conditions on Nukulaelae and Funafuti and rapidly deteriorating conditions on other outer islands has provide an opportunity for us all to reflect on this matter of drought. We now know other islands including some in the Cook Islands are close to if not in fact near to a state of emergency. 

Put simply, we need to do business better. 

Agriculture in the Cook Islands has suffered frequently from the effects of droughts while farmers have also observed changes in the timing of harvesting. Many attribute this to changes in the climate, and in particular rainfall. Many of our farmers since the time of our ancestors have used phases of the moon and climate seasons - the Arapo – as an almanac calendar that guides fishing and planting activities. This Arapo knowledge that has been passed down to successive generations, now with climate change seems to be out of phase. 

In regards to our reefs, I have been advised there are projections that we will reach a tipping point within the next 30-40 years after which our reefs will die permanently. The impact of this on our food security will be phenomenal and this is an unacceptable risk.

At the interface between the land and sea we are apprehensive about sea level rise causing salt water intrusion into growing areas, especially when combined with extreme events. For example, cyclones have destroyed entire taro plantation areas on our atoll islands of the Northern Cooks with the intrusion of saltwater into the groundwater lens. It takes many years before taro can again be reintroduced to the island. 

Increases in air temperature and other climatic changes can also lead to increased incidence of pests and disease which are likely to threaten agriculture. An example of this is the potato white fly which has become a concern in the Cook Islands most likely as a result of periods of warmer wetter conditions. We are looking to the region to help us with biosecurity and research on controlling such outbreaks.

In an environment where it is not possible to get climate related private sector insurance for either extreme events with associated loss of income, or for slower onset loss of land and productivity, risk management and transfer options are key tools that will likely only be feasible with regional and international cooperation, especially from the SPC with its now very broad mandate across almost all sectors of development .

The Cook Islands continues to face a higher cost and burden for increasing impacts of climate change on food security. While addressing these impacts are a priority, there are other also extremely important and competing priorities, such as health and education. 

Therefore we are in need of much greater, predictable and accessible, financial and technical support from our international partners to address this problem that is largely not of our doing, yet undermines our achievement of our development priorities. We have heard much about increasing climate finance but have not yet seen implementation on the ground.

We will also be taking this message to COP 17 in Durban this time next month. We will also be taking this message to the Rio+20 Meeting next June. In Rio we will be urging the world to recognise that the “Special Case” for SIDS has indeed not gone away though the context has changed over the past 20 years. Issues of isolation and lack of capacity remain as does the necessity that we are by endowment of Mother Nature required to do business in a Blue World. We need the support of all our partners to manage the risks in order to build our resilience and capacity to cope.

In concluding, my Government is moving toward a coordinated approach to addressing climate change through legislative, policy, and sector level activities, which in turn will assist the Cook Islands to cope with a changing climate. With others here today we look forward to seeing real progress in finding solutions, so our next meeting can focus on the challenges in implementing those solutions!

Climate Change - A Rising Sea Threatens Pacific Islands

Rousbeh Legatis
Inter Press Service

NEW YORK (IPS) - As world leaders gear up to spend the coming weeks in South Africa haggling over economically bearable cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, climate change is already exacerbating environmental conditions and threatening the lives and livelihoods of thousands of Pacific Islanders.

Diversity characterises the Pacific region, with its approximately 30,000 islands – of which 1,000 are considered to be populated – scattered across the world's largest ocean, which covers nearly a third of the earth's surface. 

"Right now, sea level rise is a reality but also a phenomenon which currently occurs in millimetres each year," pointed out John Silk, minister of foreign affairs of the Marshall Islands, at a conference in May at Columbia Law School in New York. 

"But the millimetres are turning into centimetres and there are inarguable risks of long-term sea level rise of a meter or much more." 

Long before small island states might find themselves submerged, another possible outcome of rising sea levels is that islands "are left barren, (or) uninhabitable", reckoned Peniamina Leavai of the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change Project (PACC). 

The situation and living conditions of inhabitants of the Pacific Islands vary greatly across the region, as they are shaped by the financial resources' availability, geography, technology and the affluence of the population. 

"The rate at which these affected areas become uninhabitable will also fall in a wide range, from already happening now, to happening in a couple of months, years, and in 20 years' time and more," Leavai explained to IPS. 

Yet environmental changes, accelerated by climate change, already severely affect the livelihoods of people in the Pacific. 

"High tides are frequent and continue to wash away our shorelines," said Council of Elders member Ursula Rakova, about the 2,700 families living on the Carteret islands, 86 kilometres away form Papua New Guinea's (PNG) main island Bougainville. 

"Our biggest concern is that one fine day, a king tide will simply sweep over the islands and most or all people will be washed away without any trace," she told IPS. Recently, one of the islands was divided in half by rising waters. 

The islands, lying 1.2 metres above sea level, have lost a significant area of arable land in a traditional culture where people's livelihoods are based on fishing and harvesting seasonal crops, even as the population grows. 

"The land is becoming less and less and the people find it harder to make gardens to sustain themselves," Rakova said. 

To address and adapt to the changed environmental conditions, the Council of the Elders developed and implemented what is called an autonomous adaption strategy by relocating and resettling their islanders in safer grounds. 

Rakova founded the organisation Tulele Peisa, which means "sailing the waves on our own", for this purpose. The organisation coordinates the relocation of the islanders to host communities. 

Two families to date have resettled to PNG's Marau islands and the move of another eight families is planned. While the international community is responding positively to their cause, Rakova emphasised that the government's reaction remains "very slow and does not set its priorities right". 

"The PNG Government responded to our call in October 2007 with PGK 2 million [about 700,000 U.S. dollars at the time] to the Carteret's Relocation Program, and the Bougainville administration has not since that time given a penny of that money to our organisation to support us in building homes for the Carteret's families," Rakova added. 

Meanwhile, Tokelau, Tuvalu and the Cook Islands currently suffer from drought conditions constituting a state of emergency, say experts who have been working intensively for decades to confront negative consequences of climate-induced changes in the Pacific region. 

They warn that the situation will only worsen if global climate policymaking follows a business-as-usual approach. 

In Tuvalu, where groundwater is unsafe due to high salinity and pollution, the drinking water scarcity could be further aggravated. There, rainfall is primary natural source for reservoirs, while accelerated sea level rise could cause the intrusion of seawater. 

This situation could easily result in social tensions between the affected population living on the main island, Funafuti, and islanders seeking drinking water who have migrated to Tuvalu's capital. 

More extreme and unusually frequent weather events like cyclones or tidal surges, driven by accelerated sea level rise, cause coastal erosion and force people to move inland to find new sources of livelihood. 

Samoa's coastlines, for example, have eroded from a few to 80 meters, and people have relocated inland where territory is already partitioned. Disputes over customary lands will likely intensify. 

"Picture the waves going past your home five meters inland from the shore, every morning and evening… This isn't your mansion. These are simple thatched roof shelters, with the risk of snakes, wallabies and fire ants," explained Leavai. 

Traditional knowledge about winds, seasons, rain patterns, the time at which mangroves can be crossed and what kind of clouds to look out for have become unreliable for the population, due to developments induced by climate change. 

Recently, in what was supposed to be monsoon season with typical knee-high flooding, some islands instead found themselves in a drought season. 

"People were experiencing dust, pigs killing banana trees for the water in trunks, and being robbed of their already withering food gardens by their neighbours, while wallabies and pythons decided to go beyond the borders of the jungle and into human settlements searching for food and water," described Leavai. 

In the face of these changes, local and regional response strategies have been formulated over time, and policy and decision-makers have been provided with information from lessons learned on the ground. 

But despite these very visible consequences of climate change in the Pacific, international development partners and donor countries have proven to be slow in increasing their efforts for finding a global solution for this global problem.