Twelve Red Cross National Societies from the Pacific Islands convened today in Sydney, Australia. The discussions focused on developing resilient National Societies and local communities, as well as a Pacific Islands viewpoint for the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals.
Leaders from the National Red Cross Societies of Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Micronesia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu agreed that building self-sufficient communities – and moving away from a culture of dependency – is critical to building resilience among the people of the Pacific Islands. Together, these 12 National Societies serve 37 million people: 23 million in Australia, 7 million in Papua New Guinea and 4.5 million in New Zealand, with the remaining 9 million spread across 13 small island states.
Common issues across all communities that Red Cross serves in the Pacific Islands include an increase in non-communicable diseases, migration, unemployment, gender-based violence and climate change. Geographically, 95 per cent of the Pacific Islands region is covered with water; isolation is simply the norm. The Pacific region is the largest recipient of aid per capita in the world, yet small island states face different circumstances than other developing countries in creating resilient communities.
The Red Cross supports the building of sustainable community capacities to address local needs and vulnerabilities, so that communities can become resilient. Development is a critical part of building resilience. Looking to the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals, the Pacific Islands National Societies agreed that development priorities in the region must include climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.
The Red Cross can contribute positively to these goals if its National Societies are also resilient. Leaders agreed that focus areas for building strong Red Cross organizations in the region must include achieving the right balance between mobilizing communities and international partners, strengthening the Red Cross auxiliary role to governments, improving financial management, and harnessing the potential of volunteers.
“One of our biggest challenges is to change the mindsets of people and communities in the Pacific so that the Red Cross is not seen as a donor, but rather that the people themselves are the donors, and that as volunteers people themselves can build stronger communities,” said Meaua Tooki, Secretary General of the Kiribati Red Cross Society.
“There is extraordinary potential to increase volunteerism and community impact across all levels of society from our own institution to communities and into the families. And vice versa, from families to communities to the Red Cross,” said Wep Kanawi, President of the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society. “Our strength is our people.”
The Red Cross National Societies of the Pacific Islands will join National Societies worldwide at the General Assembly of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Sydney from 12-15 November. The future of humanitarian action, with a special focus on the post-2015 Millennium Development Goals, will be key themes at this biennual meeting of humanitarian leaders.