Pacific: Plan 2009-2010 (MAA55001)

Executive summary

The Pacific islands are uniquely vulnerable to a variety of unpredictable events - natural disasters, including potential climate change impact, as well as health emergencies. The region is made up of mainly very small countries with poor socio-economic development. These and other contextual factors result in unique challenges in building systems, skills and experience necessary to maintain and promote a well functioning national society. Also, due to a lack of economies of scale, running these national societies, International Federation offices and actions in the region entails a relatively large cost. By promoting and facilitating greater coordination and cooperation between the national societies and the wider Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, these challenges can be mitigated to a certain extent, helping to lower the vulnerability of the general population in the island countries to health and natural disaster emergencies.

The plan for the International Federation's regional office in the Pacific in 2009 -10 is based upon the needs identified by the national societies operating and supported by the regional office. The needs can be categorized as vulnerabilities to shocks (disaster and health emergencies) and to chronic problems, most notably non-communicable diseases. The people most at risk are those with poor access to land and/or livelihood opportunities, usually living in or near risky environments; these people are the target beneficiaries of the national societies. The national societies are all working in health and disaster services - serving affected communities directly alongside partners in government, the United Nations family, non-governmental organizations and the commercial sector.

The Pacific regional office is part of the International Federation's new zonal structure and operating model. This model has been designed in order to create a more unified approach to Federation support to national societies across the whole of Asia Pacific. The regional office has existed for many years and, apart from some short term delegations set up after large scale disasters, the only other long term Federation delegation in the Pacific has been in Papua New Guinea. In early 2008 however, a decision was made to support Papua New Guinea in the same way as the other national societies - through the regional office in Suva.

This regional plan therefore incorporates the Federation's planned technical support to the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society (PNGRCS), which remains unchanged from previous years. The PNGRCS has an ambitious programme of activities in place for 2009, with external support coming mainly from Australian Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The regional office will continue to be part of the support group to the leadership and has planned and budgeted for that activity.

The Secretariat and the national societies of the Pacific are confident that if the work planned in these core areas is carried out successfully, the programmes will contribute towards meeting the global agenda goals of the International Federation and assisting the countries in meeting their Millennium Development Goals.

The total budget for 2009 is CHF 2,307,203 (USD 2,108,961 or EUR 1,469,556) and for 2010 is CHF 2,307,203 (USD 2,108,961 or EUR 1,469,556).

Regional context

The context of the Pacific region is one in which an area, roughly the size of Africa, contains a population of approximately 8.5 million people - with all of the concomitant difficulties in serving people who are so widely dispersed and with differing needs and vulnerabilities.

The Pacific region is a vast area highly vulnerable to a range of hydrological and meteorological hazards including tropical cyclones, flooding, droughts, storm surges, earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis. In addition, the Pacific has limited land resources and the region's relatively small population of 8.5 million and its developing industries are concentrated mainly in coastal regions. The United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) 2007 Human Development report, Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World, notes: "More than 50 per cent of Pacific islanders live within 1.5 km of the shoreline and are particularly exposed to accelerated coastal erosion, saline intrusion, and coral reef bleaching and flooding. Many island people rely on fisheries as a source of food and income from coral reef and mangrove habitats that are threatened by warming ocean temperatures and sea level rise.''

These characteristics make the Pacific Islands and their cultures extremely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, hydro-meteorological and other natural hazards. The latest findings from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirm that climate change is one of the most important challenges to the social, economic and environmental well-being of Pacific Island Countries (PICs)1. For many PICs the impacts of climate change upon the Pacific, recognized by the IPCC's 4th Assessment Report, and UNDP's Human Development Report, are already being felt and are expected to worsen in the coming decades.

The tool of choice for the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement in determining action is the vulnerability and capacity assessment tool. This is being increasingly used as a means to determine what are appropriate interventions with and for communities. Also informing the programmes proposed in this plan is knowledge gained during recent years about which programmes or projects have made a difference to people's lives - what has worked and what has not. In disaster management, programmes are aimed at preparedness and response - with a particular focus on risk reduction - exacerbated due to climate change. In health, a focus on HIV/AIDS prevention and community-based health and first aid, and in organizational development, focus remains on three core areas: leadership development, volunteer development and financial management with the aim of increasing national society effectiveness in service delivery. The International Federation Pacific office, would like to take this opportunity to thank its supporters on behalf of the Pacific national societies and the people they have been serving in the Pacific during recent years.

There are 14 national societies and an International Federation regional office present in the region, including the Australian, Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands (in formation), New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu (in formation),and Vanuatu Red Cross Societies. Furthermore, the American, Chinese, French and Japanese Red Cross societies are also active in the region, either bilaterally or multilaterally through the International Federation. The ICRC is also present in the region, with a regional office in Suva which works closely with their International Federation counterparts. The work of the national societies, supported by their Secretariat and the ICRC, aims to address these and other concerns in the Pacific region.

Papua New Guinea:

Papua New Guinea is one of the most diverse countries in the world, with an estimated 800 languages and numerous tribes which span its islands. Next to Australia and New Zealand, Papua New Guinea is the most populated country in the region, with approximately 6.2 million2 people, and is one of the most vulnerable. The country has a relatively low life expectancy of about 57 years, with literacy rates at 57.3 per cent in 2004, according to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) records.

Papua New Guinea is a country facing many natural hazards, and is ranked the 11th most disaster-prone country by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in the entire Asia Pacific region. Protracted economical and social stagnation has led to UNDP's designation of Papua New Guinea as a least-developed country. Furthermore, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS continues to rise among its population, and the problem is further exacerbated by gender inequality and discrimination as well as a general lack of awareness of HIV/AIDS.

Despite the uphill task faced by the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society (PNGRCS), the society's focus remains on its core areas of activities. This includes health and care, disaster preparedness and response with special emphasis on community development, as well as dissemination and organizational development, which includes strengthening the national society at all levels and building the volunteer corps of the society, including youth. From 1998 to 2006, hundreds of volunteers and staff have been trained in the various core programmes. High staff and volunteer turnover has continued to impair and challenge the delivery of quality programmes in the country. The PNGRCS has a significant bilateral programming relationship with partners; most notably the Australian Red Cross and International Federation activities outlined in this plan are complementary, providing coordination, access to regional technical training and technical support.