Despite the many challenges faced by the regional office and the national societies in the region, progress has been made in all programmes under the Appeal 2006-2007. Under the health and care programme, four national societies joined the Global HIV/AIDS Alliance, including the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati and Samoa. With support from the regional health delegate, a successful application was made to the Global Fund for the above-mentioned countries which has ensured sustained support in health for the next two years, with the possibility of extending into five years.
In disaster management, the Pacific remains a region where natural disasters are prevalent and civil unrest has increased. Support from the regional office during the last two years includes responding to two major natural disasters: the tsunami in the Solomon Islands in April 2007 and Cyclone Guba in Papua New Guinea in November 2007. Other events during the two years also required a response from the national societies and are outlined further in the context section of this report. Efforts have continued to integrate disaster risk reduction into the traditional fields of disaster response and preparedness.
The regional organizational development programme's focus for the two-year period has been on the continued improvement on governance and leadership development, financial management and volunteer management of the national societies and their communities. The undertaking of two organizational capacity assessments, supported by the organizational development coordinator and volunteer development officer from the Federation Zone office in Kuala Lumpur, was the single largest task carried out during the two years. The assessments were conducted in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands.
Financial situation: The total 2006-2007 budget was CHF 6,638,005 (USD 5.94 million or EUR 4.02 million) of which 65 per cent was covered. Overall expenditure against income for the period was 85 per cent.
No. of people we help: The Federation regional office currently supports 14 national societies and a country delegation in the region.
Our partners: The regional office worked with 14 national societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in two countries, the whole United Nations (UN) family based in Suva and 11 regional organizations.
Pacific island countries faced a volatile period in 2006-2007 - marked by internal unrest, raised tension and two significant natural disasters in 2007. This has strained the international relationship enjoyed by some of the countries. At the community level, islanders were open in expressing their dissent over the quality of much of their political leadership. This was evident in at least five Pacific island countries.
States of emergency were declared in Fiji, the Southern Highlands province of Papua New Guinea and Tonga as military coups, law and order, governance problems and pro-democracy riots took hold of the countries. The outlook in Fiji following the December 2006 coup is still uncertain, with the interim military government expelling the New Zealand High Commissioner in 2007. Discussions are ongoing between the interim government and the diplomatic corps in Suva. In the Solomon Islands, civil unrest flared up in Honiara following the March 2006 elections. The unrest spiralled out of control, forcing neighbouring countries like Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea to intervene with civil defence forces.
Indeed, poverty, social instability and poor governance have been enduring characteristics of the region's political landscape for many years. Other common features aggravate many countries in the Pacific. Their small size, poor economic diversity, lack of natural resources, and isolation from major trade routes and commercial industries, often leaves them vulnerable to external shocks, extreme weather, disasters and unstable economic forces. As a result, many countries in the Pacific rely on good relationships and aid from former colonial powers and other donors. Such aid can come with requirements for political and/or economic reform.
In 2006, tension was evident between some smaller island countries and major powers in the region, such asAustralia and to a lesser degree, New Zealand. Over the year, these tensions materialized in the form of sanction threats against Fiji following the coup, troubled relationships between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and the Solomon Island's dispute over the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI). The incoming labour government in Canberra has heralded the possibility of a fresh start and a new relationship which all sides have greeted with enthusiasm.
In terms of natural disasters, the Pacific faced a tsunami in Solomon Islands, Cyclone Guba in Papua New Guinea, Cyclone Gene in Fiji, droughts in Australia and the northern Pacific as well as flooding in some nations. Papua New Guinea was the most disaster-prone country in the region, enduring a series of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and floods in different areas. Meanwhile, Pacific island countries on the whole are reportedly regressing on the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for:
- HIV/AIDS prevalence;
- ratio of girls to boys in primary education;
- access to an improved water source for the urban population; and
- access to improved sanitation for the urban and rural population.
It is projected that the Pacific islands in general will also miss their 2015 MDG targets for under-five and infant mortality rates as well as rural access to an improved water source. Nevertheless, it has to be acknowledged that big variances exist between Pacific countries, with Papua New Guinea delivering the weakest performance.
Red Cross societies in the 12 Pacific states covered by the Appeal reflect the conditions of their country, with most having a low population base and minimal economic development. The structure of these societies tends to be very small, with one or two staff members, and often face difficulties in retaining skilled staff. Although volunteers are readily available in response to a disaster, they are otherwise often absent, making the building of a sustainable skills base within the staff and volunteer community nigh on impossible. This is an issue facing all institutions, not only the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. Discussions about tactics and what can be done to address the retention of skills is ongoing with governments and donors across the whole Pacific.
Staff turnover in 2006 impaired institutional memory in the regional office and challenged the delivery of programmes. Over the year, the positions of the head of regional office as well as health, disaster management and organizational development were vacant for a period of time. In the case of the health, disaster management and organizational development positions, they remained vacant for as long as six months. In addition, the head of delegation position in Papua New Guinea remained vacant for most of the year, compelling the in-country disaster management delegate to take on the role, diverting attention away from his core responsibilities. In 2007, the situation stabilized somewhat. The heads of the regional office and the country delegation were appointed and the technical delegates were all in place for the whole year. There is need for a replacement for the disaster risk reduction delegate in early 2008.