Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat Secretary General Mr Noel Levi has supported calls for the regional body to take a bigger role in coordinating the response to natural disasters.
2. But Mr Levi said there needs to be a clear directive from the region's leaders before the Forum Secretariat or any of the 10 member agencies of the CROP (Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific) can take action.
3. "At the moment, Forum Island countries consider disaster management to be the responsibility of national governments", Mr Levi said. "At the regional level, one of the CROP agencies, SOPAC, has the responsibility of helping Forum Island countries to prepare for natural disasters. This includes risk management and mitigation, but not response."
4. The role of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is to provide limited funds in response to an official request following a national disaster. There is no established agreed mechanism for any regional organisation to initiate and implement a regional response following natural disasters.
5. The call for the Forum Secretariat to coordinate regional disaster warnings and relief work has received strong support from Papua New Guinea, the largest of the island members of the Forum. PNG Foreign Minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu said that recent natural disasters demonstrate that "the capacity of PNG and the smaller island nations to respond quickly and effectively to major disasters is quite clearly limited."
6. The slow response to devastation caused by Cyclone Zoe in Tikopia and Anuta in the Solomon Islands led Australian Opposition foreign affairs spokesperson Kevin Rudd to suggest that the Forum Secretariat should establish a regional command centre. Such a centre could provide meteorological information and relay information necessary to coordinate disaster relief efforts, particularly to Australia and New Zealand.
7. Mr Levi, who is also chairperson of the CROP, said there are many options to be considered in setting up a framework for a regional response. The CROP agencies can discuss these options and put up a proposal to the Forum Leaders for their consideration.
8. "I want to make it absolutely clear that a regional disaster response would need a lot of money to make it worthwhile and effective" said Mr Levi.
9. The ten members of CROP are the Fiji School of Medicine (FSM); Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA); Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP); Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS); Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC); South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC); South Pacific for Educational Assessment (SPBEA); South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP); South Pacific Tourism Organisation (SPTO) and the University of the South Pacific (USP).
Forum Secretariat, Suva
Executive Liaison Officer
Phone: + 679 3312 600 / 3220 388|
Fax: + 679 3305 554