The WHS regional consultation for the Pacific was held in Auckland, New Zealand, from 30 June to 2 July 2015. It was hosted by the Government of New Zealand and co-chaired by the Government of Australia, the Government of New Zealand and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In the spirit of the summit’s multi-stakeholder approach, the meeting brought together nearly 170 participants from the three sub-regions of the Pacific representing Member States of the United Nations including three Heads of States, regional organizations, civil society, affected communities, national and international non-governmental organizations, United Nations agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the private sector and academia, as well as observers from three countries involved in hosting WHS consultations.
The discussions in Auckland reflected the culture, strength and diversity of the Pacific. The participants were honoured by the pōwhiri, a formal welcome from the local Ngāti Whātua tribe. Several leaders from across the region, the UN and the Red Cross Movement demonstrated their commitment to work together as regional partners and learn from the people of the Pacific about their capacities, needs and where support should be provided. All participants focused particularly on the lessons learned from recent crises, most prominently the response to Tropical Cyclone Pam, the largest weather event to occur in the Pacific in recorded history. Particular emphasis was given to the lessons from the cyclone demonstrating that investing in preparedness and disaster risk reduction (DRR) pays dividends.
Participants in the regional consultation noted that communities in the Pacific have grown resilient by having lived with tropical cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes and other disasters for hundreds of years. The region is highly exposed to severe natural disasters. Four of the top 10 countries listed on the 2014 World Risk Index are Pacific island nations. Eight are among the top 20 countries in the world experiencing the greatest average economic losses from disasters as a proportion of GDP. Disasters are exacerbated by the effects of climate change. Climate change is a severe concern for the region, most urgently for the low-lying atoll countries.
In this context, investing in disaster risk reduction, preparedness and strengthening resilience are paramount: an investment which eventually saves lives and money. This became evident through focused discussions on the recent response to Tropical Cyclone Pam. The discussions also revealed lessons about how the structures of local communities and governments could be overwhelmed by an international system that, despite best efforts, does not adapt itself to effectively support local contexts. There was also recognition that there are ongoing capacity development needs in local national disaster management offices (NDMOs) that need sustained support from international and regional organisations. In that context, long-term relationships of trust and cooperation between partners were highlighted as critical for effective response.
The meeting in Auckland was preceded by 92 preparatory stakeholder consultations involving 1,428 individuals in 17 countries representing their wider constituencies. The consultation findings were captured in a stakeholder analysis report which formed the basis for the discussions in Auckland. The report captured a wide array of issues and constitutes a part of the Pacific contribution to the WHS preparations.
The discussions in Auckland focused on six key issues that had emerged from the preparatory stakeholder consultations. An additional cross-cutting issue that emerged was the need for better data, including scientific and economic models to support Pacific humanitarian action and decision making. The main conclusions and recommendations are summarized below. A full consultation report, which will be released in the coming weeks, will capture the complete array of discussions and outcomes. The co-chairs of the regional consultation encourage all stakeholders to start turning these recommendations into action.