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Source: Foundations of the
People’s of the South
Pacific International (FSPI)
“My father said we need to stop cutting down trees unnecessarily to protect our environment.”
Such a simple explanation by nine-year-old Soana Latu when her class was posed the question: “What do you understand about the term climate change” by their teacher.
As the teacher relayed to Tonga’s Coordinator for Child Centered Climate Change Adaptation (4CA), majority of the Class Four students know or have heard about climate change and have their own interpretations of the issue. “It’s well known terms around the Pacific but the problem is most people associate it with science and are quickly switched off at the mere mention of it,” 4CA’s Tonga Co-ordinator Emily Esau said.
“As climate change advocates it is our job to break the issue down to simple terms, to relate it to people’s everyday lives so it’s easy for them to understand that it’s not just a science issue but it’s about their life and their natural surroundings,” said Laje Rotuma Initiative (LRI) founding member Monifa Fiu. According to Fiu it is vitally important to teach children to be sustainable from an early age.
“Children are much clued on nowadays but in order for them to grasp such an important issue as climate change, we need to take them out of the classroom.” She gave an example of the annual eco-camp that LRI organizes where “majority of our sessions are outdoors”.
“One of our activities is giving the children temperature loggers and they go out to record the temperature of the coral reefs over a five day period. The children absolutely loved the experiment and they’re able to relate easily to what we’re advocating,” she said.
So why is child centered climate change adaptation important?
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “globally, children and young people are most at risk from climate change and if action is not taken now there will be nearly one million climate change driven deaths estimated every single year from 2030.”
In a report titled “Climate Change Impacts on Children in the Pacific: Kiribati and Vanuatu” UNICEF stated that “climate change in the Pacific will have a direct impact on children’s survival through:
n Increase in vector-borne diseases and acute respiratory infections;
n Decreased access to safe drinking water;
n Threats to food security and changes to nutrition;
n Increased natural disasters and displacement which also undermine children’s access to education and protective safety nets.”
The report stated that as well as biophysical risks, children not only have the potential to be affected by climate change adaptation and mitigation policies but also:
n Intense overcrowding brought about by relocation of populations into ‘safer islands’
n Most pressing issues are psychological due to forced relocation (anxiety, loss of culture and identity)
n Others relate to seawalls and infrastructure
n Increase in disease vectors (mosquitoes) with water tanks
“It is all these factors and much more that we’re advocating for Child Centred Climate Change Adaptation in the Pacific,” said Foundations of the People’s of the South Pacific International (FSPI) programme manager disaster risk reduction, Roshni Chand.
In 2011, FSPI under its Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation component signed a Humanitarian Partnership Agreement with Plan International Australia to work with its Pacific network partners in implementing the 4CA project.
According to Chand, the three year AusAID funded project aims to provide a safe and resilient community in which children and young people contribute to managing and reducing the risks associated with changes in climate.
“Children are among the most vulnerable to climate change and ongoing regional and national initiatives exclude them from disaster risk and climate adaptation developing and planning initiatives, instead viewing them as passive or helpless victims under all circumstances,” Chand said.
“The UN Child Rights Convention (Article 12) clearly states that children have the right to express their views on matters that affect them and participate in issues such as disaster management given the potential impact that disaster has on the child’s right to survive and develop.
“The only way to ensure that appropriate account is taken of children’s views, and meaningful use is made of their capacities, is to include them in all stages of disaster management from prevention to response including in climate change adaptation debate and work.”
According to the climate change advocate, the 4CA project works in partnership with children (as agents of change), their communities and governments to raise awareness of climate change, in order to create locally appropriate climate smart solutions to protect children, their communities, and fulfil their human rights’.
“In the Pacific, FSPI is working through our network partners in SI, PNG, Tonga and new partners joining in will be from Fiji, Tuvalu and Kiribati.
“The countries are taking innovative approaches to include children, youth and their communities to make their lives more resilient to climate change and related disasters. They are working with Ministry of Education, Safe the Children Fund , Red Cross , National Disaster Management Offices and other NGOs in country to develop materials, access resources and so forth.”
As Kofi Annan the then UN Secretary General concluded in his opening remarks during the 2003 International Day of Biological Diversity, “The preservation of biodiversity is not just a job for governments. International and non-governmental organisations, the private sector and each and every individual have a role to play in changing entrenched outlooks and ending destructive patterns of behaviour.”
The FSPI currently works with 10 Paci?c communities (Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, PNG, Timor Leste, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Palau and Tuvalu) through people-centred programmes, to foster self- reliance within a changing world.