Fiji’s Minister for Disaster Management, Inia Seruiratu has been urging Fiji’s development partners to better align their support with the priorities of the national government in meetings in Indonesia this week.
Minister Seruiratu, who is the only Pacific Islands minister attending the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction (GPDRR) in person, says he has been raising the issue of alignment in meetings, including with the United Nations.
“We appreciate that they are coming to assist us, but it’s not their agenda, it’s not their priorities, it should be aligned according to the needs that have been identified by the receiving countries.
“I think that’s very, very critical, because unfortunately, in some instances, there is a mismatch, I would say. And of course, that leads to probably some leakages as well, in terms of the focus of the programs and the needs that we have.”
Minister Seruiratu says he is also talking to partners about the need to simplify processes and systems for accessing disaster risk reduction financing.
“Timing is very, very critical. We need to get better, get back quickly in the recovery process…and that accessibility is so important, because a delay has implications, not only in terms of damages, but losses as well. And of course, there are psychological implications to this as well.”
In both his contributions to sessions this week, Minister Seruiratu has discussed the need to break down silos in the response to disasters. “Compartmentalisation does not help us,” he says, noting that organisations need to come together, and people need to take responsibility individually, as families, and as communities, to manage disaster risks.
The Minister says a major challenge for Fiji is archaic legislation. “We are in a different world altogether now. But unfortunately, what holds us back is all the laws that we have.
“For example, in disaster management we have an Act of 1998 and the Disaster Plan of 1995. So, a lot of things have changed and even in that Disaster Act, there’s nothing about man-made disasters. It’s all on natural disasters. When we had the pandemic, we’re dealing with the 1965 Public Health.
“And then if I can say, [it’s] attitude as well. You know, people are unfortunately, in some instances, some just love to exercise authority and be territorial and it doesn’t help. But more awareness and advocacy and more workable and simplified processes and systems will help us get through all this.”
The UNDRR meeting formally opens tomorrow. Delegates from Nauru, Tonga and Palau are also in attendance, as well as representatives of a number of regional organisations and civil society.