11 Jul 2013

Ministers meeting in Fiji say work to be done on aid funds

4:39 pm on 11 July 2013

Pacific government ministers meeting in Fiji say they have to do more to be able to receive and use aid funds properly.

The first-ever joint meeting of the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable and the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management is being held this week in Nadi.

Ministers from Vanuatu, Tonga and the Cook Islands outlined what they are doing to prepare for when disasters strike.

Alex Perrottet reports from Nadi:

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community has brought together large NGOs in the hope that experts here can learn from what many Pacific countries have already done - bring together different departments that essentially deal with the same problems. Thomas Laken said Vanuatu is taking the lead, by creating his new ministry of Climate Change Adaptation, Meteorology, Geo-Hazards, Environment, Energy and Disaster Management. He said changes are already taking place on the island of Epi.

"THOMAS LAKEN: The communities, they have to relocate inland. All airstrips that have been built close to the source, we have to relocate them inland as the water is already washing part of these airstrips away."

Tonga's Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu said the community needs to move ahead and help themselves before the government comes along to assist. He said there's no time for meetings when a cyclone strikes, such as the one in 2011.

SAMIU VAIPULU: We met with a national emergency management committee. When we walked out of the office the cyclone was almost passing Tonga. That's how slow our reaction was.

Samiu Vaipulu said he had to bypass procurement guidelines to build new roads quickly after one disaster, with the finance minister finding out later, and said guidelines need more work. Mark Brown, the Finance Minister of the Cook Islands, advised other nations to channel all disaster and climate change aid through their finance ministry, which has the tools to receive funds and account for them.

MARK BROWN: Our national systems have to be strong, robust and good enough for development partners to be able to put their money into it. When we started to have a look at the area of climate financing I was totally flabbergasted at the complexity of climate financing globally. I had a look at a chart about all the money that comes from climate financing sources into our country. It looked like a spaghetti junction.

Mark Brown has been appointed to a Pacific ministerial task force to review sources of funding and how nations can better access them. The Director of SOPAC, Mike Petterson, gave them a reality check, asking how they were monitoring the effects of their work.

MIKE PETTERSON: I hear a lot of talk about process, a lot of talk about high-level process, high-level joining up on all this stuff. Where's the beef? If I am an islander on a remote island, how does all this stuff improve my life?

Mark Brown said one way to improve people's lives quickly is to already be allocating funds for immediate disaster relief before donors come in. Samiu Vaipulu said Tonga was already doing that and will have US$3.2 million in a trust by the end of the year.