10 Jul 2013

Head of SOPAC says climate talks must end in real results

5:42 pm on 10 July 2013

A director at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, Professor Michael Petterson, says NGOs need to produce real results for individuals and communities.

Professor Petterson, who heads the SPC's Applied Geoscience and Technology Division, says officials meeting in Fiji at the first joint meeting on climate change and disaster risk must ensure there are ways to monitor their progress.

He says part of his job is to determine real victims of disasters, as there are some who have used events to take advantage of aid funds.

Alex Perrottet is in Nadi and spoke to Professor Petterson.

MICHAEL PETTERSON: So this is the test - how do we get from the high level to the impact on the ground with communities? So can we get systems in place or is it just a no-brainer that we get all this stuff together and the lives of individual people on individual islands are actually improved or made safer?

ALEX PERROTTET: Are you saying that there is a risk that the cynics there have more ammunition against these big talk-fests if the governments and the high-level people aren't in touch with connecting with communities?

MP: Aid gets criticised a lot. Does $100 in equal $100 out of benefits at the end of the day, or are people using that $100 for their own agendas, this sort of thing? This is a common criticism, a common observation of aid. So I think it's my job as a director of a key part of the process that my focus is on tracking funds and processes from the very highest level, from the donors into the regional organisations, that it gets fed into the communities, that communities actually get the benefit from this and we can see the benefit. So, yes, we'll always be open to criticism. And, I suppose, an alternative you could say shut off all the funding, shut off these organisations, would life be very different tomorrow? I personally think it would. I personally think there would be a big difference within a fairly short space of time.

AP: Dealing with people who you say would like to make money on disasters - could you explain a bit more about what you were talking about there?

MP: I was bouncing off something the Deputy Prime Minister for Tonga said, that Tonga had made a claim for compensation from the government for a particular disaster event. And when he went to check out he wasn't totally satisfied that the claim was valid. And we're hit with this all over the world - cyclones, earthquakes, volcanoes, whatever, they'll do their stuff. And our job is to be there for genuine claimants, for genuine victims. What we don't want to do is fund people who pretend that they are victims and they're dressing things up so that it looks like a disaster has hit them when really it hasn't. We know this goes on. It's a very minor thing overall and we know this, but we don't want this sort of thing to taint the whole process. So we have to safeguard these sorts of things. But we're not foolish, we weren't born yesterday. We know human beings can be human beings. And most human beings are wonderful and they deserve help, but there'll be some who try it on. This is just life.