Loss and Damage – Sharing the Lived Experience of Pacific Islanders

Source: SPREP

The breakthrough establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund at the opening of this year’s COP28 was a momentous win for Pacific Islanders who have been championing Loss and Damage action since 1991.

Reverend James Bhagwan, Secretary-General of the Pacific Council of Churches at the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion, moderated this Talanoa session exploring the lived experiences of Pacific Islanders of Loss and Damage. The event provided space for Pacific delegates to reflect, share stories of and re-emphasise the Pacific commitment to Loss and Damage justice.

It also created space for an international audience to listen and learn from the knowledge and experience our Islanders have on the issue.

The Keynote speaker was H.E Senator Merlynn Abello Alfonso from the Federated States of Micronesia. In her address, she explored the important linkages between Loss and Damage and gender. She explained that Loss and Damage is a cross-cutting, complex, and multi-faceted issue with economic and non-economic elements that impact all areas of our lives.

Considering the new Fund Honorable Senator Merlynn emphasised that if the fund is to be impactful then gender and social inclusion dimensions must be considered.

H.E the Ambassador Amenatave Yauvoli, Government of Fiji was the first panellist speaker. An experienced negotiator and a strong advocate for the Pacific, his excellency led us through a discussion of just how far the Pacific has come.

He also spoke to relocation in Fiji and the economic and non-economic elements to these difficult but necessary movements. He shared that relocation could result in loss of sentimental values, for former coastal communities no longer hearing the ocean crashing is a non-economic loss that cannot be understated.

Customary land ownership is another issue embedded in sentimental values. These issues are complex but must be understood and acknowledged in Loss and Damage initiatives.

Hon Secretary Andrew Yatilman from the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Emergency Management. Representing the Federated States of Micronesia, he spoke from the heart of the impacts felt by his island home.

He spoke to the connection Islanders have to the land; the people of FSM are attached to the land as that’s where they buried their umbilical cord. Honourable Secretary Yatilman also shared emotional stories of graveyards washing away, families losing this physical connection to their loved ones and ancestors.

Ms Takena Redfern, Acting Director Climate Change and Disaster at the Office of the President in Kiribati spoke of her experience as a government worker in Kiribati.

Over the years the requests for assistance received from communities have increased significantly. The reports highlight the loss of water sources, the encroaching sea and the need for better protection against the worsening climate. She highlights the need for more funds in light of these worsening conditions.

Miss Mervina Pauli from Tuvalu representing her country and Pacific Youth spoke from the heart, sharing the worries of the youth as they face a future increasingly threated by climate change. She spoke to the damage incurred to the land that has significantly impacted traditional crops. She shares the importance of crops such as pulaka to the health of her community and to Tuvaluan culture and how these important crops are now in danger due to rising sea levels.
This event gave a platform for Pacific Islanders to share their lived experiences and stories to their fellow Pasifika people and to the wider world. The Loss and Damage Fund is an important breakthrough, however for those on the frontline of the climate crisis their everyday life is already being impacted. The fight is not over for Pacific Islanders. This is why their stories and voices must be heard.

Source: SPREP