Pacific youth leaders gather in NZ to discuss global issues

Fifty youth Pacific representatives from 15 countries gathered in Auckland for the Young Pacific Leaders TechCamp Photo: US Embassy

The TechCamp programme is part of America’s ongoing commitment to strengthen ties with the Pacific, by providing participants with technical skills to address global issues such as the climate crisis.

A participant at a climate change summit said the United States has shown a lot more effort to engage with the Pacific region through President Joe Biden.

Guam representative Lawrence Alcairo said since Biden’s tenure there’s been a renewed interest in the Pacific and indigenous communities.

During the Trump administration, many climate regulations had been scrapped and in 2020 the U.S pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

“There’s been a lot of climate change initiatives coming from the Biden administration, but the biggest thing that I’ve seen is the collaboration with the Pacific,” Alcairo said.

“It’s very important to include indigenous knowledge, there’s a very big push for that in communities and I think the federal government is starting to see that.”

Fifty youth Pacific representatives from 15 countries gathered in Auckland for the Young Pacific Leaders TechCamp hosted by the U.S. Department of State in NZ

Photo: Young Pacific Leaders programme under the U.S. Embassy in NZ.

“The current US Ambassador to New Zealand, Thomas Udall, was a Senator in the United States and oversaw the select committee on Native Americans so he’s very much aware and in tune of indigenous knowledge and how that can be applied to modern problems,” he said.

However, another participant said indigenous knowledge is largely ignored as it’s not accepted as science.

Inangaro Vakaafi, the sole representative for Niue said Pacific communities have long relied on their own methods to adapt to natural events such as cyclones proving that indigenous knowledge can contribute to climate change responses.

Amelia Caucau

Amelia Caucau from Fiji Photo: RNZ Pacific/Susana Suisuiki

“I feel that a lot of the problems that we have today is because some of these societies are not learning from the past or they’re not acknowledging the importance of indigenous communities who have lived in those lands for thousands of years,” she said.

“I’m confident that indigenous communities have the solutions, I don’t know about the will of leaders in certain countries to listen and learn.”

Amelia Caucau from Fiji also believes indigenous knowledge is the key to solving climate-related issues but feels a lot more work can be done to capture Pacific voices.

“We have a lot to learn from our ancestors from the past experiences that they’ve had through this indigenous knowledge and it’s being documented but not being documented enough, and it’s there but it’s not fully recognised as authentic data to advance climate change adaptation.”

Discussions at TechCamp ranged from sustainable entrepreneurship, agriculture, and food systems technology to clean energy.

Joshua Peauafi

Joshua Peauafi Photo: RNZ Pacific/Susana Suisuiki

New Zealand representative Joshua Peauafi said programmes such as TechCamp is an opportunity for participants to learn about the unique challenges each Pacific nation and territory faces.

“The Pacific is the least to contribute to climate disasters but they’re the most at-risk,” he said.

“There’s like a funny equilibrium going on there, they’re not producing any emissions as other countries but they’re the most impacted by them, so we’ve got islands that are sinking, we’ve got huge tidal waves that are affecting small Pacific nations so if we don’t do something quick and fast those islands will be the first to feel the impacts – and they already are feeling them.”

“It’s kind of up to us to look at what we can do to change stuff, where can we go but also how can we leave a legacy for the younger people,” he said.

Source: RNZ