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Reducing Poverty and Inequalities
Goal 10: Reduce inequality within and among countries Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

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    • Question 1
      comments:8
      Last comment:07/12/2021 13:30:44
      Subscribers: 4
      Top Participating Members
      4: Laiakini Waqanisau
      1: Sharon Emily Radhika Rolls
      1: RICARDO JAVIER DOMINGUEZ LLOSA

    • Question 2
      comments:2
      Last comment:07/12/2021 13:36:42
      Subscribers: 1
      Top Participating Members
      2: Karen Elizabeth Bernard

    • Stories & Experiences
      comments:2
      Last comment:07/04/2021 18:00:59
      Subscribers: 1
      Top Participating Members
      1: RICARDO JAVIER DOMINGUEZ LLOSA
      1: Laiakini Waqanisau


    Room Members: 49
    Likes: 12
    Total Countries: 9
    Top Participating Countries:
    16: Fiji
    2: United Kingdom
    1: New Caledonia

    Welcome to our new Community of Practice (COP) on Poverty and Inequalities!  

    We need and greatly appreciate your participation in this discussion.

    The objective of this COP is to facilitate a multi-sector dialogue on processes of impoverishment and existing inequalities across the Pacific, and how best to address these development challenges.  This objective will be pursued through the following activities:

    • Sharing stories and best practices on any initiative that promotes the reduction of poverty and inequalities in the Pacific and across the broader region
    • Highlighting initiatives that adopt a holistic approach towards addressing priority development challenges in the Pacific
    • Promoting collaboration or partnerships among different development partners and stakeholders

    Hosted by the Inclusive Growth Team at UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. The moderator is Karen Bernard.

    Target audience

    • Civil society representatives from the Asia/ Pacific Region
    • Local communities
    • Pacific Island Country (PIC) governments
    • UN agencies
    • Research and academic institutions
    • CROP (regional) agency experts
    • Private sector businesses

    The SDGs that the CoP aims to address are

    SDG 1 – Eradicating poverty

    SDG 10 – Reducing inequalities

    Benefits of participating

    • Your voice and opinions will be heard across the Pacific, among thousands of Solevaka members
    • In these difficult times, Solevaka presents opportunities to help each other and find the best solutions to our difficulties, even across the vast ocean distances and the pandemic isolation
    • For each discussion question, we will prepare a “consolidated replies” summary document including all contributions, and this document will be shared with Pacific governments and policymakers for their consideration and action
    • The insights and experience that you share may lead to further research and more in-depth analysis
    • Your contribution will remain on the platform for several years, as part of the outcome documents
    • We will issue a “Certificate of Participation” to each Solevaka contributor, and this can be mentioned on your CV as a professional accomplishment

    Background

    The Community of Practice on Poverty and Inequalities aims to effectively connect sustainable development stakeholders in the Pacific including governments, development partners, donors, and NGOs to share and identify areas for collaboration to promote dignity, opportunity, and prosperity for all.

    The objective of this community is to share best practices and initiatives on Ending Poverty (SDG 1) and Reducing Inequalities (SDG 10) from within the Pacific Region and around the world. It aims to effectively connect all stakeholders in the Pacific contributing to SDG 1 and SDG 10 to share and identify areas of collaboration for better impact towards reaching the 2030 agenda.

    Global goal: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

    Globally, the number of people living in extreme poverty declined from 36 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2015. But the pace of change is decelerating and the COVID-19 crisis risks reversing decades of progress in the fight against poverty. New research published by the UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research warns that the economic fallout from the global pandemic could increase global poverty by as much as half a billion people, or 8% of the total human population. This would be the first time that poverty has increased globally in thirty years, since 1990.

    More than 700 million people, or 10 percent of the world population, still live in extreme poverty today, struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation, to name a few. The majority of people living on less than $1.90 a day live in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, the poverty rate in rural areas is 17.2 per cent—more than three times higher than in urban areas.

    For those who work, having a job does not guarantee a decent living. In fact, 8 per cent of employed workers and their families worldwide lived in extreme poverty in 2018. One out of five children live in extreme poverty. Ensuring social protection for all children and other vulnerable groups is critical to reduce poverty.

    The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than US$1.90 per day, and moderate poverty as less than $3.10 a day, in strictly financial terms.  However, the pervasive subsistence economy in the Pacific, combined with the extreme vulnerability to climate change, mean that poverty and may be experienced and understood in different ways.  Several alternative concepts of poverty have also been put forward, which are multi-dimensional and take into account human dignity and quality of life. This will be explored by participants in the COP.

    Global goal: Reduce inequalities in and between countries

    Reducing inequalities and ensuring no one is left behind are integral to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

    Inequality within and among countries is a persistent cause for concern. Despite some positive signs toward reducing inequality in some dimensions, such as reducing relative income inequality in some countries and preferential trade status benefiting lower-income countries, inequality still persists.

    COVID-19 has deepened existing inequalities, hitting the poorest and most vulnerable communities the hardest. It has put a spotlight on economic inequalities and fragile social safety nets that leave vulnerable communities to bear the brunt of the crisis.  At the same time, social, political, and economic inequalities have amplified the impacts of the pandemic.

    On the economic front, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased global unemployment and dramatically slashed workers’ incomes.

    COVID-19 also puts at risk the limited progress that has been made on gender equality and women’s rights over the past decades. Across every sphere, from health to the economy, security to social protection, the impacts of COVID-19 are exacerbated for women and girls simply by virtue of their sex.

    Inequalities are also deepening for vulnerable populations in countries with weaker health systems and those facing existing humanitarian crises. Refugees and migrants, as well as indigenous peoples, older persons, people with disabilities, and children, are particularly at risk of being left behind. And hate speech targeting vulnerable groups is rising.

    Across the Pacific, we may find systemic inequalities, in which some groups are disadvantaged, such as women, persons living with disabilities, LGBTQ persons, certain ethnic groups, and others.  Participants in the COP discussions can share their observations and insights about the inequalities amongst us.

    Members are encouraged to share stories and initiatives that promote the inclusiveness of vulnerable and marginalized groups, as well as showcase effective partnerships and integrated approaches towards ending poverty and reducing inequalities.

      Has the COVID-19 pandemic increased hardship or poverty in your community or island?

      What impacts of the pandemic have you observed on the local economy?  

      Please share any solutions that have been put into practice in your community as well as any other solutions which you think should be implemented.

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      Comments

       
      Sharon Emily Radhika Rolls's picture

      Sharon Emily Ra... said:

      The Pacific Island region is facing the brunt of the climate crisis as well as the socio-economic impact of COVID19.  In the space of one generation, low-lying islands have disappeared or become uninhabitable across the region.  The increasing intensity and frequency of natural disasters brings considerable cost to communities, governments and the private sector. COVID19 has highlighted the critical role of local and national organisations to lead in emergency response.

      Unfortunately, women's agency and leadership lack resources and recognition – when only 1.2% of humanitarian assistance given to NGOs goes to local and national NGOs, and even less to women’s organisations - this is harder to negotiate when we are a region that has one of the lowest level of women’s political representation.

      But that is the value of the women's rights and feminist movement!

      In crisis situations, collaboration is vital. This is one of the reasons why the Shifting the Power Coalition was established. Since 2016, Coalition partners have been working together to bring about change so that humanitarian action does not regard women as vulnerable beneficiaries but rather builds on our indigenous and localised knowledge, collective power, influence and leadership

      Today, spanning a network of close to 100,000 grassroots, intergenerational and inclusive movements in 7 Pacific Island Forum countries it is the only women-led regional alliance focused on strengthening the collective power, influence and leadership of diverse Pacific women to respond to disasters and climate change bringing attention to women’s collective peacebuilding, community-led activism, Pacific-driven innovation and humanitarian expertise the Coalition has brought attention to women’s  collective and personal lived realities – mobilizing rapid response support to women during the Samoa measles epidemic, supporting  COVID19, supporting local women including women with disabilities to lead disaster response and recovery.

      Our nexus approach to humanitarian, development and peace agendas reflects our expertise and daily lived realities. This approach can address the drivers of inequalities, ensure protection with dignity and build on diverse women’s local and indigenous knowledge and strong community networks to achieve more effective and accountable crisis prevention and humanitarian response.

      By mid-2020 the StPC published the report Mobilising Women’s Leadership: Solutions for Protection and Recovery in a Time of COVID-19 and TC Harold drawing from online and rapid response calls across our partners to provide recommendations on how Pacific Forum Leaders can to achieve inclusive Localisation, Build Resilient and Peaceful Communities and also ensure Equitable Access to Resources to reach diverse women based on our needs, priorities and aspirations:

      Some of these girls and young women have been forced into prostitution just to make a living for themselves and their families. We thought we were feeding families, but the food items are changing lives! Our record shows that we have been able to reach 3,000 families in Santo and Malo island and 5,000 families in Port Vila including some villages in North Efate and peri-urban areas of Port Vila such Etas and Teoma” – Anne Pakoa, Vanuatu Young Women for Change.

      Mobilizing Women's Leadership: Solutions for Protection and Recovery in a Time of COVID 19 and TC Harold remains an urgent call to Pacific Leaders that women’s rights are non-negotiable in COVID19 response programming and that the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway (PHP) must tackle the drivers of gender inequalities in areas such as access to healthcare and economic recovery, including access to natural resources.   

      The recommendations are linked to commitments to women’s rights and disability inclusion including the Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration, the UN Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Pacific Platform for Action for Gender Equality and Women’s Rights must be integrated in prevention, early intervention and treatment, as well as long term recovery efforts including the Boe Declaration Action Plan.

      The Coalition further recommends:

      • A multistakeholder process that ensures Pacific Women’s Rights and Feminist Organisations and networks provide gender oversight to the PHP and national response and recovery measures
      • Increased funding and capacity development to local and national women’s groups as equal partners in humanitarian action with targeted and direct support through both development and humanitarian programming
      • Dedicated funding for localized, women-led approach to protection from Gender Based Violence
      • Dedicated funding for women-led livelihood and food security programmes

      The Coalition alongside the Pacific Disability Forum urges all levels of government, agencies, health ministries and the private sector throughout the Pacific to work with Disabled Peoples’ Organisations (DPOs) to ensure that persons with disabilities, in particular women, children and young persons with disabilities are not left behind in the COVID-19 response.

      Greater accountability to women’s rights and gender equality

       

      Our coalition is demonstrating shifts in actual power – sharing decision making on dedicated funding for women led organisations and networks including young women and women with disabilities. We are demonstrating south-south collaboration, enabling partners to share lessons learnt, innovation and expertise – we are supporting action that is locally driven – responsive and sustainable.  The Coalition enables resources – including the time and space to meet – to reach women when they need it, to deliberate, participate, design and deliver what works for diverse women and in local communities.

      Since 2019 close to AUD180000 has been mobilised to through rapid response and crisis funding that enables our partners to address the urgent humanitarian needs in their communities; close to AUD300000 is dedicated to support young women’s leadership in progressing the climate justice agenda.

      The interlinked and intersectional impacts of COVID19 and the climate crisis is an urgent reminder that funding agencies should adapt feminist funding models to ensure that at least 50% of any local funding is supporting women's rights and women-led organisations; Funding mechanisms such as the Women, Peace and Humanitarian Fund must transparent and dedicated representation from women’s rights organisations, to inform decisions on resource allocation strategy, allocation criteria, and endorsement of strategic priorities at country level.

      We have more than 25 years of policy commitments, security council resolutions and political treaties that affirm that women’s leadership drive a more inclusive agenda.

      But we must have more women at the table. Urgent action is needed to ensure diverse women’s representation from local to national level enabling greater accountability to Gender Equality and Empowerment of crisis affected Women and Girls (GEEWG).

      Greater synergy is also needed with multilateral frameworks such as the soon to be launched Generation Equality Forum WPS and Humanitarian Action Compact.

      The 14th Pacific Women’s Triennial Conference and Ministerial Meeting noted "the interrelated crises affecting the Pacific, including the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change and disasters, and their crippling impacts including for the long-term prospects for economic well-being and recovery. These crises amplify existing gender inequalities and pose further risks for women and girls of all diversities, potentially derailing efforts to accelerate gender equality. Regional solidarity and global collective action are critical to overcoming these challenges(..)"

      This year the Shifting the Power Coalition turns 5.   

      Our partners have reaffirmed our approach to strengthen the collective power of women and investment in shared M&E, communications, finance and compliance capacity. And as we enable resources to reach our partners in the way they determine, we know this requires having dedicated time and resources to also sustain core operations - to lead humanitarian coordination, response, recovery and rebuilding AND undertake the work on accountability to women’s rights and gender equality.

      As Flora Vano of ActionAid Vanuatu says: “We -Rural, young, women with disabilities - must be resourced and supported to collect, analyse and use data disaggregated by sex, age and disability. This will assist us as we engage in enhancing gender analysis on the impact of climate change, disaster preparedness, response and recovery particularly as we work intersectionally and cross-sectorally

      We must shift to transforming spaces of decision making (including within UN agencies, donor and inter-governmental mechanisms) for women and our organisations, networks and coalitions to meaningfully engage and lead.

      We need to create a more representative, intersectional and inclusive political space to tackle the current crises in our region. 

      It is time to redesign the table

       

       
      Laiakini Waqanisau's picture

      Laiakini Waqanisau said:

      Dear readers & development partners,

      The Oceania region is facing what the whole world is going through from COVID 19 enforced measures. We have seen a rise in unemployment and the public sector placing restrictions on innovation. 

      We would like to propose that the public sector:

      Relax restrictions to SMEs;

      Improving lending policy ;

      Place favourable policies to SMEs;

      Improve banking policy towards SMEs.

      I hope this is incorporated for SME and for the private sector. Thank you.

      Regards. 

       
      Laiakini Waqanisau's picture

      Laiakini Waqanisau said:

      Dear readers & development partners,


      I hope you are well. I also work with a group of 50 SMEs that have been impacted by COVID19 measures. Can I pass on the solevaka platform to these groups for their contributions?


      We had estimated that 10k vendors are located in Fiji along with tourism workers now transferring their skills. With an increase in unemployment, most tourism workers have become SMEs so that they can survive. Prior to COVID 19 era, unemployment rate was standing at 5.8% or 800k people in the Oceania region. The post COVID 19 era has enhanced this number by double to 1.6M persons or more. Note prior to COVID 19 era unemployment was already 15% for New Caledonia and 40% for Kiribati in 2019. For some areas its higher but it's masked by remittances received from overseas. The isolation of the Oceania region may be good as we're buying less imports and going back to subsistence agriculture and fishing for most rural families. I'll give Tonga as an example as they have a total lockdown and still getting by everyday.

      Some ways the public sector can improve the lives of its constituents:

      1. Establish a regional bank in Oceania similiar to one in the Caribbean region eg. CBD;

      2. Fork out USD $30k lending per SME vendor;

      3. Provide holiday repayments for 3 years for home owners and SMEs;

      4. Use online payments platforms for Oceania for payment of services, receiving remittances. ie. PayPal, Skrill, etc;

      5. Assess how the Oceania region can monetize social media platforms e.g. tik tok.

      6. Decentralized monopolies on busineses such as seafood, agriculture foods, etc.

      Thanks again. Regards 

       
      RICARDO JAVIER DOMINGUEZ LLOSA's picture

      RICARDO JAVIER ... said:

      Greetings from Vanuatu, in Vanuatu 2020 experienced a "Compund Disaster", TC Harold in April;COVID-19 and Ashfall and acid Rain in Tanna.

      Working from GEF-FAO "Integrated Sustainable Land and Coastal Management" Project in project sites (Aneityum;North Tanna;Efate;South Pentecost and Gaua) ,we  have verified the following effects, the most serious due to the blockage caused by COVID- 9.

      The high dependence on the tourism sector has caused a drop in extra income for individuals, families and therefore communities.

      EFATE:For example, families have sent the "Pikininis" to the islands, as the income generation in Port Vila is reduced, on the islands they have guaranteed food and education with their Aunties and Grandmothers, that on Efate.

      Aneityum is where the effect of COVID has been most noticed, in 2019 a total of 99 cruiseships arrived at Mistery Island, in 2020 only 2 in January . But this, in principle negative effect, has served and the Kustomary chiefs have reinforced the networks for recovery and resilience, prohibiting the import of fruits, vegetables and roots from Tanna, as well as Kava. This has allowed, with the help of the GEF-FAO project, the construction of agroforestry nurseries and using the Farm Field school approach that, above all, women organized in producer associations have taken the lead and are the ones that organize three weekly markets in the three main communities: Anelkhouat , Port Patrick and Umetch.

      In Tanna, the closure to tourism caused by COVID, has caused, according to the information collected in the DaL assessment after Yasur Ashfall (3 times in 2020), that most of the specialized workforce has left the island to Australia and New Zealand for the seasonal fruit collection campaigns.

      Another effect caused by COVID-19, TC Harold and Yasur Ashfall, has been the increase in the use of natural resources, as income generation has been lost, for example: increased use of firewood for cooking due to not having money to buy gas or pay the electricity bill, this is also noticeable in the Manplace,Mama's market in Port Vila.

       
      Laiakini Waqanisau's picture

      Laiakini Waqanisau said:

      Dear readers & development partners,

      In my last update, we had advised on how the public sector by improving or enhancing its policy towards its constituents. The COVID 19 era has brought about profound ways of doing business, collapse in industry and extreme forms of hunger for the modernised societies in the Oceania region. The urban areas in Fiji has had both extremes where people living in its urban areas and in places where COVID19 measures are high has seen people protesting for basic food items. These have been prevalent where curfews and lockdowns were enforced for 3 weeks and now reduced to 48 hours. Price for fuel and basic food items has gone up. 

      Rural areas in Fiji seem to be faring better as these are not reliant on imported food items. Their lives and movements are not restricted, so its business as usual, farming and fishing. Circulation of currency has been restricted as these communities lack access to banking or ATMs. 

      What did we do?

      In 2020 we had started to help SMEs in these fields:

      1. Private medical facilities (Oncology, diagnostic medical clinic, chemotherapy, pharmacy, radiology, radiotherapy);

      2. Construction companies;

      3. Market vendors (50 SMEs);

      4. Agriculture suppliers (coffee growers); &

      5. Seafood suppliers (oyster farming, fish suppliers). 

      The SMEs  despite the challenges have tried their best to work with the resources they've got. In some instances, some form of financing was given by the Fiji government to SMEs about $4k/ vendor. A select few received $30k for their startup.

      Development partners.

      We have worked with development partners who are providing training for ginger farmers, and seafood vendors. These include organisations such as ITC (U.N type agency), SPC, Conservation International (C.I), USP, E.U, UNOHCHR (DTP, UNSW), & UNDP (SGP, Pacific Center).

      Other development partners we're keeping a tab on is the European commission (E.C) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CBD). Their action plans, media approach, have been robust with the political support that they have. That's some of the updates from 2020 - current (June 2021). Thanks.

       
      Solevaka's picture

      Solevaka said:

      This is a response from Selina Kuruleca (Therapist, Counsellor, Trainer, Mental Health Professional in Suva Fiji) :

      Has the COVID-19 pandemic increased hardship or poverty in your community or island?

      COVID19 has brought about many forms of hardship within our local communities. Hardships that have ranged from job loss – reduced work hours, reduced income, inability to access workplaces due to lockdowns and uncertainty of what the future brings; to homeschooling challenges to an increase in social ills. This economic hardship has led to difficulties within the home, difficulties with providing for family members including school-aged children, the elderly, disabled, and young people in their homes. Economic hardship has also led to an increase in social issues including an increase in Gender-based Violence(GBV), inter-family conflict, and the resulting difficulty in accessing health services. There are also widespread reports of little to no food being available in the home, particularly with the prolonged lockdowns of areas, already severely impoverished and having limited or no access to the government-supplied food rations. However, there is also hope. Like any crisis, the COVID19 pandemic has also sparked renewed interest in farming land for subsistence use, new improved ideas of farming access to planting material – enabled in part by the Fiji Ministry of Agriculture.

      What impacts of the pandemic have you observed on the local economy?

      There has been an increase in the availability of online shopping services, including shopping for fresh seafood, vegetables, and groceries. This has begun to stimulate the economy however the availability of such services and areas of delivery is still focused primarily in the urban centers. In conversations with local supermarket managers, many have witnessed an increase in the purchase of cheap canned foods, noodles, and the like – inexpensive and unhealthy for the most part. There has also been an increase in the purchase of alcohol, tobacco products, and kava. Maybe good for the economy but not necessarily a priority or good for the average Fijian family trying to make ends meet.

      Please share any solutions that have been put into practice in your community as well as any other solutions which you think should be implemented.

      There is a need to include NGOs, CSOs, and stakeholders in the community for campaigns led by the government. Vaccination campaign, swabbing/ testing campaign; need to use local community leaders within communities to drive government programs; the need to have messaging in the vernacular; messaging that is clear, precise, visual, and understood by members of the community.

       
      Laiakini Waqanisau's picture

      Laiakini Waqanisau said:

      Dear readers & development partners,

      I hope you are well. We have some changes happening in the Oceania region. Despite the challenges brought about by COVID19 era, there are bright spots. These are some of the positive changes, and things we can do to improve upon for the noted SDGs (#1 & 10):

      1. Medical healthcare: We have managed to initiate and implement services such as for medical health clinics, oncology clinics, diagnostic medical clinics, radiology, radiotherapy, pharmaceutical services, & chemotherapy clinics. For this type of medical healthcare it will impact 10k clients in Fiji and the Oceania region. 

      The one thing I find that has less support is that of mental clinics/ private mental hospitals. Counselling seems to be given to religious leaders and there is a lack of coordination amongst its stakeholders (physcologists). The FCS has its own physcologist with their delegated roles within its own services. The government services and communities seem to give the role of counselling to its religious units/ organisations instead of professional trained counsellors and physcologists. 

      2. Agriculture industry: The agriculture industry, we are working with are wild coffee growers and coffee grove owners. This is a niche industry which is top heavy with those who are dominant in this have investment in land,  coffee roasting machines, coffee bean dryer/ seperator equipment, & boutique cafes in  Nadi, and Suva. We hope that more resource owners take coffee growing/ suppliers to another level. The raw  wild coffee beans industry is lucrative as its got a good price in the local market ($15/kg) and in the global market (£70/kg).

      We are also working with a beverage manufacturer that has its networks amoungst agriculture suppliers, mainly sugarcane, pineapple, and citrus farmers. The shutdown of juice stands has brought a big loss to these SMEs, however beverage manufacturers have a chance to thrive amongst the major beverage manufacturing companies. At the moment we are focusing on the Serua province, for one business owner, so that we can provide employment in this area.

      One group I'm hoping to work with are mushroom farmers. Mushroom farming has been seen to thrive in places where there is not much land and chronic shortage of food. It is also easy to become a mushroom farmer with the right support, mindset, equipment, and encouragement. The business is good for poor families as it provides nutritious mushroom food for people who can't afford to buy meat or fish. It's estimated that during the COVID19 restrictions, 400k urban dwellers have faced chronic food shortage in supplies and nutrition. 

      3. Seafood suppliers : This is one of the main food supplements for coastal villages and settlements. Unemployed resort workers have gone back to fishing to provide for their families. We started working with 100 oyster farmers as this is not an expensive type of business to run. It's market/ clients was mainly hotels and resorts and even this has trickled down with no tourists coming to Fiji. It is anticipated that oyster farming will attract local clients at the urban markets and in time open another export market for Fiji and the Oceania region.

      We have also worked with fish suppliers at the local market. The low fish catch has impacted the local markets so these busineses supplement it with selling offcut tuna pieces from wholesalers. Even this market dried up as monopolies that supplied offcut tuna pieces to 50 fish vendors, sent it to their preferred clients (other vendor monopolies) impacting the fisherfolk.  Rural clients have resorted to fishing for their daily supplements whilst urban dwellers may face a downturn in buying fresh fish from fisherfolk.

      4. Market vendors (handicrafts): In May 2020 a group of 50 market  vendors (handicrafts) had their stalls burnt to the ground. This started a grassroot movement for their relocation and compensation from the authorities and their landlord. Some vendors have started operating online. The good thing that came out of this is change in business delivery through social media platforms and a formation of an umbrella organisations (FUNA). 

      Food vendors are doing well and we see this is a good time to be involved in this business. The coordination of this market vendors (10k+) is a good outcome. The provision of financing will improve the variety of goods that we buy from market vendors.

      5. Waste recycling, & improved sewage: This is one area we have worked on within the public sector. Over the weekend, we started to assess this waste recycling business and its shortcoming was seen as critical. We hope to work more on this aspect, to improve livelihoods in the urban and rural areas. There are 2000 villages, and settlements (300k people) in the government register and most lack access to landfills. This poses a big threat to the environment as it has impacted the marine life, hygiene and living conditions. One way is to improve disposal, designation of landfill areas, incineration of harmful wastes (e.g. diapers). 

      Installation of proper sewage is critical as most rural communities still use rudimentary types of sewage and waste treatment. This is a vital way to get rid of hygiene related diseases. There are an estimated 2000 villages and settlements (300k people) that partially have improved sewage treatment. The shortage of construction materials indicate that we have to use the available materials to achieve these proper sewage treatment targets.

      Lessons learnt in Fiji, will be good to pass on to stakeholders in the Oceania region for waste recycling and sewage treatment for rural households. 

      6. Business restructure: Some SMEs are facing problems paying their business loans. From 2018, we saw this happening and started helping these companies by gaining new business opportunities, & application for new loans. In 2021, we had to rewrite the proposals to help some of these business to survive. This included organizing the business, loan restructuring, negociations with the banks, and providing viable finance options. The impacts from Tropical Cyclones, Floods, and man made disasters compounded the financial health of various industries and businesses.  

      We also registered new businesses (ROC), did their TIN # (FIRCA), applied for trademarks (MOJ), applied for tax compliance (FIRCA), filed tax returns (FIRCA- Form B), and opened banking business accounts. These types of new businesses included the following: construction; beverage manufacturing; agriculture; waste recycling; fisherfolk; merchants; hoteliers; sports hub; medical healthcare; & market vendors. 

      7. Media platforms: We did media awareness of the various SME proponents, business opportunities available, and their services. This involved designing and implementing social media platforms to highlight new companies and consulting exisiting businesses. These were mostly grassroot movements, media platforms , exisiting entrepreneurs  & new SMEs.

      Development partners are critical and we hope to work closely with these organisations in 2021: European Commission  (E.C), European Union  (E.U), Secretariat for the Pacific Community (SPC), University of the South Pacific (USP), Fiji National University (FNU), Conservation International (C.I), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), UNOHCHR (DTP, UNSW), CSOs, NGOs, non profits  & the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

      The government agencies included: Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Ministry of Foreign Affairs  (MOFA), Ministry of Agriculture  (MOA), Ministry of Fishery (MOF), Ministry of Forestry (MOF), Ministry of Infrastructure (MOIT), Ministry of iTaukei (iTAB), & Ministry of Health (MOH).

      The local banks included: ANZ, HFC, and Bred Bank. These provided opening of new accounts, internet banking, and provision of loans. We look forward to working with the other local banks such as BSP, Westpac, FDB and Bank of Baroda. Insurance companies are another entity that are critical and so far we have engaged with one company.

      During COVID19 it has become slower to get business rolling so we are exercising lots of patience under the circumstances. 

      This is a brief update on the latest happening in July.

      Thank you. Kind regards 

       
      Karen Elizabeth Bernard's picture

      Karen Elizabeth... said:

      Here is a thoughtful contribution from a person who wishes to remain anonymous:
       
      'Has the COVID-19 pandemic increased hardship or poverty in your community or island? What impacts of the pandemic have you observed on the local economy? Please share any solutions that have been put into practice in your community'


      When the Covid-19 pandemic was first announced, we couldn’t have imagined the devastation this would cause to our island nation of Fiji. In terms of infections and deaths, we had been very lucky. Our borders were closed down after a few infections and immediate lockdowns left Fiji Covid-free. However, the borders being closed has also brought a huge number of issues for Fijians. Within my family, not much has changed for those living in the villages- but those living in our towns and cities have been hit hard.

      With tourism providing around 40% of our economy, so many businesses have had to cut down on staff or close completely. For us, our income has stopped completely. When lockdowns are brought in and people are unable to work, there is no income for that day – for that week – or that month (depending on how long the lockdown lasts). With the government’s already difficult financial situation, they are unable to provide a scheme to maintain people’s income (such as in the UK), and without any mortgage holidays from the bank, people are not able to afford the rent and are being forced to move out.

      Two weeks ago, we sadly lost our vehicle. This was our sole form of income as my husband provided a taxi service from a nearby nightclub. We had struggled for years in order to save for a car to start this business- unfortunately we will have to try our best to do the same post-Covid. Without tourism, the nightclub itself has gone under and what had been a fantastic business for us over the last couple of years has gone completely.

      We are still the fortunate ones, however, as we currently have family overseas who are covering our rent. If this wasn’t the case, we, like many other Fijians, would have to move out of our property and go wherever we could. If we have to move out, our only option is to move a 4-hour drive away to Suva, where my family (my husband, our 4 children and me) would have to move into my parent’s house that already has 12 people living there.

      The only solution that we have seen from some people is to either move back to the village or to start planting on any land that people have available. Between us and our neighbours, we have started sharing food any time we can. Although these are only small gestures, we are just trying to help out as much as we can. Without income, people are having to move towards a more self-sustaining way of life – but this isn’t always possible for those living in our towns and cities. In the long-term, this may also make it difficult for those that have moved to the village to return to the cities.


      Preferred not to be named.

       

       

      As is the case around the world, Pacific Island countries have a significant LGBTQ+ community. They are often excluded, and face systemic discrimination, as a result of their gender identities.

      In your opinion, what should be done in the Pacific islands to ensure that LGBTQ+ persons can feel valued, included, and able to safely be their authentic selves? How can governments facilitate this needed cultural and social shift?

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      Karen Elizabeth Bernard's picture

      Karen Elizabeth... said:

      Kia orana! Today I would like to shine a spotlight on Cook Islands, which has now drafted legislation to protect the rights and dignity of its LGBTQ+ citizens. This is a positive development towards addressing inequalities, and all those involved in drafting and advocating for this progressive legislation must be congratulated for their efforts.

      As we find in too many countries, anachronistic and discriminatory legislation still on the books in Cook Islands criminalizes loving relationships between adult men. In the country’s Crimes Act 1969, we find Section 154 “Indecency Between Males,” which criminalizes “indecent acts” between men, with a penalty of up to five years of imprisonment. Section 155 “Sodomy,” criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual activity between adult men, with a penalty of up to seven years of imprisonment. The Act stipulates that consent is not a defense to any charge under these sections.

       

      While this law may be rarely enforced in practice, even so it is harmful, as it characterizes our fellow humans as criminals simply because of who they love, and denies them expression of their sexuality, which other citizens enjoy without prejudice. The existence of this law shows that Cook Islanders who are gay, lesbian, transgender or queer face restrictions on their private behaviour that other citizens of the country do not face.  This clearly intimidates and prevents LGBTQ+ islanders from living their daily lives as their authentic selves.

      This law can also be used to blackmail and threaten gay men, to coerce them into actions that they would prefer not to do, under threat of being denounced to the authorities for violation of the Crimes Act 1969.  This has been known to occur in other countries which still maintain such laws.  Lesbian relationships are not specifically mentioned under the 1969 law, however we should assume that all LGBTQ+ person in Cook Islands may also feel vilified by the existence of this law.  

      It is revealing to consider the cultural history of Cook Islands. Homosexual relations and transgender people have been part of the country’s culture for centuries, as in many other Polynesian nations. Historically, transgender persons (now called akava'ine; meaning to behave like a woman) were seen as playing valuable roles in the family and the local community. When foreign Christian missionaries arrived, however, they claimed that this was not acceptable, and the first anti-gay laws in the Cook Islands were enacted shortly thereafter.

      The informal term in Cook islands for men who behave like women is laelae. Culturally, laelae are different from gay or transgender people, and can be considered a “third gender.” They may identify as female but are biologically men, or they may identify as both male and female, or as neither. Laelae engage in domestic tasks traditionally considered as women's work, tend to socialize with women and wear female clothes. They typically have sex with heterosexual men, who do not consider themselves, nor are they considered by others, to be "homosexual".  However, their sexuality is rarely discussed openly. As in other Polynesian countries, their cross-dressing and dance performances are highly regarded and appreciated.

      In June 2021, the Cook Islands government explained that the new Crimes Bill which has been drafted proposes to remove the ‘indecency’ provision and will not contain any provisions which discriminate against any resident of the Cook Islands. However, this Bill has been stalled since its introduction in 2017. The Office of the Prime Minister reports that Bill has been referred to New Zealand’s Parliamentary Counsel Office for final drafting, after MPs had granted another six-month extension to the Committee charged with reviewing the Bill and undertaking public consultations. Pride Cook Islands, a local CSO dedicated to LGBT issues, welcomed the news but remained skeptical due to the “history of flip-flopping on this issue.”

      Public debate has shown a range of viewpoints. In the related consultations, there was opposition from several churches, and the Cook Islands Tourism Industry Council stated its concerns that the bill could negatively impact the tourism industry. Some commentators proposed that the new law’s provisions should be gender-neutral, by additionally criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity between women. In 2013, following the legalization of gay marriage in New Zealand, Cook Islands Prime Minister at the time, Henry Puna, had asserted that there was no chance of the Cook Islands doing the same.

      At the same time, if we look at the bigger picture, there are global agreements and human rights conventions at stake in terms of how LGBTQ+ rights should be protected in the Pacific.  The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been endorsed by countries around the world, including all Pacific island nations.  SDG 10 contains a relevant target, Target 10.3: “ensure equal opportunity and reduce inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard.” The indicator corresponding to this target is “proportion of population reporting having personally felt discriminated against or harassed in the previous 12 months on the basis of a ground of discrimination prohibited under international human rights law.”

      Much remains to be done in the Pacific on this issue, and hopefully Cook Islands will lead the way, so that other Pacific island countries can follow.

       
      Karen Elizabeth Bernard's picture

      Karen Elizabeth... said:

      Equality for our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters is based on absolute respect for their human rights and dignity. This is well illustrated in this article by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):

      Promoting LGBTI equality in the Pacific

      “I was the first one to wear a dress to church,” said Joey Joeleen Mataele, the Chair of the regional umbrella organizations Pacific Sexual Diversity Network. Mataele identifies as a Leiti, the inclusive term for transgender women and gay and bisexual men in Tonga.

      [Activists for LGBTI equality featured in a video to launch the Pacific Free & Equal campaign.© OHCHR] “Mass had already started, but instead of everybody watching the priest, they were watching me… I said to myself, I am what I am, and no one is going to change this; this is the life I want to live. I feel comfortable as a female and no one is going to take that right away from me,” Mataele said.

      Mataele was speaking at the regional Pacific launch event of the UN Free & Equal campaign, held in Suva, Fiji in August 2015, which was organized by the UN Human Rights Office for the Pacific, along with other UN agencies, civil society organizations and diplomatic missions, to highlight sexual and gender diversity in the region and promote respect for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Pacific Islanders.

      In recent years, a series of United Nations resolutions have expressed concern at the prevalence of discrimination and violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The global Free & Equal campaign was launched in South Africa in 2013, responding to the need to address homophobic and transphobic attitudes through education.

      “I am a proud ally of the cause for LGBTI equality and of the Free & Equal campaign. I refuse to be silent in the face of prejudice of any kind,” said H.E. Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, President of Fiji, in his welcome address.

      The event brought together more than 120 people from across the region, including representatives of governments, civil society, UN agencies, religious communities, national human rights institutions and others calling for greater respect for LGBTI people in the Pacific. The event featured music performances by Kiti Niumataiwalu, the Voice of Fiji, and the Rainbow Pacific Free & Equal Choir (a choir created for the campaign).

      Two new campaign videos were screened showcasing the faces and voices of the LGBTI community and their supporters from across the Pacific, including the President of Fiji and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

      During the official event, which featured a number of high-level speakers, Karen Allen, UN Resident Coordinator ad interim, urged all of the Pacific States to decriminalize same-sex relations and adopt laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. “Same-sex relations remain criminal offences in eight countries in the region. In most cases, these laws are a legacy of the 19th century colonial powers,” she said.

      Louisa Wall, a Member of Parliament of New Zealand, stressed the importance for governments and civil society to work together. “The decriminalization of homosexuality in New Zealand was eventually successful because politicians worked with the people,” she said. “This change was hard fought, enabled by collective action and steadfast advocacy."

      “You can have laws, but attitudes also need to change,” said Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Acting Prime Minister and Attorney-General of Fiji, who spoke of Fiji’s constitutional ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

      Gillio “Gigi” Baxter of the V-Pride Foundation, a community support group in Vanuatu, and star of the Vanuatu television series, Love Patrol, highlighted the importance of public education as a way of changing attitudes. Baxter said that the television series has been able to do just that by featuring the lives and stories of LGBTI people.

      Catherine Phuong, Acting Head of the UN Human Rights Office for the Pacific, said that all stakeholders must take a stand against prejudice and support LGBTI colleagues, friends and family. “We are inviting all of you to carry the torch together and use the campaign to spread the message of equal rights for all people,” she said.

       

       

       

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      RICARDO JAVIER DOMINGUEZ LLOSA's picture

      RICARDO JAVIER ... said:

      In Vanuatu South Pentecost island,  The community of Bunlap, which a Kustomary Area in South Pentecost, Vanuatu is building its capacity and diversity in agroforestry production thanks to the Integrated Sustainable land and Coastal Management (ISLCM)/FAO project. In the second phase of the Tropical Cyclone (TC) Harold Livelihood Recovery Program for South Pentecost, the project team carried out a supervision mission to Ranwas, which is located in the Bunlap Zone. A total of 516 people have benefited from the emergency Farm Field School program and through the establishment of two agroforestry nurseries, which have helped to improve and diversify the diets of the beneficiaries. The project team analyzed 224 plots belonging to 30 farmers and identified 13 root crop species with the total number of cultivated varieties in communities ranging from 74 to 261. Surprisingly, villages with high population density have shorter fallow periods but higher yields. In both zones, women possess greater traditional knowledge. In villages with high population density there are signs of soil fertility reduction and mineral depletion but no signs of significant decrease in soil fertility after the first year of cultivation, indicating that root crop species remove limited amounts of nitrogen and minerals per year. ISLCM in action In South Pentecost, as elsewhere in Vanuatu, food security includes adequate access to resources, food availability, good health care and stability by ensuring no risk of losing access to food due to economic or climatic shocks (TC Pam in 2015 and TC Harold in 2020). In an archipelago such as Vanuatu, an accurate assessment of food security at the community level is vital and can be measured through various aspects of the traditional food production systems. This means determining resilience and vulnerability, including access to land, levels of production of the cropping systems, nutritional value of crops available (locally produced and/or imported), and finally community exposure to unexpected economic and climatic events. In Vanuatu, land and marine resources are managed at the community level. Throughout the archipelago, shifting cultivation results in agroforestry systems combining arboriculture with horticulture based on vegetatively propagated crops established after slash and burn in small garden plots. The main crop in the wet zones is taro and in the dry zones is the greater yam. The wet and the dry zones constitute a significant cultural differentiation between communities, which have developed different adaptation strategies, all extensively documented. After TC Harold, ISLCM project began supporting the Food Security Cluster and the National Disaster Management Office in the emergency and later in the recovery. Implementing the Farm Field School approach Building Agroforestry Nurseries with the support of the beneficiaries, who contributed their traditional knowledge. The exchange of knowledge in this open learning system has made it possible to serve 90 percent of the households. Another innovation that has been introduced together with the Community Agroforestry nurseries, has been training for the installation and maintenance of Bucket-micro irrigation systems for Backyard home gardens, 250 micro irrigation system have been installed by women’s groups.

       
      Laiakini Waqanisau's picture

      Laiakini Waqanisau said:

      Dear readers and development partners,

      I hope you are well. The COVID 19 era has brought about alot of restrictions for movement, travel, and ways of doing business for Pacific islanders. Despite the challenges, there are people thriving in this time in Fiji and the Oceania region.

      The trends in the market show that fresh food market vendors have a huge demand in their products. In pre COVID 19 times, there would be more consumption of imported food items.

      Nowadays, it's abit hard to find taro (rourou) leaves as these are the first to be sold. The fresh produce that one can see are Chinese vegetables which uses manure and pesticides. Consumers prefer foods that are pesticide free and uses less manure. 

      There is also a prevalence in the buying of foods rich in carbohydrates. These include cassava, dalo (taro), & sweet potatoe(kumala). This shows that consumers are going back to culinary tastes rather than convenience food such as rice and potatoes. Every week the arrival of fresh dalo and cassava at the local markets indicate customers are buying these foods.

      The COVID 19 era should have seen the dependence of urban communities on imported food, yet the opposite has happened. We can see a prevalence of customers buying fresh fish, seafood, rootcrops and local vegetables (rourou, ota). The health authorities show in the latest data the resurgence of COVID 19 virus and its variants. The survival rate of communities influxed with COVID 19 variants in Fiji  show a resilience not seen anywhere else in the world.

      The resilience of local communities seem to indicate that this preference for fresh foods has improved the immune system and resilience to the COVID 19 variants. This was evident in Asia in places like China, Vietnam, Singapore and Taiwan. If Pacific communities in Fiji and the Oceania region stick to their traditional diets, then this could help the resilience against COVID19 variants. Thank you.