A beautiful inheritance: Tonga’s leaders are determined their country will remain resilient.
By Andy McElroy
GENEVA, 17 July 2013
- "God and Tonga are my inheritance" – the motto of this Pacific Kingdom – has inspired its leaders to move to safeguard their country for future generations.
Their efforts represent an inspiring example of ambitious disaster and climate resilient development steered by strong national leadership that is based on community ownership.
On her tour of the Pacific region, the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Ms Margareta Wahlström praised Tonga for trailblazing the development of a Joint National Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation that stands as a shining example for the rest of the Pacific region as well as the world.
In discussions with the Tongan Prime Minister Lord Siale’ataongo Tu’ivakano and other senior officials in the capital Nuku’alofa, Ms Wahlström said that Tonga’s achievements demonstrated the importance of leadership to secure sustainable development.
"Disasters are not really caused by nature but by how we build and design our modern societies. This means that we have choices for a more resilient development path," Ms Wahlström said.
"The Joint National Action Plan is an integrated approach to address the impact of climate and disaster risk. Tonga has shown excellent leadership to develop such an approach along with Cook Islands and Vanuatu.
"The policy base for such integrated action plans is strong. The Cancun Adaptation Framework at the 2010 Climate Change Conference in Mexico is very explicit on the practice of using disaster risk reduction for action in adaptation work."
Tonga has also established a dedicated allocation within its national budget for disaster management despite doubts in some quarters.
"What impressed me was the determination of high level leadership to make this happen," Ms Wahlström said. "That leadership also exists at the community level where many villages have active emergency management committees."
Despite the significant momentum in the Pacific, Ms Wahlström said on a global level several challenges remain. "We must achieve a more unified direction for all countries and not the current parallel approaches to various aspects of sustainable development," she said.
"It encourages me that Tonga is remarkably willing to share its experience internationally as the more good examples we have to inspire us, the better."
Ms Wahlström visited Tonga ahead of the recent 2013 Joint Meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable, in Nadi, Fiji.