Saturday 18 March 2017
Welcome to the summary of the third and final day of the Pacific Islands Westminster Seminar.
The final day was an opportunity for delegates to engage in a more interactive programme that focused on an issue of particular relevance, namely the issue of climate change.
Role of Parliamentarians and External Support
The morning began with Baroness Taylor introducing the opening session. Speaking on the issue of climate change she acknowledged that, while the Pacific region has done little to cause the changing global environment, they are suffering acutely with rising sea levels and more extreme weather patterns.
Delegates then heard from Hon. Akosita Lavulavu MP of Tonga, who spoke passionately about how climate change is effecting her and her community. She said that the Tongan people’s livelihood, built on fishing and agriculture, was dependent on the environment and the consequences of rising sea levels has had a severely detrimental impact on the local economy, as well as bringing waterborne diseases and coastal erosion.
Looking at what parliamentarians can do, Hon. Akosita Lavulavu MP stated that MPs in the Pacific must seek to integrate measures to combat climate change into their overall development agendas. Parliamentarians, she said, must also lead by example by engaging in environmentally friendly activities.
The session then heard from Hon. Connelly Sandakabatu MP of the Solomon Islands who highlighted, not only the work being done at a national level through a select committee on climate change, but also the regional and international work that he and his colleagues were engaging in. Through regional and international conferences networks and relationships were being built to combat climate change in a joined up approach.
In the discussion that followed the need to continue working together to keep climate change on the international agenda, during these uncertain political times, was stressed. On their own the Pacific Islands’ voice may not be heard on the international stage, but together, along with other partners in the Commonwealth, there could be more of an impact.
Following the opening session delegates divided into three groups for individual roundtables to further unpack the issue of climate change and what can be done to combat it.
Delegates raised that there is only one opportunity to get it right on climate change and future generations will judge how well we do. Action, therefore, needed to accompany words.
The discussions also touched upon the educative role parliamentarians can do at the grassroots level. It was highlighted that the Pacific Islands have a rich history of traditional knowledge and that this could be renewed and integrated with increasing academic research around climate change. Parliamentarians needed to then communicate with local communities more effectively so information reaches everyone not just certain levels of society.
The role of civil society was also highlighted as a force for educating people about climate change and providing technical assistance. Within this, the need to work with the media was also emphasised.
Looking to the future, the upcoming Commonwealth Summit was highlighted as an opportunity to keep pressure on leaders within the Commonwealth and to work together towards implementing environmental objectives.
The Pacific Islands Westminster Seminar then closed with a final address from Ian Liddell-Grainger MP who emphasised that while there were many cultural differences between the delegates and the countries they represent, all were united in their desire to represent and stand up for their constituents. In that vein, he urged the delegates to continue to champion the cause of democracy.
Ian Liddell-Grainger MP then went on to thank the Queensland Parliament for hosting the conference as well as the delegates for being active and engaged participants. He then handed out certificates to the delegates to mark their completion of the Westminster Seminar.
CPA UK would like to add our thanks to all the delegates and speakers for their participation in the conference over the last three days. It has been a privilege to share ideas with you and also to learn from your own experiences and knowledge. We hope to continue working with you in the future.