By Dhakshy Sooriyakumaran
Suva - The UNISDR Sub-Regional Office in Suva together with its partners, held a Pacific regional celebration of the International Day for Disaster Reduction to highlight the role of children and youth as active partners in disaster risk reduction.
The event was a joint celebration of World Habitat Day (observed globally on 3 October), and involved the United Nations, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC/SOPAC), the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF), the Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC), Save the Children, and the University of the South Pacific (USP). Over 100 guests attended the half day event held at Suva’s Holiday Inn. The majority of participants were children and youth from schools and civil society organizations.
The event began with official messages on IDDR and World Habitat Day from the UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction and the UN Under-General Secretary/Executive Director of UN-Habitat. The UN Resident Coordinator, Mr Knut Ostby, in his welcome address, highlighted the “need to learn from children and youth, and join forces with them to make the Children’s Charter a reality here in the Pacific”.
The Children’s Charter was also the focus of the IDDR 2011 message of UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, who reminded us that “more than 600 African, Asian and Latin American young boys and girls developed a Children’s Charter to reduce disaster risk”. The Charter highlights priorities for disaster risk reduction, including: safe schools; child protection; participation; access to information; safe infrastructure; risk reduction and protection for the most vulnerable.
An exciting item of the regional event was a theatrical dance performance by Rishikul Primary School called “Act Now or Face the Consequences”. Rishikul Primary School is the recent recipient of the first prize at the Tadra Kahani Primary School Dance Competition held in Suva, Fiji. Their dance depicts the story of community and how they behave prior to, during and after the advent of a destructive tsunami.
The highlight of the event was the children and youth taking centre stage to “Step Up for Disaster Risk Reduction”. This involved a number of school children and youth sharing their messages and proposals for achieving safer and more resilient communities. Four primary schools, two secondary schools, teachers college, two local youth groups, Fiji National Youth Council, Generation Next (FemLINKPacific’s Young Women’s project) and University of the South Pacific (USP) presented their vision for addressing a range of issues related to disaster risk reduction, such as, environmental protection, climate change adaptation, school disaster preparedness, and resource conservation. The importance of practical and concrete action, however small, was highlighted by many.
The event also enabled local governments to share their commitments towards engaging children and youth in disaster risk reduction, particularly through the 2010-2015 World Disaster Reduction Campaign, known in the Pacific as “Making the Pacific Resilient – My Community is Getting Ready!” Lami, Fiji, presented some of its recent achievements in making its community resilient and involving children and youth in addressing disaster and climate risks.
Suva, Nausori and Rakiraki from Fiji were presented with Certificates of Commitment to Disaster Reduction by the UNISDR Sub-Regional Office for joining the campaign today. There are now 10 local governments from the Pacific region participating in the campaign, i.e. Ba, Lami, Nadi, Nausori, Rakiraki and Suva from Fiji, Luganville from Vanuatu, and Cairns, Lake Macquarie and Townsville from Australia.
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