The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, visited Vanuatu on April 29th and 30th to address climate justice and climate action issues for the Pacific. Her visit came at a critical time for Vanuatu, which is still recovering from the devastating impact of two Category 4 cyclones, Judy and Kevin, that hit the country in early March.
The cyclones affected 80% of Vanuatu's population, causing widespread and substantial damage across the country.
During her meetings with Vanuatu officials, including the Minister of Health, Honourable Marco Mahe, the Secretary-General was briefed on the health impacts of the cyclones, which have caused waterborne diseases to surge among the population. The Secretary-General expressed her concern for the affected communities and emphasised the Commonwealth's commitment to help Vanuatu to recover from the disaster.
Speaking on the Commonwealth’s dedication to the issue, Secretary-General Scotland said:
“The Commonwealth has long been a champion for climate justice and climate action, since the Langkawi Declaration in 1989 and captured in our Commonwealth Charter – we will continue to support Vanuatu and other small states and vulnerable countries to build resilience, adapt to new realities and address loss and damage.
I commend Vanuatu for being a voice in the Pacific on climate justice and for successfully leading a coalition of 133 nations in adopting a historic UN Resolution calling for a non-binding Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice on climate change. There is a strong need for collective action to address the impact of climate change on small island developing states like Vanuatu, which are particularly vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather events.”
During her stay, the Secretary-General visited some of the islands in Vanuatu worst hit by the cyclones. She also met with the Minister of Finance and Economics Management, Honourable John Salong, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade, Honourable Jotham Napat.
The Secretary-General's visit highlighted the importance of global cooperation to address the pressing issue of climate change and to support vulnerable communities like those in Vanuatu. The Commonwealth's commitment to climate action and promoting greater cooperation among member states was reinforced through the discussions with Vanuatu officials.
The Commonwealth is actively involved in several climate change initiatives, including:
- The Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub (CCFAH)
- The IPP Commonsensing Project
- The Commonwealth Living Lands Charter
- The Commonwealth Blue Charter
- The Universal Vulnerability Index
- The Commonwealth Meridian Debt Programme
The Secretary-General's visit was an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Vanuatu in their time of need. During the visit, she also continued to highlight the urgent need for global action to address the impacts of climate change on vulnerable communities. The Commonwealth remains committed to working with Vanuatu and other small island developing states to build resilience and mitigate the effects of climate change.
- Rena Gashumba Communications Adviser, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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