Fiji comes to the World Humanitarian Summit with a plea to the global community to strengthen its response to the great humanitarian challenge of our age – the threat to hundreds of millions of people the world over from the rising sea levels and extreme weather events caused by climate change.
We in the Pacific are among the most vulnerable – the looming prospect of vast tracts of arable land being lost to the seas and three entire countries sinking beneath the waves altogether.
The corresponding threat of severe weather events such as tropical cyclones, floods and droughts is just as acute.
Three months ago, the biggest cyclone ever to make landfall in the southern hemisphere slammed into Fiji with winds in excess of 300 kilometres an hour. Tropical Cyclone Winston killed 44 of our people, damaged or destroyed 40,000 homes and ravaged public buildings and infrastructure, including 229 schools.
While the damage bill amounts to 1.4 billion US dollars, Winston spared the main tourism areas on which our economy largely depends. But Fiji and other vulnerable nations face the ever-present threat that a single event scoring a direct hit could devastate our economies for many years to come. And make it difficult if not impossible to meet our 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
We must gain urgent access to adequate levels of finance in the way of grants or loans to build our resilience to climate change. And I appeal to you all to give the issue of climate adaptation funding the overriding priority it deserves at this summit and in all the great forums of the world.