Fiji's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Satyendra Prasad. PC: Fijian Government.
As Pacific Small Island Developing States cope with both the aftermath of severe Cyclone Harold and the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic, Fiji has led a global push for greater multilateral solidarity and support to brace vulnerable countries for devastating public health and economic impacts.
Speaking on behalf of the Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) at a Virtual High Level Placencia Ambition Forum, Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Satyendra Prasad, highlighted the life-threatening stresses that climate change and coronavirus are placing on vulnerable economies.
“Supercharged Category-5 Tropical Cyclone Harold, which caused dozens of deaths in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga, is a wake-up call. You cannot practice good physical distancing in communities where homes have been blown away. You cannot fly in emergency workers to provide emergency relief to communities in the path of destruction in countries which are still COVID free. Small vulnerable countries cannot respond to their worst health emergency in a century and the fiercest cyclone in a century at the same time,” he said.
The forum –– hosted by the Government of Belize –- is part of a series of preparatory meetings in the lead-up to COP26, which has been rescheduled to January 2021.
In attendance at the forum’s official opening was the Rt. Honourable Dean Oliver Barrow, the Prime Minister of Belize, His Excellency Antoìnio Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, Carolina Schmidt, the Chilean Minister of Environment and COP 25 President, and the joint Presidents of COP 26, ministers Alok Sharma and Sergio Costa.
In his address, Ambassador Prasad detailed the intricate linkages between COVID-19 and climate change, stressing the growing urgency of achieving net-zero emissions to prevent the widening of existing inequalities.
he said that the small island developing states: "do not have access to special concessionary funds. Middle income SIDS face particular challenges in accessing development finance at the best of times. They compete from the same pool of resources with much larger and often higher capacity developing countries. This must change. As the most vulnerable nations in the World; SIDS must have access to earmarked funds for supporting their climate ambition and their COVID-19 recovery,” Ambassador Prasad said.
He went on to commend launch of the United Nation’s COVID-19 Response Fund by the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, pointing to the extreme need for accessible and affordable financing for all Small Island Developing State (SIDS).
“SIDS should be able to access these funds to rebuild their economies while enhancing their NDC implementation at the same time. On behalf of PSIDS, I thank the UNSG for his leadership on this. I thank development partners already supporting this effort, along with Norway-UK- Denmark and others. We join the UNSG in his call upon other partners to support this effort and support this generously. Climate change is a complex development challenge that now requires a COVID-adjusted approach,” he emphasised.
Fiji’s PRUN also spoke on the significance of the Pacific NDC Hub, launched by Prime Minister Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama in 2017, in enhancing PSIDS already high climate ambition, developing investment plans for NDC implementation and leveraging finance for NDC implementation.