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By Pita Ligaiula in Apia, Samoa
Climate change is arguably the greatest challenge of our time, with grave implications for stability, prosperity, and the rule of law.
Katalaina Sapolu, Director, Governance and Peace Directorate of the Commonwealth Secretariat told the Pacific Islands Roundtable on International Humanitarian Law (IHL) underway in Apia, the effects of climate change are now an important contributory risk factor in many armed conflicts.
“These effects can increase people’s vulnerability and create additional dynamics in a conflict.
“Greater respect for IHL may help to reduce climate risk to vulnerable communities and the environment itself. IHL makes clear, that the natural environment is protected, and that civilians rely on natural resources essential for their survival,” Sapolu told regional delegates at the meeting.
Samoa's deputy Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa said an issue that is pertinent to Pacific Island nations is climate change.
“As you know, climate change is the most pressing threat to the human race and Pacific Island nations are at the forefront of experiencing the immediate negative side effects of climate change. You will discuss the effects of climate changes on armed conflicts which is relevant to us.”
“In this roundtable it is Samoa’s hope that Pacific Islands represented here today have the opportunity to assess their respective IHL obligations and consider whether they have properly implemented them- and if they have not, consider ways that they can move forward,” Mataafa said.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) member, Mauro Arrigoni said many Pacific countries are at the forefront of the effects of climate change and rising sea-levels.
“Natural disasters or environmental problems – which the Pacific region understands better than most – can of course also have catastrophic and farreaching results, and these impacts are greatly exacerbated by socio-economic problems or conflict.”
“Many Pacific countries are at the forefront of the effects of climate change and rising sea-levels, and I will be very interested to hear from you when we will explore what happens when the effects of climate change and armed conflict converge. This builds on the discussions we had in Nadi in 2017, when Pacific States acknowledged that climate change and conflict can cause a double vulnerability for civilian populations.
“Speaking of global threats, we cannot ignore what may be the biggest threat of all in terms of the potential magnitude and scope of humanitarian consequences: the use of nuclear weapons. This region knows the effects of nuclear testing all too well. If such weapons were used today, the effects would be so catastrophic that the whole of humanity would be at risk.
“The aim of this roundtable is to reaffirm the relevance of IHL in the Pacific region. Beyond this, the aim is to create a platform for Pacific Island countries – a powerful regional voice – to contribute to and influence global efforts to develop and strengthen the rules regulating warfare,” said Arrigoni.
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