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Climate Change Challenges to the Cultural Identity and Sovereignty of Pacific Atoll Nations - Conference July 2021

The Climate Change Network of the Pacific Islands Council of Qld Inc (PICQ), in partnership with the Climate Frontlines project of Friends of the Earth Australia are hosting an online conference on July 22 and 23.

Conference details

WHAT: Online Conference

WHEN: Thursday, 22nd (1pm-5pm AEST) & Friday, 23rd July 2021 (9AM - 1PM AEST)

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Full program here

The matter of cultural identity and sovereignty and how to maintain it is becoming an increasing concern for Pacific Island nations in the face of advancing climate change.  While this is true for most if not all the Large Ocean States of the region, atoll nations are facing these challenges in a critical way and with great urgency.  Current scientific information and predictions about the pace and impacts of climate change indicate that there will be limitations to resilience and adaptation measures in response to such impacts as rising sea levels, extreme weather events and ocean warming and acidification.

For Pacific peoples, any notion of sovereignty must acknowledge the reality that their sense of identity includes intimate and complex physical, spiritual and social connections to their natural environment, and how this shapes their unique history.  These intrinsic factors must be recognised, respected and included in any efforts to address challenges to maintaining cultural identity and sovereignty in the face of climate change.  The particular physical vulnerability of Pacific Island atoll nations – the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu - makes this especially true for them.

The questions arise: How are the impacts of climate change already challenging the complex cultural identity and sovereignty issues of these nations?  What strategies are being put in place to address them – by communities, local and national governments, civil society organisations, the wider Blue Pacific community, regional and international partners?  How are atoll communities being affected by the uncertainties about their future?

If increasing impacts of climate change make local adaption impossible and a significant proportion of a nation’s population is forced to move, what do they stand to lose (culturally, socially, spiritually, economically, politically)?  What rights need to be protected and what assurance and guarantees are needed from the international community? How can people’s political autonomy and sovereign identity continue to be maintained and exercised in another location?

The Climate Change Network of the Pacific Islands Council of Qld Inc (PICQ), in partnership with Climate Frontlines of Friends of the Earth Australia, organised two online forums to begin exploring the topic on 19 October and 9 November 2020: you can view the previous forums here.

They are now preparing a live and online workshop scheduled for the afternoon of 22nd and morning of 23rd July 2021.  It aims to sharpen the insights from the webinars and generate a sharing of ideas and constructive discussion that recognises the depth and breadth of the challenges and begins to open up collaborative pathways to address them.

Adding to strong voices from the Pacific, the plan is to involve and engage participants with experience in international law, representatives of youth and community climate change advocacy organisations, academics, influential international organisations like the Red Cross, human rights advocates, and others who can support Pacific efforts in other regional and international arenas.  It also hopes to generate greater interest and involvement from the Pacific diaspora in Pacific Rim countries.

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