‘Coalition of the Selfish’ undermines smaller states

Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama – 

Like any Small Island Developing State, Fiji has some immense challenges which my Government is in the process of systematically addressing.

Aided immensely by our development partners plus a renewed sense of national confidence after our return to Parliamentary rule last September in our first truly democratic election of one vote, one value.

I acknowledge Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for its support over the years, not only for Fiji but also for all Pacific Islanders. The Organisation has played a key role in ensuring that more Fijians than ever before have regular access to nutritious, high quality food.

In doing so, it has rendered valuable assistance to us as a Government to raise living standards and improve the health of our people.

Sharing challenges

We in the Pacific share many of the challenges of developing countries generally in meeting the needs and expectations of our citizens.

Fiji does not yet have an overarching national policy on food security.

We are currently working on a holistic programme covering agriculture, fisheries, biosecurity, nutrition levels and education. That programme is being incorporated into an overall national development strategy for the coming years and decades.

Green Growth

Last week, I was able to launch a milestone initiative in the life of our nation, a comprehensive Green Growth Framework for Fiji that gives us a blueprint for the sustainable development of our resources now and into the future.

This comprehensive document encompasses ten primary areas at the heart of our quest for a Green and Blue Growth economy. And guaranteeing our food security is one of them.

The other components are to build resistance to climate change and disaster, one of the principle threats to food security for any nation; to manage our waste properly; to keep our island and ocean resources sustainable; to insist on inclusive social development; to adequately manage our freshwater resources and sanitation; to guarantee our energy security and develop alternative energy sources; to have sustainable means of transportation; to embrace technology and innovation; and to achieve the “greening” of our tourism and manufacturing industries, both mainstays of the Fijian economy.

Food Security

We are now acutely focused in Fiji on the need to ensure our food security, which we define in our Green Growth Framework as the ability to produce safe, healthy affordable food for all Fijians at all times.”

This definition encapsulates four key elements: Having the domestic capability to produce enough food to feed our local population; having a sufficiently diverse food production base to satisfy dietary needs; having the distribution systems in place to link people to markets and ensure ease of access to food supplies; and monitoring the efficiency of our farms to ensure that local produce is competitively priced and is affordable for ordinary Fijians.

Some pre-conditions

We continue to face major challenges in meeting the preconditions for a food secure Fiji; volatile commodity prices, low economies of scale, the loss of arable agricultural land, the poor level of efficiency of existing farms and the need to meet the growing food demands of our tourism industry and equally important, the challenge of feeding our international visitors and maintain the health of our primary export earner.

We recognise that these are challenges that Fijians need to meet themselves. But there is one factor threatening our food security over which we have no control whatsoever, the increasing frequency and intensity of the natural disasters we are experiencing in the Pacific that are being attributed to climate change.

Grave impact

These have already had a grave impact on Fiji and other Pacific Island nations, the most recent of which is the devastation caused to Vanuatu by Cyclone Pam.

We also face a terrible collective threat from rising sea levels caused by global warming, which has already had a serious impact on island nations, with much worse to come.

As a country with a string of mainly mountainous islands, we are forced to move entire villages, apart from losing precious arable land. We have identified more than 600 communities that are directly threatened by the encroaching seas.

In the case of three of our neighbours, namely Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands, which are low lying atolls, the threat is existential. Under the current scenarios being advanced by climate scientists, these sovereign members of the United Nations are destined to sink beneath the waves altogether in the lifetimes of their young people.

Fiji intends to play a lead role at the World Climate Summit in Paris at the end of November. And with the other Small Island Developing States, we will be calling for immediate action on the part of the developed nations to sign up to the binding cuts in carbon emissions that are vital to avert catastrophe.

I have branded those nations that are dragging their feet on climate change as members of the ‘Coalition of the Selfish,’ nations putting the health of their economies and the jobs of their workers before the very survival of the citizens of Small Island Developing States.

The time for prevarication is over. The time for action is now.

Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama is Prime Minister of Fiji. The above is an edited version of his Speech at the Food & Agriculture Organisation Summit held in Rome on June 9, 2015.

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