REDUCING COMMUNITY VULNERABILITY IN PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM COUNTRIES: LESSONS FROM A PANDEMIC
Free (open access)
3 - 14
The Oceania region is frequently under threat to natural disasters. In the event of a category 5 cyclone, under the FRANZ Agreement, France, Australia and New Zealand stand ready to coordinate disaster reconnaissance and provide relief assistance when requested by Pacific Islands Forum countries. Australia and New Zealand also provide financial assistance to Pacific nations to support their economic development. In 2020, the declaration of a pandemic by the World Health Organization prompted immediate border closures in Pacific countries. As a result, the relentless spread of the COVID-19 virus, evidenced in other parts of the world, has not been replicated as yet among these countries. Some Islands are still entirely free of infections. The remoteness of the many islands and atolls that characterise this region does afford some protection from COVID-19. Nevertheless, these developing, mostly small, island nations have not escaped the pandemic unscathed. Border closures and travel restrictions have affected tourism, supply chains, the agricultural sector, and food security. Pacific Islanders are resilient and ready to face these new challenges. However, the vulnerabilities underlined by the emergence of this new threat have revealed a continued need for assistance from Australia and New Zealand. This discourse examines community-based solutions drawing from secondary data sources, academic literature and practical examples, especially from the rural communities of Pacific nations. The paper addresses enduring vulnerabilities emphasised by the pandemic with reference to Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s concepts of “capabilities”, “functionings” and “freedom”. The study seeks to demonstrate that developing “capabilities” that build or strengthen existing social capital, strongly aligned to traditional roots in Pacific Islands Forum nations, could lead to reducing vulnerabilities by building resilience that increases coping and adaptive capacities.
capabilities, freedom, functionings, PIF nations, resilience, social capital, traditional roots, vulnerability