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Fiji is grateful to the world’s civil society leaders and activists for their support of the Pacific region’s efforts to address climate change, said Fiji President Major General (Ret’d) Jioji Konrote.
And, he urged civil society to continue to assist in what is likely humanity’s biggest challenge.
“We cannot afford to fail in our mission,” he said. “We must keep this issues atop the global agenda.”
Konrote made the comments in his address at the International Civil Society Week (ICSW) opening ceremony in Suva Monday night.
“Our ultimate goal is to help save Planet Earth and humanity at large, and to leave no one behind,” he told a full-house crowd of 600-plus at Novotel Hotel, about six kilometres from the Fiji capital.
“Fiji is indebted to your contributions and we look forward to your continuing support of governments and the private sectors,” he said, before officially declaring ICSW open.
This is the first ICSW held in the Pacific region. The event, which is organised by CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation every 18 months, is co-organised this year by CIVICUS and the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (PIANGO).
CIVICUS chairperson Anabel Cruz, in her address reaffirmed CIVICUS’ commitment to amplify Pacific voices.
She said, “We are a world alliance of people and organisations aimed to support citizen participation and to strengthen civil society,” and that they were “here in full willingness to learn and interact.”
“The theme for ICSW is ‘Our planet. Our struggle. Our future’, because we all want a sustainable planet for
our future generations,” said Cruz.
“We respect and support the struggles of our sisters and brothers in the Pacific to get open civic spaces for our people and organisations.”
PIANGO chairperson Sarah Thomas-Nededog also addressed the international and regional delegation, which altogether represent 109 countries.
She said she hoped international delegates would gain a better understanding of the Pacific’s concerns by the end of the week.
“Help us to tell our stories,” she said. “Tell them we are a beautiful passionate people. Tell them we are peaceful and we embrace all peoples from all around the world. Tell them about the resiliency and how are able to stand up after all kinds of challenges, including storms, hurricanes and whatever that may come our way.”
She urged them to explore the region’s realities of displacement.
“The Pacific people are already leaving their homes and are homeless,” said Thomas-Nededog.
“Please tell them that seabed mining is causing our fish and creatures of the ocean to be distressed threatening fishing for families and preserving our way of life.
“Tell them that there still some of us that are not truly free and have not exercised our right to self-determination.”
She also emphasised how many in the region still do not have access to basic human rights.
“Tell them that some of us do not even have the very basics of water, electricity and safe homes protected from storms and harsh weathers,” she said
Thomas-Nededog said the Pacific CSOs and NGOs remained committed to Agenda 2030.
“Most important to me is SDG 17 “Global Partnership”; that is why we are here today,” she said.
“ICSW is a testament that we alone cannot realise the Sustainable Development Goals, and we alone cannot make the change the world needs us to make.”
ICSW is hosted at the University of the South Pacific’s Laucala Campus.
Today’s ICSW programme kicked off with 20 side-events on various topics and will end with an International
Volunteers Awards ceremony. The ceremony will honour outstanding volunteers with Dr. Jiko Luveni, Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Fiji as the Chief Guest.
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