“THE SUVA DECLARATION AND ITS IMPACT ON RMNCAH”
Ladies & Gentleman
The subject of my presentation this morning is the SUVA DECLARATION ON CLIMATE CHANGE and its impact on Reproductive, Maternal, New Born, Child and Adolescent Health (or RMNBCAH for short).
RMNBCAH is vital to the resilience of populations facing climate change impacts and slow or rapid onset disasters. However, across the Pacific today, both structural and social determinants undermine the health status of women, newborns, children and adolescents.
Poor sanitation remains a big risk to children’s health, education and development. With sanitation compromised, newborn children are at risk, growth stunting is more prevalent, vaccines are less effective, child mortality rates are higher and children miss more school due to sickness.
Under nutrition co-exists with high rates of obesity while as many as 8 in 10 children and 7 in 10 women in the Pacific experience violence or abuse at some point in their life. Rates of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies are high including among adolescents bringing particularly dire consequences for adolescent girls.
Recognising that good RMNBCAH is vital to the resilience of populations facing climate change impacts and slow or rapid onset disasters, the Suva Declaration on Climate Change provides in Clause 19(h), for increased support for adaptation measures that address vulnerable sectors such as health, water and sanitation.
In doing so it recognizes that when a population’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are of good standing, when children’s development is not undermined by conditions or circumstances leading to their poor health, if adolescents are supported appropriately as they pass through puberty into adulthood, everyone benefits. Communities are healthier, stronger, their rights better upheld and thus they also become more resilient.
The Suva Declaration on Climate Change however appreciates the financial challenges such adaptation measures face in the Pacific today. In this regard the Suva Declaration mandates in Clauses 19(i) and (e) that, adaptation measures for Pacific Small Island Developing States be 100% grant financed and that there be a special provision in the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, to fast-track urgent action required to assist the most vulnerable countries that are already experiencing existential threats from climate change.
In addition it also calls in Clause 8 for the establishment of a Pacific Small Islands Developing States regional task force on climate financing to ensure adequate funding for adaptation and mitigation actions such as foe health and sanitation . The Declaration requires that such financing be given as grants and not loans or reimbursable grants as is currently under discussion in some international quarters.
This pronouncement recognizes that a flexible portfolio of bilateral, regional and multilateral mechanisms for climate adaptation funding would be the best response to addressing the problems governments in the region face. Although multiple financing mechanisms risk adding to administrative and financial costs, a mix of climate funding systems, that draw on the strengths of existing development partnerships, are the most practical means of assisting the region.
Research & Development
In combating Climate Change there is also a need for research that informs health policy and practice and strengthens health programs using evidence based interventions. We need more R&D on the issue of Climate Change and health impacts. This is an area that is currently unknown although there is anecdotal evidence that Climate Change and its manifestations such as warming, more frequent extremes, wind, drought, rain etc. will exacerbate the issues of NCD.
Article 19(l) of the Suva Declaration provides for the development of Pacific based research and technology capacity as an essential foundation for innovation in our response to Climate Change. The data for disease etc. is there and working with researches and the meteorological services which has climatological data, we will be able through such R&D to provide robust information for policy interventions.
The Suva Declaration also addresses the issue of climate change and gender inequality. Recognizing that climate change exacerbates existing inequalities the Suva Declaration states in Clause 16 that, “addressing gender based inequality and discrimination is essential for effective action on climate change.”
It goes on to remind us in Clause 17 of, “the importance of engaging, as equal partners …civil society, women, youth and persons with disabilities, in all efforts towards building climate change resilience.”
Finally in Clause 19 (n) it calls for, “support to enable the greater involvement of community, civil society (including women, youth and persons with disabilities) and the private sector, in our climate change responses and initiatives.”
These pronouncements recognize that empowering women to contribute their skills and knowledge will be important to improve health outcomes. It appreciates that women and men have different skills and knowledge to cope with climate change impacts. The unique knowledge held by women can therefore be effectively utilised to adapt to climate change, including addressing its impacts on community and family health.
The Suva Declaration on Climate Change however recognizes that the most important and urgent strategy to fight climate change is to reduce the emissions that cause climate change in the first place. It recognizes that the risks of future climate change to our health grow rapidly with each degree of temperature rise.
This is why the Suva Declaration calls for the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement to limit global average temperature increase to below 1.5⁰C above pre-industrial levels in order to transition towards deep-decarbonization.
It welcomes the conclusion of the Structured Expert Dialogue of the 2013-15 Review under the UNFCCC, that the goal to hold the increase in global average temperature below 2⁰C is inadequate but that scientific evidence indicates that limiting warming to well below 1.5⁰C will significantly reduce impacts, risks, adaptation needs, as well as loss and damage.
The Suva Declaration recognizes that if we all fail to reduce emissions sufficiently,
we run the risk of climate change impacts so severe that we will be unable to adapt.
A recent report has stated that Climate change poses a threat so serious that it could reverse the last 50 years of progress in global health and development.
This is why it is important that in addition to reducing emissions we must also ensure that the Paris Agreement is legally binding. We cannot opt for anything less.
The Suva Declaration is uncompromising in its stance. It is our red line in the upcoming Climate Talks in Paris.
In the past we have allowed other interest to supersede our own in this so fundamental an issue for our people and our future. Not this time.
For the first time we are going to Paris with one voice; the voice of those who have made the least contribution to the crisis we now face but for whom it is having the biggest impact.
As the Prime Minister of Fiji said in our last Summit, we in the Pacific tend to speak softly. It is in our nature. But on this issue, we needed to cry out with one voice, enough is enough. And we have. And it is all the more powerful for that.
Ladies & Gentlemen
I commend to you the Suva Declaration on Climate Change and pray that you will support it in your deliberations and ongoing advocacy in this area of climate change.