Australia and the United States announced several commitments on climate change, education and gender equality for Pacific island countries, following a three-day forum that ended Aug. 30.
Australia announced a training program worth 750,000 Australian dollars ($773,813) Friday (Aug. 31). The program will help develop the negotiating skills of government officials in the Pacific, Indian and Caribbean Ocean island developing countries on global climate change discussions.
In addition, the donor country announced a AU$58 million package for the region, part of which will be used to support climate monitoring in 14 Pacific countries, and disaster resilience projects in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga.
A total of AU$10 million in grants will be made available to nongovernmental organizations to build communities’ resilience to climate change.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who attended the forum along with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, also announced two new programs for climate change adaptation in the region. Both programs will be under the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The first program — worth $25 million — will help improve infrastructure, boost communities’ response to natural disasters and create “long-term plans to adapt to climate change.”
The second one involves training and educating engineers and technicians on how to maintain, repair and install solar energy equipment.
The announced assistance is critical to the region, which hosts “some of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and natural disasters,” according to the World Bank. Vanuatu, Niue, Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Marshall Islands and the Cook Islands are among the 20 countries in the world with “the highest average annual disaster losses scaled bygross domestic product,” according to a World Bank report released in June.
Other Australian aid pledges for the region include AU$85 million for tertiary education, part of which will be used to establish a Pacific Research and Education Network that will improve teachers’ and students’ access to basic email and Internet — a vital tool for improved teaching and research.
In addition, Gillard announced a 10-year AU$320 million initiative to improve Pacific women’s political, economic and social opportunities via partnerships with governments, civil society organizations, local advocacy groups, businesses and U.N. agencies, according to a press release.
Her government is also part of the Rarotonga Partnership for the Advancement of Pacific Island Women that Clinton launched Aug. 31. The partnership, which also involves the New Zealand government, aims to strengthen the leadership skills of women in the region.
At less than 2 percent, Pacific island developing countries have the world’s lowest rate of women in legislative bodies or hold executive roles according to research from the World Bank and by local organizations, Clinton said.
“These facts illustrate a problem that doesn’t just hurt women and girls; it hurts everybody,” she said in a statement.
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