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NEWS | Aug. 5, 2023

U.S. and Pacific Islands Elevate Women’s Leadership in Climate Security in Two-day Workshop

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Office of Women, Peace & Security

The U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Office of Women, Peace & Security (WPS), the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), and Women of Color Advancing Peace, Security, and Conflict Transformation (WCAPS) co-hosted a workshop from July 11-12 in Suva, Fiji, focusing on “Building Inclusive Resilience” and exploring the nexus of gender, climate, and food security.

The event was the second part of a multi-year initiative by the USINDOPACOM WPS office to advance women, peace and security, and elevate women’s voices and leadership in the Pacific Islands.

The hybrid event saw 78 representatives from organizations and governments throughout the Indo-Pacific region participate both online and in-person during the two-day workshop. In total 24 organizations were represented, bringing together a diversity of professional and lived experiences.

Australian Air Commodore Christopher Robson, the USINDOPACOM J5 Deputy Director for Strategy and Senior WPS, gave the opening remarks at the event, honoring the knowledge, experience, and perspectives of the participants in the room and online.

“Women expand our understanding of what makes us secure,” he said. “Your perspectives improve how we provide security that is both effective and sustainable.”

He also highlighted the U.S. commitment to working alongside partners and Allies in building inclusive, gender-responsive approaches to climate security.

The keynote speaker Adi Vasulevu Merewalesi Levu, Executive Director of Transcend Oceania, began her remarks with the native concept of “talanoa,” which in many Pacific languages means “to share a story” or “to dialogue.” This theme of exchanging productive dialogue continued throughout the workshop. Notable panels included activists and government officials from Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Fiji.

During the workshop, Dr. Erin Hughey, Director of Global Operations at Pacific Disaster Center (PDC), led participants through a demonstration that applied gender perspectives to a climate disaster scenario. The PDC is an applied science, information, and technology center working to reduce disaster risks and impacts worldwide. The PDC also has a WPS assessment index of every country in the Indo-Pacific that gathers together thematic indicators of gender empowerment, gender inequality, exposure to armed conflict, non-state malign actors, natural disasters, and climate change.

Throughout the conference, female leaders articulated the need broaden conversations around climate change beyond emergency response and mitigation. They highlighted the need to incorporate a space for local history, knowledge, and indigenous traditions.

The Executive Director of FemLINKPacific, Fay Volatabu, provided closing remarks at the conference.

“Everything is connected and everyone’s vision must come together to find solutions. We in the Pacific are little but take up a big part of the earth, and as a collective, have networks of knowledge and power. We are already empowered and must reach to one another and collaborate on a larger scale. Next time our stories will grow.”

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