The Pacific and Its Peoples in a Changing Climate:
Pasifika Wisdom and Relational Security
Canberra, 6-8 September 2023
The climate–security nexus has gained prominence in policy and research internationally over the last few years. The United Nations’ Security Council and General Assembly, as well as many UN member states, have addressed the issue in terms of international, national and human security. Only quite recently, however, have these hegemonic discourses acknowledged the need to also take into account localised, indigenous and traditional approaches to climate change mitigation and adaptation, conflict resolution, and peace. At the same time, and in parallel, a genuinely Pasifika way of thinking about this issue has emerged in Pacific Island Countries (PICs), driven by civil society actors (churches, NGOs, community-based organisations) and researchers and policymakers from the region. This new way of thinking places Pasifika relational approaches, grounded in traditional and indigenous wisdom, front and centre. Efforts to facilitate dialogue between proponents of dominant mainstream climate security and the Pasifika way of addressing the climate-security nexus have commenced. This workshop contributed to that dialogue, by integrating the different strands of thought. ‘Weaving the mat’ is an appropriate Pasifika metaphor for such an endeavour.
The workshop brought together Pacific Island, New Zealand and Australasian researchers, practitioners and policymakers for information sharing, exchange and dialogue. It was held in Canberra in order to generate conversations between representatives of the Australian government, Australian think tanks and NGOs, Australian academics working in the field of climate and security (and development and migration), and their Pacific counterparts. It was an opportunity to discuss what a new Australian First Nations Foreign Policy could achieve in the field of climate change, conflict and security, and how this aligns with more conventional understandings of Australian climate security. Furthermore, it was an opportunity to identify and explore common ground for collaboration between Australia and Pacific partner countries, including New Zealand, in the climate–security field. The aspirations to jointly organise and host COP 31 in 2026 makes this a matter of major importance.
The workshop placed Pasifika indigenous traditional knowledges and Pasifika approaches at the centre of the policy–research–practice deliberations. Its starting point was the presentation of Pasifika approaches for dealing with climate change, disasters, complex emergencies, conflict and security: Pasifika relationality and spirituality (including fenua and the va – place and space – and associated relational security) questions of (un)inhabitability of places, and of (im)mobility of communities in the face of the effects of the climate emergency. This also included the experiences and knowledges of indigenous people(s) in Pacific Rim states, particularly Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia and Maori in Aotearoa/New Zealand.
The challenge is to develop a Pasifika framework for conflict-sensitive and peaceful climate change adaptation, grounded in the relational ontologies of Pacific cultures; to explore how to translate Pasifika wisdom, knowledge and practices into (climate, security, development) policy at the state and regional level; and how to align it with ‘Western’, in particular Australian, frameworks and policies which were presented at the workshop.
The aim of the workshop was to develop a better mutual understanding of concerns and approaches of various stakeholders who come from different traditions of thought and different fields of practice. On the basis of better mutual understanding, options for integrating different approaches can be explored (weaving the mat) and collaboration across difference can be initiated.
The workshop was co-organised by the Toda Peace Institute and the Australian National University Pacific Institute, and supported by IOM/Suva, Toda’s partner organisation Conciliation Resources, and its Pacific partners – Pacific Conference of Churches, Pacific Theological College, Transcend Oceania, Pacific Centre for Peacebuilding.
A full Summary Report of the workshop will be published in due course.
See You Soon, Lagoon - A poem by Bedi Racule
A lecture delivered by workshop participant Rev. Dr. Upolu Luma Vaai at Griffith Asia Institute and Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University, on Tuesday 12 September 2023.
Image: Willyam Bradberry/shutterstock.com