A one-day panel designed to promote dialogue between scholars, university lecturers, politicians and local communities from the Pacific Islands region, in the framework of EU cooperation. Its three sessions were devoted to climate change-related risks, the use of natural resources and gender discrimination. Presentations were followed by film screenings.
The panel was inaugurated by EU Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs who noted climate change-related natural disasters that strike the region (earthquakes, tsunamis, floods), and the disappearance of unique biodiversity. The Pacific Region is covered by a global system to monitor and mitigate natural disasters. All EU Member States agree that more assistance is necessary to give the region's residents a better future. However, many problems stemming from climate change can only be solved if global climate negotiations move forward. The panellists underscored the need to align development concepts with different characteristics of the region's islands and to boost institutional aid that would make it easier for recipients to take part in solutions at the EU and global levels (such as the Kyoto Mechanisms or adapting to the effects of climate change). They also called for assistance in dealing with migration caused by natural disasters and to address the difficult situation of fishery and the food processing industry.
The panellists presented scientific analyses of the specific conditions prevailing in the Pacific Islands region. They highlighted challenges facing the region due to environmental threats, soil erosion, considerable food safety risks, natural disasters and the high cost of removing their consequences (including substantial outlays for adapting to the effects of climate change). A matter opposed by NGOs is the conduct of big industrial companies. They restrict local communities' land ownership rights by exploiting natural resources and clearing forests. It was agreed that that leaders must assume responsibility for coordinating measures in this field. Today, a number of projects are being implemented thanks to EU support. Their objectives include strengthening institutions and adapting to the effects of climate change (while taking into account research programmes on coral reef adaptation and protection). Community dialogue about environmental threats is also being held as part of the online Marovo Learning Network. However, more support is needed to enhance systems that warn about natural disasters and mitigate their effects, to improve education and to raise awareness of imminent threats and ways of dealing with their aftermath. In addition, more funds should be provided for adaptation measures. The Pacific Perspective on Environment, Economy, Education is one of the projects under way.
Protecting Natural Resources
Drawing on a number of scientific studies and regular observations, the panellists emphasized the major threat posed by big international companies to the ecological balance by exploiting natural resources in the Pacific Islands region. C. Sparks presented some measures (small and medium-term grants) that have been subsidized by The Christensen Fund, an organization established in 1957. The Fund supports, among others, programmes aimed at protecting biological and cultural diversity and preventing the devastation of Melanesian soil, the latter issue sparking strong protests among local communities. Some of the major problems include corruption that accompanies mining companies' projects, tax regimes, difficulties in utilizing mining incomes for the benefit of the Pacific region and raising investors' accountability.
The panellists noted mounting problems in the field of gender equality: all rights being conferred on men (according to women), high women and children mortality, lack of access to public offices and limited access to schools. The World Bank helps implement an educational programme that teaches how to help women during labour. The panellists pointed to the role that the European Union can play in promoting gender equality and shaping new attitudes among young and well-educated inhabitants of the Pacific Islands. In addition, the participants underscored that the state has a key role to play in promoting gender equality and that funds for that purpose are insufficient. EEAS representative G. Lachut pointed out that gender equality is a centrepiece of EU policy. She mentioned different forms of violence against women. Lachut also called for well-balanced actions that do not generate social tensions.
 Panellists: Professor M. Jędrusik (University of Warsaw), Dr T. Crook (Centre for Pacific Studies, University of St Andrews, Scotland), A. Tong (President of Kiribati), Dr T. Webster (Director of the National Research Institute, Papua New Guinea).
 Panellists: Professor E. Hviding (University of Bergen, Norway), P. Lokani (Melanesia Programme Officer), Dr J. Veitayaki (Oceans and Islands, University of the South Pacific, Fiji), N. Simi (Ministry of Finance, Samoa).
 Panellists: B. Kondra (Vice-Minister for Mining, Papua New Guinea), Professor J. Leach (University of Aberdeen, Scotland), D. O'Sullivan (Global Witness), C. Sparks (Melanesia Program, The Christensen Fund), Dr T. Webster (Director of the Natural Research Institute, Papua New Guinea).
 Panellists: F. Hukula (National Research Institute, Papua New Guinea), G. Lachut (EEAS), Professor C. Toren (University of St Andrews, Scotland), Professor K. Rio (University of Bergen, Norway), T. Iuta (Secretary of the Cabinet, Presidency of Kiribati).