Transcend Oceania
This pandemic is a bit of a dress rehearsal for the far more chronic challenge we face in regard to environmental change and climate change.
Jonathan Cohen

Trialling a combination of online and face-to-face meetings using online platforms, conferencing and in-room facilitation, this format enabled us to bring together a wide range of practitioners, academics, policymakers and government agencies. 

The event brought together learning and experience on climate change and conflict issues in Fiji. This included looking at existing village relocations which have occurred due to sea level rise; conflict analysis around climate mobility and urbanisation; the differences and similarities between community perspectives with policy perspectives; and the different types of work being undertaken by international organisations, governments, faith-based groups and civil society.
Discussions also explored the impact of COVID-19, and asked what the pandemic can tell us about the type of leadership which will be needed to address the rapid changes occurring in Fiji and the Pacific region. As part of this, Conciliation Resources' Executive Director, Jonathan Cohen, reflected on issues of trust, inclusion and leadership which are required for sustainable peace in a fast-changing world.

While the event brought together a diverse group of people, some common messages emerged. First, was the need to work with people, not for people. Several participants made it clear it is not a matter of ‘building resilience’ but rather working with existing community strengths. This requires an investment in longer-term timeframes when working with communities, noting that each community relocation could take ten years and strong levels of continuity throughout and beyond the process. This requires thorough planning to ensure communities are given the space to engage with different stakeholders and to foster processes which involve transparent decision-making.

It was reiterated by many of our Fijian partners that peace, security and wellbeing need to be defined by Fijians on their terms. Current 'climate (in)security' or 'climate crises' framing may unintendedly prioritise short-term approaches which miss crucial analysis of how climate change interacts with the existing factors which produce peace and/or violent conflict.

Fiji is an international forerunner on issues of climate-change induced relocation, however, the event enabled a closer examination of power dynamics and questions around accountability, communication, trust and relationships between different levels of leadership. Working on these “softer” processes alongside the current technical and environmental responses were highlighted as essential to ensure greater collaboration and inclusion in how we work together to meet shifting challenges.

Conciliation Resources continues to work with partners and networks on conflict and climate change, environment and conflict issues in Fiji and elsewhere.

Some of the presentations of the event are available to view here:

Researcher Anna Anisi on lessons learnt from village relocations in Fiji

Professor Jon Barnett from The University of Melbourne on the perspectives of policy and of community worlds

Jonathan Cohen on the importance of trust, different levels of leadership and inclusion in addressing environmental conflict