August 1, 2020

Pacific Climate Warriors Leading a Just Recovery

Suva, Fiji – Today marks a significant milestone for global climate activism as 30 Pacific Climate Warriors graduate from the Pacific Pawa Up Fellowship (PPUF), a 12-week online training initiative designed to coach Pacific climate activists by equipping them with essential skills needed to make a positive impact in a rapidly changing landscape.

Fenton Lutunatabua, Regional Managing Director of 350 Pacific said: 

“30 graduates from 9 countries have over the last 12 weeks dedicated their time to develop their skills as climate leaders. At a time with so much uncertainty with COVID-19, and the ongoing climate crisis, these young people have chosen to access this opportunity to improve their skills and increase their understanding of climate action. The science clearly states that, unless we take necessary steps to tackle climate change, things will only get worse. 

Whilst we are figuring that out, we are also figuring out ways to sustain our communities and build our resilience for future crises. This 12-week long online training has offered them the opportunity to do just that. It’s clear that the fossil fuel industry and other big polluters are strong, quick, and coordinated. We can win against them if we stand together and build our collective power. Right now, this is what it needs to look like. Continuing the work in the face of this health crisis.”

The Pacific Pawa Up Fellowship is an essential trajectory for Pacific youth, which models the Principles of a Just Recovery for a more sustainable, secure future. 

The five principles of a Just Recovery are: 

  • Put people’s health first, no exceptions.
  • Provide economic relief directly to the people.
  • Help our workers and communities, not corporate executives.
  • Create resilience for future crises.
  • Build solidarity and community across borders – do not empower authoritarians.

The Pacific Climate Warriors (PCWs) took to the streets during the Global Climate Strikes in September 2019 and rallied behind campaigns to halt the fossil fuel industry. However, due to COVID-19 and social distancing measures, new challenges have emerged for climate activists globally. Combined with the incessant impacts of climate change, such as Severe Tropical Cyclone Harold which amounted to at least USD$123.5 million in damages, Pacific Islanders are constantly reminded that climate change is not going to slow down, nor disappear regardless of a pandemic. 

Ernest Gibson, Pacific Climate Warrior and Co-Coordinator for 350 Fiji shared:

“There is no way that we can ‘go back to normal’ because the climate crisis and the global pandemic are both results of how humans have continued to ignore red flags by investing in unsustainable systems that only profit the wealthy few. 

Developed countries have the obligation to invest in building a resilient global community across political borders, and need to know that the youth are stepping up by harnessing the power of digital platforms and sharpening our skills to take back the reins for a future that we want. A future that puts people first.”

Okalani Mariner, Pacific Climate Warrior, 350 Samoa

“Before I was invited to join the Pacific Pawa Up Fellowship I had been feeling a little lost, the part inside of me that burned for community, storytelling and climate justice felt less like a flame and more so like a glowing ember. 

During these last three months, this community has been nothing but patient, gentle and encouraging. You have taught us the power of our voices when we stand united together as one. You have reminded me the impact you can make by sharing your unique story, 

In Samoan culture we use the ipu ava or bilo in welcoming ceremonies to scoop and serve the ava to the high chief and visiting guests to honor and welcome them into the village.

Today the ipu ava is symbolic for us. We are the ipu ava, and the love, encouragement, knowledge, skillsets and mentoring we have received from our PCW family is the ava inside.

It is my prayer and desire that we use the knowledge, skill sets and mentoring that we have received of the past three months to teach and educate others that there is hope for our future generations. That there are warriors who will not stop until the voices of our people are heard, that these warriors have banded together as one to declare that “we are not drowning, we are fighting.” 

This is my prayer, that we- like the ipu ava will pour our knowledge and our love out to others so that it may also fill their ipu, just as this fellowship has filled ours.”

The Fellowship had specific aims designed to: 

  • Inspire individuals to take action and grow leadership
  • Diversify, support, link and grow groups within the Pacific climate movement and beyond
  • Shift narratives on climate action and climate justice (so that participants could)
  • Dismantle pillars of support of the Fossil Fuel Industry

Topics covered in the PPUF included organising and engaging climate activists, strategising, engaging in the UNFCCC process, storytelling (both offline and digital) and communications skills. 

The PPUF tapped into the power of digital platforms and communications systems to create an enabling platform to ensure the Pacific Climate Warriors are doing the work required to continue organizing their communities. All while respecting the cultural diversity of indigenous communities and the integrity of frontline communities. 

For more information on the Pacific Pawa Up Fellowship, please visit the website HERE

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  • Photos are available here: (LINK)
  • For more information or interviews please contact: Patricia Mallam, E: [email protected]