Fiji has called on the United Nations (UN), World Economic Forum (WEF), and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to share their expertise and also “establish COVID-SDG Transition Investment Fund using a blend of grant, concessional and private investments” to assist the Pacific Small Island Developing States like Fiji in their recovery plans.
While addressing the OECD-WEF Development Finance meeting at the UN earlier this week, Fiji’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations, Ambassador Satyendra Prasad said that such a fund should focus on investments that have high jobs opportunities; livelihoods and environmental impact.
The meeting convened with the World Economic Forum examined the special case for recovery in small states and it was chaired by Susana Moorehead, Chair of Development Assistance Committee at OECD.
Ambassador Prasad spoke on the core elements of the plans to restore stability and growth in small states in saying that “a climate crisis, compounded by a health crisis and exacerbated further by an economic crisis has left Fiji and many SIDS bracing for a “coronavirus supercyclone” of the century.
“A rapidly spiraling jobs and livelihoods tragedy looms. A global food crisis seems inevitable. Small states are the most severely exposed to the unfolding human crisis triggered by COVID19 pandemic. They cannot remain at the backend of the cue of international recovery.”
“Fiji knows painfully too well what destruction a Category 5 cyclone brings. Tropical Cyclone Winston that hit Fiji in 2016 destroyed nearly a third of the Fijian economy and undoing generations of hard-won development progress. The “coronavirus supercyclone” is that Category 5 cyclone intensified several times over,” Ambassador Prasad said.
He stated that before the COVID19 pandemic, Fiji was making steady progress on two long term transitions.
“Firstly, Fiji had been climate proofing its economy and society. This involves investments to rebuild water infrastructure to withstand fiercer storms and rising sea levels; relocating communities to protect them from rising sea levels; introducing new climate change resistant varieties of food; rebuilding homes and government infrastructure that had been destroyed by cyclones and frequent flooding to higher engineering standards”.
Secondly, he said “Fiji had been making steady progress to becoming a zero carbon economy and society by 2050. It has been setting up marine protected areas; accelerating its forestry protection programs; increasing solar coverage across maritime and rural communities; commissioning new mini-hydroelectricity; innovating policy to encourage green investments”.
“Fiji has been innovating in funding these transitions. It’s Environmental and Climate Adaptation Levy has been generating significant revenues for building seawalls to protect coastal communities. It has brought in international finance through its first ever green bond. It has established a solidarity fund to support the relocation of communities threatened by sea level rise”.
“There is zero ambiguity in Fiji’s commitment to maintaining these transitions. Quite the opposite. Accelerating these transitions has become a part of Fiji’s recovery,” Ambassador Prasad said.
He emphasised that Fiji now needs to manage a third transition, in terms of operating within COVID contained framework and managing the three transformations at the same time.
“The seas are choppy today. But this is just the time for bold ideas. As was the case after the 2nd World War in Europe, when the international community developed the far reaching Marshall Plan for the recovery and rebuilding of Europe; the time for a Marshall Plan for small states has arrived”.
Ambassador Prasad said that small states need to work with their financial institutions to channel highly concessionary finance to communities; entrepreneurs and innovators for scalable green and blue investments.
He said that “medium term international funding made available to Governments can be routed through national institutions to fund smaller public and private sector investments.
These may include funding nature based solutions; funding small private sector hotels; expanding community owned and managed solar grids. Such projects are almost always too small for international private finance. Crack this conundrum and our reset is well underway”.
Ambassador Prasad also told the OECD-WEF officials that “SIDS needs to begin to project and use their treasured tourism sector as a vehicle through which the Global Goals and especially the climate and oceans goals can be pursued. They are losing far too many opportunities by not doing so”.
He said that over the Decade of Oceans Science starting next year, “large ocean states have a great window to increase the depth of national expertise on marine and oceans science; biodiversity management, marine genetics, deep sea minerals, sustainable seafood production. They should seize this”.
Ambassador Prasad added that “Blue SME’s are only now beginning to become mainstream. Through massive investments in training, capacity and skills; the decade offers a great hope for driving a sustainable blue transformation and blue growth in SIDS on the backs of blue SME’s”.