Dear PM: ‘It breaks my heart that a sense of belonging has cost 50 lives’

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern paying her respects in Christchurch. Image: RNZ

Summer Joyan’s open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern:

Dear Prime Minister Ardern,

I am a 13-year-old Muslim girl from Australia and I would like to publicly share my appreciation with you. I belong to the generation that was born after 11 September 2001. I have never really contemplated how dark the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant language is that permeates Australian society, because it is all I have ever known. I guess I’ve become used to hearing political leaders use that same language.

But then, after seeing the way you have responded to the terrorist attack in Christchurch, I realised that I now know what the role of a leader truly is. So I want to thank you on behalf of the Muslim community in this country for all that you’ve done since Friday. The way you have expressed support and genuine empathy for the Muslim community, and your care for the people of New Zealand as a whole, have been magnificent to see. And I wanted you to know how much it means to me.

#TheyAreUs

Today I watched a video of you talking to the students at Cashmere High School regarding the terrorist attack. You showed such strength and kindness, and it made me wish I could experience the same thing in Australia. In my high school, not a single teacher or figure of authority even mentioned the attacks. They didn’t acknowledge that a white supremacist murdered 50 innocent Muslim men, women and children in a usually peaceful place of worship. They didn’t offer support or reach out to the Muslim girls in my school or even provide counselling services for grief and support.

Today’s “Unbreakable” New Zealand Herald front page. Image: PMC

In a country that is so similar to New Zealand, and yet also so different, can you imagine the comfort that my Muslim friends and I felt, knowing there was one leader in a neighbouring country that was on our side? My friends and I are Muslim; we were all born in Australian and it is the only place we have ever known. But this has been the first time we have ever felt like we were part of the fabric of a community, and it breaks my heart that this feeling of belonging has come at the cost of 50 lives. If only more politicians had the courage to stand up to injustices and knew when to stop playing political games with the lives of people who depend on them.

Your leadership has brought the world together. By supporting the New Zealand community, no matter what their religion, you have shown what a great leader you are ― not just in the good times, but when the times are as dark as can be. I cannot imagine any other political leader doing what you have done. I think that you deserve the Nobel Peace Prize! Many world leaders could learn a lot from the way you have held your nation together and comforted those who are grieving.

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I’m sure you will remain Prime Minister of New Zealand for a long time. But if not, do you think maybe you could move to Australia and become our Prime Minister? That would be a dream come true.

Thank you again for all that you have done.

From an Australian-Muslim girl who now knows what real leadership looks like,

Summer Joyan

The solidarity vigil crowd at Auckland’s Domain last night. Image: David Robie/PMC A policeman at the solidarity vigil in Auckland’s Domain last night. Image: David Robie/PMC

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Amnesty welcomes school climate strikes, warns ‘truant’ governments

Young people “know the consequences of the current shameful inaction both for themselves and future generations. This should be a moment for stark self-reflection by our political class.” Image: Strike 4 Climate

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Amnesty International today warned that the failure of governments to tackle climate change could amount to the greatest inter-generational human rights violation in history. a

The London-based rights organisation welcomed a global day of school strikes against climate change planned for tomorrow by young people.

“Amnesty International stands with all children and young people who are organising and taking part in school strikes for climate action,” said Amnesty International’s secretary-general Kumi Naidoo.

READ MORE: Students striking from school for a safe climate future

This is an important social justice movement that is mobilising thousands of people to peacefully call on governments to stop climate change.

“It is unfortunate that children have to sacrifice days of learning in school to demand that adults do the right thing.

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“However, they know the consequences of the current shameful inaction both for themselves and future generations. This should be a moment for stark self-reflection by our political class.

“Instead of criticising young people for taking part in these protests, like some misguided politicians have done, we should be asking why governments are getting away with playing truant on climate action.”

Devastating impacts
Amnesty International warned that climate change was having and would have even more devastating impacts on human rights unless governments acted now to change course.

Climate change especially affects people who are already vulnerable, disadvantaged or subject to discrimination, the organisation said.

“Children especially are more vulnerable to climate-related impacts, due to their specific metabolism, physiology and developmental needs,” Amnesty said in a statement.

“Climate change also poses a risk to their mental health; children exposed to traumatic events such as natural disasters, exacerbated by climate change, can suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders.”

Naidoo said: “Climate change is a human rights issue precisely because of the impact it is having on people. It compounds and magnifies existing inequalities, and it is children who will grow up to see its increasingly frightening effects.

“The fact that most governments have barely lifted a finger in response to our mutually assured destruction amounts to one of the greatest inter-generational human rights violations in history.”

Millions of people are already suffering from its catastrophic effects – from prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa to devastating tropical storms sweeping across South-east Asia and the Caribbean.

Devastating heatwaves
During the summer months for the northern hemisphere in 2018, communities from the Arctic Circle to Greece, Japan, Pakistan and the USA experienced devastating heatwaves and wildfires that killed and injured hundreds of people.

“Children are often told they are ‘tomorrow’s leaders’. But if they wait until ‘tomorrow’ there may not be a future in which to lead. Young people are putting their leaders to shame with the passion and determination they are showing to fight this crucial battle now,”  Naidoo said.

The latest pledges made by governments to mitigate climate change— which are yet to be implemented—are completely inadequate as they would lead to a catastrophic 3°C increase in average global temperatures over pre-industrial levels by 2100.

Amnesty International calls on states to scale up climate action substantially and to do so in a manner consistent with human rights.

One of the crucial ways this can happen is if people most affected by climate change, such as children and young people, are engaged in efforts to address and mitigate climate change, while being provided with the necessary information and education to participate meaningfully in such discussions, and included in decision-making that directly affects them.

“Every day that we allow climate change to get worse ultimately makes it harder to stop and reverse its catastrophic effects. There is nothing stopping governments from doing everything in their power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within the shortest possible time-frame.

“There is nothing stopping them from finding ways to halve emissions from their 2010 levels by 2030, and to net-zero by 2050, as climate scientists have called for,” said Naidoo.

“The only thing standing in the way of protecting humanity from climate change is the fact that our leaders lack the political will and have barely tried. Politicians can keep making excuses for their inaction, but nature does not negotiate. They must listen to young people and take steps today to stop climate change, because the alternative is unthinkable.”

#Strike4Climate

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

UPNG may get new council, says staff boycott academic

NASA representatives, including Dr Linus Digim’Rina, talking to journalists at the University of Papua New Guinea. Image: Alan Robson/PMC

By RNZ Pacific

A new council at the university of Papua New Guinea could soon be appointed, says an academic who led last week’s staff boycott at the country’s main national university.

Dr Linus Digim’Rina, head of the Division of Anthropology, Sociology and Archaeology, is a key member of the National Academic Staff Association (NASA).

Dr Digim’Rina said almost all university staff boycotted their duties for three days last week, following the suspension of the council in January.

READ MORE: UPNG shutdown crisis – the facts behind the turmoil

Higher education minister Pila Niningi cited allegations of corruption and sexual misconduct against the council in his decision to install an interim body.

But the interim council’s composition angered staff which led to the boycott, Dr Digim’Rina said.

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“We avoided describing it as a strike action because there was no resolution from NASA … So it was a voluntary call on individual members of staff, everybody who are concerned about governance issues.”

On Wednesday last week, the minister accompanied by the government’s chief secretary, Isaac Lupari, met with university staff and undertook to take three actions, Dr Digim’Rina said.

‘New team altogether’
“One, complete the process of the appointment of the vice chancellor. Two, conduct an independent investigation into the allegations… And three, appoint a new council with a new composition, a new team altogether,” he said.

“That’s why we committed ourselves to return to classes last Thursday.”

The staff presented a list of names for appointment to the council which is subject to approval by the National Executive Council (NEC), Dr Digim’Rina said.

“That will be presented to NEC on Thursday, deliberated and a decision reached,” he said.

But some of the interim councillors could remain.

“The minister indicated during the presentation that he would like to keep not all but a few of his own appointees including the chancellor and that didn’t go down well with university staff,” Dr Digim’Rina said.

The chancellor, Jeffrey Kennedy, criticised NASA last week for taking industrial action on issues not related to employment.

Room for more
Kennedy said he expected his interim council to be in place until the end of the year but noted there was room for two more members to be appointed.

But the composition of the interim council does not adequately represent the university, Dr Digim’Rina said.

“A one-sided majority of the members have come from management, corporate administration and real estate backgrounds,” he said.

“There were also allegations rolling around… whereby the minister seemed to be bringing in friends and business partners into the council membership.

“Although it’s only an interim council it’s all to do with business. It’s not representative enough of the academic programmes within the university or civic organisations within society.”

Nevertheless, the need for new leadership “was recognised by university staff”, Dr Digim’Rina said.

“The previous council wasn’t necessarily performing at its best. We generally felt after so many years the council could have done a bit better,” he said.

Slow responses
But its performance may have been hindered by previous administrators, including the vice-chancellor and registrar, failing to implement council decisions in a timely fashion, Dr Digim’Rina said.

“I can say the previous council together with the previous administration, they were quite slow. The need for change was recognised by university staff,” he said.

“And in a strange way the minister’s intervention was quite necessary.”

As for completing the appointment of the vice chancellor, Frank Griffin had come through a robust selection process under the previous council that staff were “proud of”, Dr Digim’Rina said.

The minister, has appointed Kenneth Sumbuk as interim vice chancellor, who Dr Digim’Rina said was one of the candidates rejected during Professor’s Griffin’s selection.

But even though the minister had lost confidence in the previous council, he could not now claim to be sceptical of Professor Griffin, Dr Digim’Rina said.

“If that were the case the minister would have stepped in before the process was completed. Not after.”

This article is republished under the Pacific Media Centre’s content partnership with Radio New Zealand.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Journalism education at USP – a 30-year struggle for free press

By Shailendra Singh in Suva

The University of the South Pacific’s recent 50th anniversary marked 30 years of existence for its regional journalism programme. In an eventful journey, the programme weathered military coups, overcame financial hardships and shrugged off academic snobbery to get this far.

The programme started in Suva in 1988, with Commonwealth funding, and a handful of students to its name. It has produced more than 200 graduates serving the Pacific and beyond in various media and communication roles.

USP journalism graduates have produced award-winning journalism, started their own media companies and localised various positions at regional organisations once reserved for expatriates.

READ MORE: Fiji Report – a day in the life of Wansolwara newspaper

The beginning was hardly auspicious: founding coordinator, the late Australian-based Kiwi academic Murray Masterton, recalled that from the outset, some USP academics felt that journalism was a vocational course with no place in a university.

A University for the Pacific. Image: USP

Such disdain turned out to be the least of Dr Masterton’s problems: plans to offer certificate-level courses in 1987 were almost derailed by Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka’s pro-indigenous coups.

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Masterton persevered in the face of this political earthquake – the South Pacific’s first military takeover of a nation – and after some delays, he got the programme off the ground. It was a significant development in a region where journalists had little opportunity to attain formal qualifications.

And it was not without irony – the Pacific’s first regional journalism programme, a symbol of media freedom, introduced in a climate of great media repression in Fiji.

Another cloud
Just years after establishing its position, the programme’s future came under another cloud when Commonwealth sponsorship ran out. An injection of French government funds in 1993 provided a new lease of life, with the programme upgraded to a BA double-major degree.

The three-year grant was supervised by Francois Turmel, former BBC World Service editor in London. During those lean years, Turmel often dug into his pockets to fund some activities.
When French funding ended in 1996, USP took over the programme, appointing another Kiwi coordinator in David Robie, a former international journalist, then head of the University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) journalism programme.

During his term from 1998–2002, Robie made major curriculum changes by integrating the student training newspaper, Wansolwara, into the assessment and introducing professional work attachments with news media organisations.

He was also the first journalism educator to gain a PhD (from USP) in New Zealand and the Pacific, returning to Suva to graduate in 2003 in history/politics. He tells the story of the early decades of Pacific journalism education in his 2004 book Mekim Nius: South Pacific media, politics and education.

In 2001, I joined the USP journalism programme as the first full-time local assistant lecturer. I was already a Fiji and Pacific news media professional and I went on to become the first local to head the journalism programme.

After graduating with my PhD from the University of Queensland in 2016, I would become the first local PhD to teach journalism at USP. I saw to the expansion of the programme with a boost in enrolments and improved facilities to cater for the new demand, including the recruitment of two local teaching assistants.

Under my watch, Wansolwara continued to win major awards for excellence in journalism.

Recruitment of locals
The recruitment of locals was an important step in building local capacity to carry out teaching and research and provide support for Wansolwara.

The newspaper, founded in 1996 by lecturer Philip Cass, an Aussie, and a number of students, became well-established as the programme’s flagship publication. Wansolwara literally means “one ocean one people.” For founding student editor Stanley Simpson, the paper was a creation of young minds who “wanted to do things their way”.

Student training newspapers are regarded as important strategic assets, and Wansolwara has certainly played crucial roles at crucial times. The paper came to prominence for its coverage of the May 2000 nationalist coup, and the ensuing hostage crisis in Parliament, when the deposed Chaudhry government was held in captivity for 56 days.

Professor Robie has described the 2000 coup coverage as “one of the most challenging” examples of campus-based journalism. The students’ reporting put the overseas parachute journalists to shame, as recounted by Dr Cass: “Much of the outside coverage seemed to be done by people who were just taking the plotters’ statements at face value or else were writing their reports beside the swimming pool at the Travelodge, so the students were giving an alternative view that in many cases was much closer to what was going on.”

Not everyone appreciated the coup coverage. Certain USP academics concerned about security felt that student journalists should practice “simulated journalism”. The smashing-up of the nearby Fiji Television studios by rampaging coup supporters was the last straw for USP, which shut down the Wansolwara news website called Pacific Journalism Online.

However, Dr Robie was able to arrange for a “mirror” site at the Sydney University of Technology to allow the coverage to continue. Wansolwara won the Journalism Education Association of Australia “best publication” in the region award for its efforts.

It was one in a long line of journalism association, as well as regional and Fiji national, awards for excellence in journalism. Such honours, along with a healthy research output, has long since silenced jibes about USP journalism’s fitness as an academic course.

Under the radar
In the post-2006 Voreqe Bainimarama coup years, as media restrictions tightened, Wansolwara, as a student newspaper, was able to remain under the radar and operate more freely than the mainstream media.

Student reporting in the face of risks was exemplary. The April 2009 issue, which included a four-page critique of the coup, was still at press when the punitive Public Emergency Regulations were introduced.

The Solomon Islands student editor at the time, Leni Dalavera, phoned me in the dead of night, concerned that the students risked arrest. Delavera was assured that the authorities were highly unlikely to move against the students, and that the lecturers were responsible for the publication.

The thrills-frills of coup coverage aside, student journalists are also challenged in major ways during the so-called regular beats. A 2016 Pacific Journalism Review journal article by Singh and Eliki Drugunalevu, examined how USP student journalists deal with backlash from peers offended by their coverage.

This article shows how USP’s journalism students changed their initial feelings of fear, hurt and self-doubt to a sense of pride and accomplishment. Students felt they developed resilience, fortitude and a deeper understanding of the watchdog journalism ethos – learning outcomes which would not have been achievable through classroom teaching alone.

This reinforces the idea that students should not be cocooned, or made to practice ‘simulated journalism’, since they learn from dealing with confronting situations, a reality in journalism.

Students like Simpson, who bagged a string of national and regional awards as a professional, cut his teeth as a Wansolwara reporter.

Crucial role
The achievements of staff and students, the unique research undertaken by the programme into regional media issues – which feeds back into teaching – and journalism’s crucial role in the region, have cemented the programme’s position at USP.

In an interview in the November 2016 edition of Wansolwara, USP vice-chancellor and president, Professor Rajesh Chandra, pledged that journalism would remain part of the university’s future.

Chandra, who had strongly supported the establishment of journalism at USP, stated that good journalism was critical for an open and truly democratic society and USP’s role in training good journalists was crucial.

Professor Chandra’s comments underscore not just the journalism programme’s important role at USP, but its contribution to the region as a whole. Such vindication is welcome news for all those who fought for the programme and contributed to its development.

Dr Shailendra Singh is coordinator of USP’s journalism programme. This article was first published as a chapter in the recent book, A University for the Pacific: 50 Years of USP, edited by Jacqueline Leckie. It is republished here with the permission of the author, editor and USP.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Red Hills evacuation leaves thousands homeless as PNG controversy rages

It has been a week since the Red Hills eviction in Papua New Guinea’s capital left thousands homeless. Video: EMTV

By Adelaide Sirox Kari in Port Moresby

Since Papua New Guinea’s EMTV News broadcast a story on an eviction at Red Hills settlement in Port Moresby, many viewers have asked about a student who was shown crying at the site of his demolished home after returning from school on the day of the eviction.

Two bulldozers under police escort destroyed about 250 homes in the settlement a week ago, forcing more than 2000 people – many of them children – to become homeless.

EMTV News visited Tokarara grade 9 student Raydan Repono’s family to see how they have been coping since the eviction.

READ MORE: School children hurt from eviction at Red Hill

It was footage that EMTV News had captured on the day of the eviction that showed a Raydan, overcome with emotion, sitting and looking on helplessly.

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He cried at the sight of the place he once called home that was now being demolished before his eyes. For this student and all the other families at the eviction site, life has now become a daily struggle.

EMTV News was able to capture his family scrambling to pack what they could before the bulldozer ripped through Raydan’s home.

Yesterday Raydan explained how he felt that afternoon.

Court battle
What used to be their canteen that had provided income for the family who resided at the area since 2011 was all gone.

Through his tears, Raydan said he hoped they would win the court battle so that his family could rebuild their home again.

While EMTV News spoke with Raydan’s family, Ata Aluao, another evicted victim approached EMTV News asking to share her story also.

Ata’s family was not so lucky as their home and all their belongings were destroyed, but Ata’s real concern was her daughter in Grade 12 and another at Pacific Adventist University (PAU) who now have no roof over their heads.

Since the eviction a stay order was taken in the National Court by the settlers, who are represented under the Redhill’s Association. But even with this stay order a second eviction took place.

EMTV News contacted the Lands Department since the eviction to clarify if 16 portions of land where the eviction took place are under an expired Urban Development Lease.

EMTV News items are republished with permission.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

O’Neill sidelines UPNG interim council members, angry staff return to classes

NASA representatives, including Dr Linus Digim’Rina, talking to journalists at the University of Papua New Guinea yesterday. Image: Alan Robson/PMC

By Leiao Gerega in Port Moresby

Prime Minister Peter O’Neill has sidelined the University of Papua New Guinea interim council but has retained interim chancellor Jeffery Kennedy.

The decision yesterday appeased the disgruntled National Academic Staff Association (NASA) members who have agreed to return to classes today.

According to NASA working committee head, Dr Linus Digim’Rina, the ouster move was relayed by government Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari on behalf of O’Neill yesterday.

READ MORE: UPNG shutdown crisis – the facts behind the turmoil

The new university council would be “open to dialogue” among members of the UPNG staff, Higher Education Department and the interim university administration, Dr Digim’Rina said.

Those who were sidelined included pro chancellor Jerry Wemin and acting vice-chancellor Dr Kenneth Sumbuk.

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University of PNG academic staff “stopped work” on Monday in protest against the recent appointments.

Dr Digim’Rina said last night when all parties decided on a new appointment process nominations would be submitted to the National Executive Council for approval.

“I can assure you that NASA and all UPNG staff (those taking voluntary action) will sustain pressure to make sure the process is completed as soon as possible,” he said.

The chief secretary told UPNG staff yesterday that O’Neill had taken note of staff grievances “to acknowledge the process of the appointment of the vice-chancellor”.

“It (the process) has followed the statute of the university…it has followed the guidelines on merit-based system where it has protected and safeguarded the appointment of vice-chancellors since 1965.

“And that process must be completed and consistent with the Higher Education Act,” Lupari said, adding that Professor Frank Griffin’s appointment as vice-chancellor would be subject to Cabinet approval.

NASA acting president Mark Kia said that according to the documents received from O’Neill and the Higher Education Minister Pila Niningi, the acting chancellor Kennedy would not be retained and the opportunity was now given to the UPNG community to suggest names for the position.

He said that because the process to appoint Dr Griffin was not completed in due time, yesterday’s decision instantly allowed the process to continue and documents would be filed next week for NEC endorsement.

The announcement of Kennedy’s retained position was, however, met with murmurs of disapproval from UPNG staff yesterday who had had to wait for almost five hours to hear O’Neill’s decision.

They were not happy that Kennedy had not been sidelined. Niningi told UPNG staff members that his “hurried decision” that had led to the “stop work” was due to “lack of communication” with the university.

He maintained that he wanted to see good governance and would make no apology.

The three issues raised by the UPNG staff members was for the government to appoint Dr Griffin vice-chancellor, reinstate the duly-appointed registrar, Dr Peter Petsul, and remove the current council.

Leiao Gerega is a reporter with the Post-Courier. The photographs are by a Pacific Media Centre correspondent.

Striking UPNG staff meet with Higher Education Minister Pila Niningi and Chief Secretary Isaac Lupari on campus yesterday. Image: Alan Robson/PMC

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

UPNG shutdown crisis – the facts behind the turmoil

The University of Papua New Guinea …. staff shutdown in protest over government interference in ‘credible VC appointment process’. Image: PNG Indy

ANALYSIS: By Stephen Howes

The University of Papua New Guinea has for a long time been in need of far-reaching reform. But not all change is good, and what has happened this year at UPNG has taken the university in the wrong direction.

In late January, the Higher Education Minister, Pila Niningi, dissolved the UPNG Council, appointed a new interim council, and put in his own choice of vice-chancellor, all on the grounds that the old council was not performing.

You can see his reasons for the decision, basically a number of serious performance and integrity issues, in this just-released ministerial statement. It seems convincing.

READ MORE: UPNG interim council claims stop work by staff ‘illegal’

But what the minister has never mentioned is that the selection process for the position of UPNG Vice Chancellor was concluded last year and the result informally made public early this year. That process, widely regarded to be transparent and credible, resulted in the appointment of Dr Frank Griffin as the new vice–chancellor.

Just when everyone was expecting the formal announcement, the minister instead made his move, dissolving the old council and appointing a new council and VC. To make matters worse, the the minister’s choice of interim VC competed unsuccessfully for the position last year, and is the subject of serious and well–known allegations.

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The government’s inability to explain the timing of its decision, and even to talk about last year’s VC selection process, let alone why it was overturned, goes a long way to explaining the sense of illegitimacy and controversy that surrounds the university’s new leadership arrangements and the protest shutdown by staff this week.

It is one thing to say that the old council was not performing. It is another to override, without explanation, what was widely seen as a credible process. That way lies disputation and worse performance, not better.

Registrar’s critique
The controversy will not fade simply with the passage of time. The recently sacked registrar has just delivered a stinging critique. University staff have now started protesting by stopping lecturing.

At his 2018 PNG Update address, Deputy Prime Minister Charles Abel spoke of the need for more Australian lecturers in PNG and more links between Australian and PNG educational institutions. But PNG cannot ask for such support and then behave however it wants.

Without some decent governance and adherence to good process, greater integration with the Australian education system will simply be impossible. At the regional level, UPNG is far behind the Fiji-based regional University of the South Pacific (USP), and what is happening now will only increase the gap.

The issue is also one for the Australian government. The now-retiring former Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s flagship project, the Pacific Precinct, has UPNG at its heart, and a mandate around ethical leadership. Australia has just built three new buildings for UPNG.

All is not lost. Many at the university are unhappy. And at least some commentators are speaking out.

Trade Union Congress president John Paska has described the recent UPNG appointments as “horribly wrong”.

For now, friends of UPNG such as myself watch on in dismay. Reform, not needless turmoil, is what the university needs.

Professor Stephen Howes is director of the ANU Development Policy Centre, and leads a partnership programme between ANU and UPNG. This article was first published by the Dev Policy blog.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

World must take moral climate stand for humanity, warns Pacific expert

Authors of the current IPCC reporting cycle in Fiji – Dr Helene Jacot Des Combe (from left), Dr Morgan Wairiu, Professor Elisabeth Holland and Diana Salili. Image: USP/Wansolwara

By Jope Tarai in Suva

The threat of rising global temperatures on Pacific ecosystems is not only a scientific analysis but a reality for many people in the region, with a Pacific climate change expert warning that the current aggregate emissions reductions by countries are inadequate.

Dr Morgan Wairiu, deputy director at USP’s Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, said the Pacific would effectively lose its ecosystems and resources at current emission levels, which indicate the possibility of the global temperature rising beyond 1.5C to 3.7C.

“The world needs to take a moral stand, this is a humanity issue, more than science, the economy or anything else,” he said, highlighting the need for greater action and urgency on climate change.

READ MORE: Strongest climate solutions ‘developed together’

“The Pacific’s natural and human systems would face greater devastation if the global average temperature rises above 1.5C.”

He warned the Pacific that the parties in the Conference of Parties (COP) were not on track to keep global average temperatures below 1.5C

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The Fiji-based Dr Wairiu knows all too well the dangers of climate change, spending more than 25 years championing change and assisting countries in keeping the global average temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This possibility cuts at the heart of Dr Wairui’s early formative years, growing up in his village and his boarding school supported by the lush and rich vegetation in Guadalcanal.

Pacific survival
“These ecosystems, which support the survival of Pacific people, are under threat. I remember spending long hours outdoors exploring and enjoying the village surrounding,” he said.

“In boarding school, we learnt resilience and self-sufficiency by tending to food gardens and fishing for seafood.”

Dr Wairiu, who hails from Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, was recently one of the lead authors in the 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 1.5C special report, which assessed what had been done so far and the feasibility of keeping the global average temperature below 1.5C.

This year he has been selected as the co-ordinating lead author for the “Small Islands” chapter in the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (IPCC AR6). The IPCC releases the assessment reports every five years, with the most recent one (IPCC AR5) released in 2014.

Dr Wairiu will be co-ordinating and guiding a number of authors within the “Small Islands” chapter of the sixth assessment report.

Dr Wairiu graduated from the University of Papua New Guinea in agriculture and returned to the Solomon Islands to serve his people in the research division at the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

His work focused on soil and plant growth. This proved crucial for Dr Wairiu because of the Solomon Islands’ logging industry, which coincided with his cultivated plant growth work.

Completed studies
Later, he secured a scholarship to complete his postgraduate studies at the University of London in the UK. He also completed a Masters degree at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland before returning to his home country.

Dr Wairiu then moved to Ohio State University in the US to pursue his PhD and at that stage he was examining soil carbon dynamics. Completing his PhD, he returned to his village during the tensions of the early 2000s.

Shortly afterwards, he was called by the Solomon Islands government to take up the role of permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands.

Dr Wairiu joined the Waikato University as a visiting research fellow before moving to the University of The South Pacific. His progression and years of experience has culminated in his current work on climate change.

Jope Tarai is an emerging indigenous Fijian scholar, based at the School of Government, Development and International Affairs, University of the South Pacific. His research interests include, Pacific regionalism, Pacific politics and digital ethnography. This article was first published by Wansolwara.

Article by AsiaPacificReport.nz

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media