WP4: Pacific Contexts: Cooperation and Capacity Building

Coordinated by the University of the South Pacific (USP – ECOPAS Participant 4), WP4 is designed to address the broad range of challenges faced in the Pacific in the context of global climate change. It will develop a strong pan-Pacific community of scholars engaged in climate change research and regional policy making.

As a Pacific counterpart to the activities and tasks of WP2 and WP3, WP4 and WP5 will develop sustainable networks of social sciences and humanities (SSH) knowledge production concerning climate change in the Pacific. This effort, as envisaged in WP4, will involve the 12 Pacific Islands nations which own and operate the USP, the National Research Institute in Papua New Guinea (ECOPAS Participant 5), the Vanuatu Cultural Centre and the Solomon Islands National Museum. Initially, a series of national networking and fact-finding events on social issues relating to climate change will be held in these Pacific countries.

WP4 will also develop two platforms for the merging of SSH climate change research and local Pacific knowledge. The first platform is an awareness programme that will link vernacular conceptualisations of climate and regional policy making throughout the Pacific region. The second platform is an extension of the well-known Vanuatu Cultural Centre Fieldworkers Workshop in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Fiji and other Pacific nations. This Workshop is an on-going annual project initiated in 1981 by the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies at the Australian National University to train ni-Vanuatu in the description and preservation of oral traditions and histories, the creation of indigenous language dictionaries, the recording of sites of cultural and historic importance, the regulation of traditional copyright and access rules, and the promotion and revival of traditional skills and values. WP4 will appoint responsible indigenous fieldworkers, both men and women, for initiating pilot fieldworkers programmes in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Fiji, and later on in several member nations of the USP. The resulting pilot workshops will be dedicated to vernacular conceptualisations of climate, weather, seasonal variations and agricultural dependence on these cycles, as well as to links between gender relations and climate-related changes in subsistence economies.

The initial insights and reports collected during the first stages of the various activities of WP4 will converge in late 2013 in a major Pacific conference in Suva (co-organised with the NRI), where the emphasis will be the interface between Pacific Islanders’ perspectives, climate change science and climate change policy. The Francophone parts of the Pacific will also participate in this event.