On Wednesday, August 9, the chiefs and dignitaries from the only village on the island of Kioa, in the northern part of the Fiji archipelago, took their seats on white plastic chairs placed in the sand in front of a wooden lectern. Over several days, the entire small community of 500 residents, who rely primarily on a subsistence economy, rallied together to welcome some 60 representatives from 28 NGOs, groups, organizations and churches, including some of the leading local voices in the fight against climate change. Sitting just a few meters from the sea that has continued to nibble away at their land, they learned the results of their efforts.
Before stepping up to the microphone, the delegates had already been signatories to the Kioa Declaration on Climate Urgency in October 2022. This reaffirmed the priorities of the peoples of these island states, ahead of COP27, and included a promise to develop the financial component. On this day, they introduced the Pacific Community Kato Climate Fund, a measure designed "by and for Pacific communities" to change the game in terms of access to climate funding.
"Exasperated, our communities have made it clear that the current measures (...) are inaccessible," said one of them, under the approving gaze of Kioa's locals. The residents were forced to turn to a participative financing platform to raise the few thousand dollars needed to reinforce a dike, erected along the beach, that protected their village from the rising waters.
The Kato (or "basket") fund has the goal of bringing relief to often vulnerable and isolated local populations by lifting the burden of red tape associated with almost all grant applications. It also aims to work hand-in-hand with them to meet their specific needs as quickly as possible.
"Every country, every hamlet faces different problems. Some need to build dikes, others evacuation centers. Others have to create raised gardens due to soil salinization or need solar panels or cisterns to collect rainwater," said Shiva Gounden, community engagement officer for Greenpeace Australia Pacific.
Today, virtually any approach for obtaining funds, whether from governments, NGOs or other established entities, requires filling out multi-page records and takes precious time out of the lives of Pacific islanders, especially those who have become the victims of natural disasters. "We're talking about remote, poorly connected communities with many illiterate members," said Maina Talia, an activist who played a key role in organizing the meeting. With this new measure, a simple photo, video or even a phone call could be enough to initiate a request.
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