Strategically mobilising volunteers and reflecting on the complex challenges faced in the context of climate change and COVID-19 is among key issues discussed at an international conference that started today in Suva.
Held under the theme, ‘Volunteering for Climate Action’ focusing on Pacific Island countries, the three-day Virtual International Volunteer Co-operation Organisations’ (IVCO) Conference Pacific 2020 creates a platform for development practitioners, researchers, government representatives, non-government and civil society representatives, and climate change activists to connect and collaborate on global volunteer development.
Chair of the International Forum for Volunteering in Development Paul Bird said for the first time the conference will focus on climate change and volunteer development for COVID-19 including the social economic recovery environment needed around the globe.
Fiji is among countries that directly benefits from the Australian Volunteers International for International Development (AVI), with 10 volunteers remotely work in the country.
Welcoming participants, Fiji’s Assistant Minister for Employment, Productivity and Industry Relations Alvick Maharaj highlighted that the international ban has affected most of the international volunteer development sectors.
“The effects of the ban are also being felt here in Fiji, like all Pacific island countries with so many developing island states relying on tourism. The ban on international travel has of course, affected the way most you work in the International Volunteering for Development Sectors,” Maharaj said. “The Fiji Volunteer Service shares a rich history working with AVI and skilled Australians, bringing people together to share their skills and experience and respond to locally identified priorities within the business, government and non profit sectors.”
AVI Regional Director Kiji Faktaufon said the organisation recognises the value of volunteerism during such times.
“Volunteerism has always been an important aspect of many Pacific island countries and we have witnessed at first hand the spirit of volunteerism of our people whenever there is a natural disaster. The Australians volunteer programs build meaningful connections and relationships between people and communities in Australia and across the Pacific region.
“Climate change, disaster resilience and food security is a priority of our program and even more so in the Pacific recognising our vulnerabilities to natural disasters as small island nations.”
Between January 2018 to May 2020 the program supported 45 partner organisations in the Pacific region. Also more than 70 Australian volunteers supported partnered organisations in the Pacific to achieve climate change objectives.
The IVCO2020, which is set to launch the first global report on volunteering for climate action, is supported by the Australian and Fijian governments.