Inaugural Symposium on Community-Led Sustainable Development Spotlights Fiji's Resilience and Collaboration for Environmental Sustainability
The symposium, held from 19 – 21 September in Suva, carried the theme "Share Your Story." Fostering the dynamic exchange of ideas and experiences where participants shared their stories of resilience in the face of climate-induced challenges, innovative approaches to agriculture, access to clean energy and successful conservation efforts in their respective communities.
As the event drew to a close, the symposium communique aptly named Kauwai (to care or to be concerned), contained agreed-upon calls to action, was presented to the Assistant Minister for the Office of the Prime Minister, Honourable Sakiusa Tubuna. The intention behind this presentation was to ensure that the key issues discussed over the three days would be brought to the attention of the cabinet at its next meeting.
Officiating at the closing ceremony of the Symposium, Hon. Tubuna highlighted that community-led sustainable initiatives should be celebrated, supported, and their lessons and best practices should inform essential policy changes.
He added, “This symposium has served as a reminder that, irrespective of the challenges we confront, whether it be climate change, loss of livelihoods, or social injustice, we are not alone in our pursuit of innovative solutions.”
“We are part of a global community, and together, we can achieve remarkable feats if we unite as one. Community-led sustainable initiatives should be celebrated, supported, and their lessons and best practices should inform essential policy changes,” said Hon. Tubuna.
Talei Silibaravi, a former WWF volunteer and now an active member of the Cagimaiwai women's group, shared her remarkable journey towards sustainable energy on Kavewa Island. Talei's story of mobilising her community to embrace biogas technology, with support from various stakeholders, is an inspiring example of how community-driven initiatives can transform lives and safeguard the environment.
“The symposium provided a platform for communities, government representatives and donors to identify gaps, learn valuable lessons and exchange best practices from other projects around Fiji,” said Silibaravi.
Traditional knowledge and values were acknowledged as crucial in preserving and responsibly managing resources and in interactions with community members, development partners, government leaders, and stakeholders.
The President of the Soqosoqo Vakamarama Women-Led Initiative in Votua, Ba, Kinisimere Ratu, captivated the audience with her commitment to sustainable agriculture and food security. Kinisimere's leadership has led to successful river clean-ups and the implementation of innovative agricultural practices, with support from partners.
“We are committed to conducting river clean ups and introducing innovative agricultural practices, I firmly believe that grassroots initiatives hold the key to building resilience and ensuring sustainable livelihoods in our communities”, said Ratu.
Fiji’s first woman District Representative Lavenia Naivalu, brought her perspective on sustainable fisheries management and food security to the symposium. Her advocacy for equitable decision-making, capacity-building, and community empowerment resonated with attendees.
“I am blessed to be part of the forum, especially when you sharing stories with other community leads who face the same challenges as ours, there is so much that we are learning from each other and this has created a stronger platform”, said Naivalu
While participants found inspiration in the stories of resilience shared by their peers, they also acknowledged the limitations they face as grassroots communities, including the loss of traditional knowledge, inadequate capacity, skills, and resources, and the absence of policies to address the accelerating impacts of these crises.
In their collective pledge, they committed to inclusive and transparent decision-making processes, strengthening traditional leadership and governance, and enhancing relationships among community members.
They also pledged to explore opportunities for collective advocacy and campaigns, bridging the gap between their unique community needs and national-level decisions through meaningful dialogue. They reaffirmed their commitment to implementing Fiji's obligations under global frameworks such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement, and the Global Biodiversity Framework.
The three-day symposium was organised by cChange in partnership with WWF-Pacific, iTaukei Affairs Board, the Fiji Museum and supported by the United Nations Development Programme’s Global Environment Facility (UNDP GEF) Small Grants Programme.
For more information:
Tui Marseu, Communications Officer, WWF-Pacific; Phone: +679 331 5533; Email: email@example.com
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. More information: panda.org