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New tools to increase resilience of Pacific Island countries to natural disasters

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Suva, Fiji – A major regional geospatial information system and other innovative risk assessment tools are being developed to assist Pacific Island countries to undertake evidence-based decision making in development planning and finance.

A four-day workshop, running from 9 to 12 June 2015, opened in Suva today with representatives from Pacific region governments and development partners attending, focusing on the disaster risk modelling and assessment tools.

The tools, including a rapid impact estimation tool and the Pacific Risk Information System (PacRIS), are being developed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), World Bank and the Asian Development Bank with the financial support of the Government of Japan and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

“These tools can be used to improve the resilience of Pacific Island countries by providing the technical information needed to make informed decisions about risk of disasters to communities and their assets,” the Director of SPC’s Geoscience Division, Professor Michael Petterson, said.



The workshop is hosted by SPC and the World Bank through the Pacific Catastrophe Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative (PCRAFI), which aims to establish an upgraded disaster and climate risk information platform, and to enhance the capacity of Pacific Island governments to use it.

“The workshop aims to engage with countries on the risk assessment products and tools being developed, providing training and a deeper understanding of risk modelling methodology used in PCRAFI to assist countries to have more of the data they need immediately after an event,” Prof Petterson said.

“This will allow them to more quickly and efficiently respond to disasters,” he said.

A World Bank-contracted risk modelling company, AIR Worldwide, will also present at the workshop. The workshop will also include training on PacRIS, one of the largest collections of geospatial information for the PICs.

PacRIS contains detailed, country-specific information on assets, populations, hazards and risks. For example, information can be extracted in relation to hazard zones for townships to be used in landuse planning decisions.

PacRIS has several applications, including use in the development of the Pacific catastrophe risk insurance pilot, which made a payout to Tonga of USD 1.27 million, following Cyclone Ian, and of USD 1.9 million to Vanuatu, following Tropical Cyclone Pam.

The PacRIS products utilise free and open source software which research from the World Bank has shown to have enormous benefits for both developed and developing countries and allow for a wide range of actors to be able to participate in building resilience.

PCRAFI is a joint initiative between SPC, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank with the financial support of the Government of Japan and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and technical support from AIR Worldwide, New Zealand GNS Science, Geoscience Australia, Pacific Disaster Centre (PDC), OpenGeo and GFDRR Labs.  Visit the SPC’S PCRAFI website: pcrafi.spc.int

Media contact: Norense Iyahen, Risk Assessment Adviser, SPC, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , +679 916 5022

Last Updated on Monday, 29 June 2015 14:19  


1st August 2014 – Secretariat of the Pacific Community – Koror, Palau: This morning, delegates to the 45th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders’ Meeting in Palau witnessed the signing of a maritime boundary treaty between the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the United States of America (USA) to delimit the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) between the two countries. Signing the treaty on behalf of FSM was Secretary of Foreign Affairs Lorin Robert; the United States of America was represented by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Dennise Mathieu.

The agreement, which has taken one and a half years to formulate, provides definitive legal status to the boundaries between the overlapping EEZs of FSM and the US Territory of Guam in the North Pacific Ocean.

This agreement underscores the importance of clearly establishing national areas of jurisdiction and limits under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which provides the foundation for improved governance, protection, conservation and management of national ocean resources.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community, through its Applied Geoscience and Technology Division, assists member countries in this process in close coordination with a large consortium of partners who combine resources to deliver comprehensive service and expertise, including the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, Geoscience Australia, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) GRID-Arendal centre, Australian Attorney General’s Office, and the University of Sydney.

The Pacific Islands region has approximately 48 shared maritime boundaries where neighbouring EEZs overlap. With the addition of this signed treaty, 32 of these boundaries are formalised and subject to treaty.