Helping Pacific island broadcasters strengthen their resilience



The role Pacific media play when it comes to hazards and disasters is all encompassing.  Sharing information to help people be prepared, staying ‘on-air’ to provide people comfort and to tell the stories post-disaster, is crucial.  For those who work in this industry, you know this role well, there are even statistics prove so.

Since 1950, extreme events including events that are non-weather related such as tsunami, have effective approximately 9.2 million people in the Pacific with close to 10,000 reported deaths and damage to the value of USD 3.2 billion.  The vast majority of the 284 recorded disasters that occurred in the Pacific island region between 1950 and 2013 were caused by weather related events, especially severe storms.  More specific numbers look show the losses in Niue due to Cyclone Heta in 2004 amounted to over five times the 2003 GDP.

These were figures referred to before Tropical Cyclone Pam and Typhoon Mayask in 2015 and before Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016.

Cook Island broadcasters on disaster preparedness_SPREP

Cook Island broadcasters on disaster preparedness_SPREP

These numbers barely scratch the surface of the pain, grief, worry and heartache caused when these disasters bring death, injury, and devastation of homes, livelihoods and income.  The impacts they bring upon the lives of people, the heart of communities and island nations are strongly felt.

Everyone feels these impacts in one way or another, including Pacific media and broadcasters.

Some Pacific island broadcasters are situated along the coastal areas; many rely on transmitters to share information to audiences at times of natural hazards; it is the broadcasters that share information provided to them in order to help people be prepared; it is also the broadcasters that have staff who stay ‘on-air’ for as long as possible to keep people updated; it is the broadcasters that have staff who try to film, record and document the hazard for as long as it is safe enough to; and it is the Pacific media who cover the events ‘post-hazard’.

Helping Pacific island broadcasters strengthen their resilience, ensuring they are able to carry out their role while keeping safe in times of hazards and disasters, was at the core of a two-year project funded by PACMAS called the National Broadcasters Climate and Disasters Resilience Plan.

Led by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in partnership with the Pacific Community (SPC) this project set out to achieve three key points.

  1. Help eight Pacific island broadcasters form Climate and Disaster Resilience Plans
  2. Form stronger relationships between broadcasters, met services and national disaster management offices
  3. Undertake training to learn more about Climate Change and Disasters with a national perspective

These activities were carried out in partnership with the broadcasters themselves to help drive ownership of the plans at the national level, as it is the broadcasters that carry out implementation when needed.

In undertaking this activity, many milestones were achieved, yet one of the key ones was bringing the Media and the Disaster Management Office and Met Service together in Vanuatu in Vanuatu after Tropical Cyclone Pam.  This allowed for the different perspectives on what went wrong in terms of sharing and understanding information on TC Pam, and to discuss ways this could be improved.  It also documented the Lessons Learnt from this and helped to forge a path forward for collaboration to better the sharing of information through the media.

Having ended in late 2015, the project is now looking to expand and continue with the development of resources to strengthen knowledge on the issues of Climate Change, and Disasters.  The expansion will also help Pacific media strengthen their reports ‘post-disaster’ and to assist more Pacific broadcasters in developing their BCDRP’s.

As hazards and disasters touch the lives of Pacific island people, PACMAS and partners are doing what they can to help Pacific island media be equipped and prepared for the events that may come.

Now more than ever, the role of resilience in the lives of Pacific islanders is crucial.

According to the 5th Annual Report of the world’s leading body for the assessment of climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the challenges ahead will only get worse.

The report advises that coastal systems and low-lying areas will increasingly experience adverse impacts such as submergence, coastal flooding and coastal erosion as a result of sea level rise.  Storm related impacts and associated storm surges are predicted to worsen even though there is uncertainty related to potential changes in tropical and mid-latitude cyclones.

The onus is now on us, Pacific media and broadcasters to prepare for what may come so we can carry out our role to share information, document events, tell the stories of people – all while remaining as safe as we can.

If you, as a member of the Pacific media have suggestions as to how we can help you build your resilience and strengthen your role and capacity when it comes to climate change and disasters, please do let us know at and put BCDRP Suggestion in the subject line.