Development’s ‘invisible’ risks – learning from the past and safeguarding the future in Fiji

Mar 9, 2018

Development stakeholders undertook a lessons learned analysis of previous development projects in the Northern Division (Photo: UNDP)

Suva, Fiji – Development planners from across all four divisions of Fiji are now able to anticipate risks to and from the infrastructure and sector development projects that they oversee. 

The Senior Divisional government planners gathered in Suva last month to participate in a training on the screening of development projects for climate and disaster risks. This training follows commitments made by the Fiji Government at COP 23 in Bonn, Germany during November 2017.  

A case study on the FJD $228 million Dreketi-Nabouwalu Highway was used during the training to learn and exchange ideas about the importance of considering a range of risks to and from development projects at the initial design stage.

There is no doubt that the Dreketi Highway has brought significant economic and access benefits to the Northern Division of Fiji, such as improving access to health and education services and markets. However, the vast improvement in road conditions has also led to accidents as well as some health issues. Flooding and landslides are also major concerns. 

“Anticipating risks such as these associated with major developments can minimize costs and the possible loss of lives at a later stage,” said Mr. Jovesa Vocea, Commissioner for the Northern Division. 

UNDP PO PRRP-VanuaLevu2Participants at the Dreketi Highway Analysis Workshop (Photo: UNDP)

Participants of the Suva training expressed a lot of enthusiasm and interest for this dimension of development planning and committed to more collaboration across agencies to address safety of people and sustainability of projects before they are implemented.  

A presentation by Mr. Ravulo Naulumatua, Climate Change Disaster Risk Management Officer, Ministry of Women, Children & Poverty Alleviation, made it clear that it is often the ‘invisible’ risks, including potential for conflict, inaccessibility of projects by people with disabilities and the elderly, as well as the influence of disasters on women and children’s safety that have some of the greatest impacts. 

Jiuta Waqavonovono, Senior Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management Officer at Commissioner Northern’s Office reflected that, “The Northern Division’s Development plan for 2016-21 presents many opportunities for infrastructure development to occur and participants of the training will now be able to ensure any unintended consequences of development are managed before they happen.”

A risk screening tool utilized at the training was subsequently presented at a meeting of the Ministry’s Senior Management board where it was formally adopted as part of the Ministry’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). The risk screening tool will now be used for all road projects, the Ministry’s Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) projects across sectors and all projects to be considered under the National Disaster Management Office’s (NDMO) disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation allocation. 

The Pacific Risk Resilience Programme (PRRP) is delivered through a partnership between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), international non-government organisation Live and Learn Environmental Education (LLEE) and supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).

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