Vanuatu and Tuvalu – Inadequate response to human suffering

Go Lean Commentary

“There but for fortune go I” – Sir Roland Sanders.

This commentator and author of the subsequent article, is spot on in this regards. Just last week (March 20) was the Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere; so while hurricane season for the Caribbean is still months away, it is the “thick” of the season for the Southern Hemisphere right now; (equivalent to September for the Caribbean). Last week the Pacific island nations of Vanuatu and Tuvalu – see Appendices A, B & C – were devastated by the Category 5 Cyclone Pam. (Cyclones are the Pacific version of hurricanes).

Category 5!!!

Pacific or Caribbean; we both share this same reality. We have to contend with natural disasters, not of our making. This threat is heightened now with Climate Change. 9 of the 10 hottest years on record have now taken place since 2000.

The only exception to this trend was … 1998.

It is what it is!

Poor Vanuatu and Tuvalu… (see VIDEOs of the devastation in Appendix A below). They are not prepared for this “agent of change”; in fact their peoples are suffering right now; and they will suffer further trying to effectuate a recovery. See the full article here:

Title: Vanuatu and Tuvalu – Inadequate response to human suffering
By: Sir Roland Sanders – Caribbean/Commonwealth Commentator – Posted03-19-2015; retrieved 03-25-2015 from:

People on the East Coast of the United States of America (US) and the Caribbean should consider how best they might lend a helping hand to the people of the islands of Tuvalu and Vanuatu in the Pacific whose lives have been shattered by Cyclone Pam that struck them on the night of March 13.

In the case of the Caribbean islands, it is a matter of “there but for fortune go I”.

Vanuatu - Photo 2Category 5 Pam, ripped through both Vanuatu and Tuvalu – two archipelagic countries consisting of several small islands and atolls – creating widespread destruction.   Damage was so intense that all the inhabitants of one of the Tuvalu islands had to be evacuated.  They left behind everything they hold dear, and they now live in uncertainty about when they can return and how to start to reconstruct their lives.

The capacity of these countries to cope with ferocious cyclones, such as Pam, and the resilience to rebuild in the wake of huge damage, simply do not exist.   Both Vanuatu and Tuvalu are confronted with immediate humanitarian needs for food, shelter and fresh water.  Reports indicate that residents on some of the distant islands have resorted to drinking salt water.

The level of the immediate suffering can only be imagined by those who have not experienced the cruel conditions in which people are forced to live in the aftermath of natural disasters of this magnitude.

Vanuatu - Photo 1The governments of Australia and New Zealand, which are the two most developed Commonwealth countries in the area, have been quick to help with humanitarian assistance.  But, the islands in the two archipelagic countries are so scattered that distribution of supplies is severely constrained, particularly as many have no landing strips.  Britain, too, has offered help amounting to £1m.  That money will be made immediately available to UN organisations and international aid agencies already working in the region.

But the lack of aid co-ordination has resulted in uneven assistance to the people of the islands, and in some cases to no help at all.   At the time of writing, the government of Vanuatu announced that food will run out on some islands within a week. The deputy chair of the National Disaster Committee, Benjamin Shing, has said that while the country appreciated the aid, the initial response could have been handled better.  He claims that the aid agencies are working on their own rather than in co-operation with the government.  He added that “in nearly every country in the world where they go in they have their own operational systems, they have their own networks and they refuse to conform to government directives”. In the situation that Shing describes it is the already-suffering people who are hurt more as resources are duplicated or wasted in one area, and little or no help reaches others.

If, apart from Australia and New Zealand particularly, the response to the tragedy in Vanuatu and Tuvalu has not been impressive, the greater and more profound problem will be the rebuilding process.  These islands, like many in the Caribbean, do not have the capital formation in their own banking system to finance reconstruction.  They will have to turn to international financial institutions for help.   But, if the experience of the Caribbean is a measure of what they can expect, rebuilding will be a long and agonizing process.

Many Caribbean countries, such as Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Dominica, lost more than 3 years of gross domestic product (GDP) in 24 hours when hurricanes devastated them.  Anxious to rebuild in the wake of such massively destructive hurricanes, the governments of these countries were forced into the commercial market to secure financing to rebuild infrastructure, even while their revenues were declining from decreased production.  Hotels closed, agricultural production ceased and manufacturing halted.  The result was an increase in the national debt and uncomfortable levels of debt to GDP ratios of more than 100%.

These countries had no option.  They either had to borrow to rebuild and re-start their economies or face soaring unemployment, increase in poverty and inadequate investment in health and education services.

Right now, Vanuatu and Tuvalu are rightly focused on alleviating the suffering of their people.  But, the bigger and more fundamental problem of rebuilding – and how to pay for it – already looms large.   Australia’s Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, has told the Tuvalu Prime Minister, Enele Sopoaga, that her government would support longer-term recovery and reconstruction efforts.   Vanuatu will also need that help.   Australia alone cannot provide it, nor should it be expected to.

As Richard Bourne of the Ramphal Institute observed recently, “with erratic climate events and sea level rise it is time for the global community to take more seriously the growing risks for island archipelagos, especially low-lying atoll states in the Pacific and Caribbean. In a single year a storm can knock 10 per cent off GDP, and certain communities are already being withdrawn from shorelines where ocean levels have risen. This is a particular challenge for the Commonwealth, where the Ramphal Institute estimates that there are some ten independent and dependent territories which might be under water in 2100”.

In its report to Commonwealth Heads of Government, “A Commonwealth of the People: Time for Urgent Reform”, the Eminent Persons Group of which I was a member had recommended that the 53-nation Commonwealth establish a disaster management capacity.  Unfortunately the recommendation was not implemented. The details of the mechanism are laid out in the report.  Suffice to say that the proposal sought to establish a rapid Commonwealth response to natural disasters; machinery for disaster preparation and mitigation; and the means to help mobilize concessionary financing for rebuilding.

Both Vanuatu and Tuvalu could have benefited enormously from such a disaster management capacity within the Commonwealth of which they are two of the smallest and most vulnerable of member states.  The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, called for Commonwealth help immediately after the destructive passage of Cyclone Pam, but the Commonwealth should be doing more at times of tragedy if it is to be relevant to the people of its member states.

Let us hope that the tragedy in Vanuatu and Tuvalu is a wake-up call.  Hurricanes in the Caribbean and cyclones in the Pacific are not going away.  They are clear and present dangers.

The commentator in this case, Sir Roland Sanders, is an honorable man. He has principles and passion for the Caribbean … and Commonwealth alike. But, the Commonwealth appears to be his profession – see Appendix D below – and his panacea. He is advocating for relief for Vanuatu and Tuvalu to come from their fellow member-states in the British Commonwealth. That is a tall order!

The Go Lean book relates that most former British colonies are members of the Commonwealth, a non-political, voluntary association of equal members. This entity has no power or resources. Any help extended to Vanuatu and Tuvalu will be strictly optional and extended from the member-states’ surpluses. The neighboring communities of Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea maybe in better position to assist Vanuatu and Tuvalu; though it is not our place to lay claim to their budgets. It would be difficult, given the recent global financial difficulties to expect aid to come from the Caribbean or any Small Island Development States (SIDS).

On the other hand, the book Go Lean … Caribbean, calls for the region to adopt strategic, tactical and operational mitigations for hurricanes in the region. We cannot and must not be beggars on the international scene. These hurricanes and cyclones are no surprise; we know they are coming. So the book details advocacies to respond, rescue, repair, rebuild and restore the Caribbean eco-systems in the event of the now-heightened hurricane threats. These advocacies are designed to mitigate the challenges of Mother Nature, create jobs, secure the homeland and grow the economy at the same time.

This point is pronounced early in the book with this Declaration of Interdependence (Page 11), with the opening and subsequent statements:

i.    Whereas the earth’s climate has undeniably changed resulting in more severe tropical weather storms, it is necessary to prepare to insure the safety and security of life, property and systems of commerce in our geographical region. As nature recognizes no borders in the target of its destruction, we also must set aside border considerations in the preparation and response to these weather challenges.

vi.    Whereas the finite nature of the landmass of our lands limits the populations and markets of commerce, by extending the bonds of brotherhood to our geographic neighbors allows for extended opportunities and better execution of the kinetics of our economies through trade. This regional focus must foster and promote diverse economic stimuli.

viii.  Whereas the population size is too small to foster good negotiations for products and commodities from international vendors, the Federation must allow the unification of the region as one purchasing agent, thereby garnering better terms and discounts.

This book, Go Lean… Caribbean, serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of a technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU) to elevate society of the 30 Caribbean member-states. The 53-member Commonwealth is out of scope for this Go Lean effort; this is territorial and geographic in its focus. The CU effort is a confederation that includes the island-nations of the Caribbean Sea and the coastal states like Guyana, Suriname and Belize. These are all vulnerable to the hurricane threat.

As a Trade Federation, the CU would be able to establish a permanent sentinel to mitigate devastation that stems from storms like Cyclone Pam. We would be able to deploy implementations to aid our recovery, like regional power grid, pipelines, a, regional currency, leveraged casualty insurance plans, and a robust capitals market. In fact the CU/Go Lean roadmap has these 3 prime directives:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines from man-made and natural threats.
  • Improvement of Caribbean governance to support these engines.

The Go Lean book details the economic principles and community ethos to adopt, plus the executions of strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to elevate the Caribbean to better manage the threats of Climate Change and natural disasters like hurricanes. We must forge solutions, in advance and in response. We must do these ourselves, primarily; we cannot be perennial beggars and expecting International Aid every time we have emergencies. We must grow up and grow into a mature role of self-sufficiency. Consider the detail list from the book as follows:

Economic Principles – People Choose because Resources are Limited Page 21
Economic Principles – All Choices Involve Costs Page 21
Economic Principles – People Respond to Incentives Page 21
Economic Principles – Economic Systems Influence Individual Choices Page 21
Economic Principles – Consequences of Choices Lie in the Future Page 21
Community Ethos – “Crap” Happens Page 23
Community Ethos – Lean Operations Page 24
Community Ethos – Return on Investments (ROI) Page 24
Community Ethos – Ways to Impact the Future Page 26
Community Ethos – Ways to Improve Sharing Page 35
Community Ethos – Impact the Greater Good Page 37
Anecdote – Pipeline Transport – Strategies, Tactics & Implementations Page 43
Strategy – Vision – Confederating 30 Member-states in a Permanent Union Page 45
Strategy – Agents of Change – Globalization Page 57
Strategy – Agents of Change – Climate Change Page 57
Tactical – Fostering a Technocracy Page 64
Tactical – Growing Economy – Marshall Plan-like campaigns Page 68
Tactical – Growing Economy – Surviving Bubbles Page 68
Separation of Powers – Securities Regulator for Reinsurance Products Page 74
Separation of Powers – Homeland Security – Emergency Management Page 76
Implementation – Assemble – Pipeline as a Focused  Activity Page 96
Implementation – Ways to Pay for Change – Hurricane Insurance Fund Page 101
Implementation – Ways to Develop a Pipeline Industry Page 107
Implementation – Ways to Deliver Page 109
Implementation – Ways to Improve Energy Usage – Regional Grid Storm Resets Page 113
Implementation – Ways to Foster   International Aid – Natural Disaster Relief Page 115
Implementation – Ways to Benefit from   Globalization – Act Locally, Think Globally Page 119
Implementation – Ways to Promote Independence – Disaster Self-Response Page 120
Planning – 10 Big Ideas – Homeland Security Pact Page 127
Advocacy – Ways to Grow the Economy Page 151
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Housing – Hurricane Risk Reinsurance Fund Page 161
Advocacy – Ways to Better Manage the Social Contract Page 170
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Public Works – Rebuild after Disasters Page 175
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Homeland Security – Assuage systemic threats Page 180
Advocacy – Ways to Better Manage Natural Resources Page 183
Advocacy – Ways to Improve for Natural Disasters Page 184
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Extractions – Pipeline Strategy Alignment Page 195
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Emergency   Management Page 196
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Monopolies – Foster Cooperatives Page 202
Advocacy – Ways to Improve Transportation – Pipeline Options Page 205
Advocacy – Ways to Impact Rural Living – Small Island Development Page 235
Advocacy – Ways to Impact British   Territories – Commonwealth Emergence Page 245
Appendix – Offshore Banking Developments – Financial Action Task Force Page 321

This commentary previously featured subjects related to preparing and responding to the devastating effects of Climate Change and natural disasters in the region: Climate Change Defense – First US city to be powered 100% by renewables Book Review: ‘This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate’ Cooling Effect – Oceans and the Climate Caribbean grapples with intense new cycles of flooding & drought Floods in Minnesota, Drought in California – Why Not Share? Go ‘Green’ … Caribbean Earthquakes & Hurricanes Shake Eastern Caribbean Region

This is a new day for the Caribbean! It’s time now for change in our response to the eventuality of Climate Change. The elevations that are identified, qualified and proposed in the book Go Lean…Caribbean are not just reactive, but also proactive. It’s time for the Caribbean to lean-in for these elevations. Once we demonstrate success, it will be our pleasure to export our methods and systems to other SIDS locales… and Commonwealth states.

They – SIDS locales and Commonwealth states – will be welcomed to consider the entire Go Lean roadmap for their societal elevation.

Download the free e-Book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!


Appendix A – VIDEO 1: Cyclone Pam Brings Massive Destruction to Vanuatu

Appendix A – VIDEO 2: Drone Flies Over Cyclone Pam Damage in Vanuatu


Appendix B: Vanuatu

Vanuatu - Photo 3

This archipelago is officially the Republic of Vanuatu; it is an Oceanian island nation located in the South Pacific Ocean, 1,090 miles east of northern Australia. Though the islands were first inhabited by Melanesian people, it moved about European colonial hands of Spain, France and England. In the 1880s, France and the United Kingdom claimed parts of the country, and in 1906 they agreed on a framework for jointly managing the archipelago through a British–French Condominium. An independence movement arose in the 1970s, and the Republic of Vanuatu was founded in 1980.

Today, Vanuatu is a member of both la Francophonie and the Commonwealth of Nations. The island-nation has a population of 267,000 people; GDP of $1.204 Billion and per capita GDP of  $4,916[6].

Appendix C: Tuvalu

Vanuatu - Photo 4

This country is formerly known as the Ellice Islands; it is a Polynesian island nation located in the Pacific Ocean, midway between Hawaii and Australia. It comprises three reef islands and six true atolls. This is a small country, with a population of 10,837. The total land area of the islands of Tuvalu is 10 square miles.

The first inhabitants of Tuvalu were Polynesians, but the islands came under Britain’s sphere of influence in the late 19th century, when each of the Ellice Islands was declared a British Protectorate in 1892. The islands were administered as as part of the British Western Pacific Territories, and later as part of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony from 1916 to 1974. In December 1974 a referendum was held to determine whether the Gilbert Islands and Ellice Islands should each have their own administration. As a consequence of the referendum, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony ceased to exist on 1 January 1976 and the separate British colonies of Kiribati and Tuvalu came into existence. Tuvalu became fully independent and within the British Commonwealth on 1 October 1978.

The island-nation GDP is $36 million with a per capita of $3,400.


Appendix D: Sir Ronald Michael Sanders KCMG

Vanuatu - Photo 5Sir Ronald Sanders is currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London in the UK. He is an International Consultant, Writer and former senior Caribbean Ambassador.

In the private sector he has served on the Board of Directors of Financial Institutions, Telecom Companies, Media Companies and a Sustainable Forestry Company in Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Barbados, Guyana, and the US Virgin Islands.

In the public sector he has served as the elected Chairman of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force against drug trafficking and money laundering (2003-2004). He also served on the Board of the International Programme for the Development of Communication at UNESCO (1983-1985) and as an elected member of the Executive Board of UNESCO (1985-1987).

His diplomatic career spanned two periods between 1982 to 1987 and 1996 to 2004. He was twice High Commissioner to the United Kingdom for Antigua and Barbuda and Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). He had special responsibilities for negotiations on financial and trade matters in the WTO and with the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). He attended Commonwealth and CARICOM Foreign Ministers and Heads of Governments Conferences throughout his diplomatic career.

He served on numerous committees, task forces and advisory boards to formulate and implement policy for the Caribbean and the Commonwealth. He also has experience of dealing with regulatory bodies such as the FCC in the US, and he has led a successful complaint to an arbitration panel of the World Trade Organisation.

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