Integrated communicat​ions key to climate change preparedne​ss

To successfully deliver clear, accurate, and relevant climate preparedness messages to the ‘last mile,’ Pacific Island governments and development agencies need to employ communications tools and strategies designed for Pacific audiences. This is a recurring theme emerging from discussions at the Joint Meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable underway in Nadi.
An example of one such tool in progress was presented to the meeting by Hanna Sabass of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community/GIZ. Ms Sabass is working with a team of educators from across the Pacific on a set of curriculum-based tools and educational images to assist in lesson planning about climate variability, climate change, and adaptation.
‘This is an example of climate change based on pictures instead of text,’ reported Ms Sabass. ‘Pictures can convey meaning to people and different age groups can access and understand them.’
As Ms Sabass noted, consultation with multiple stakeholders is critical in the development of these kinds of communication and educational tools. ‘Partnering through review and acknowledgement increases outreach and the quality of the final product,’ she said.
She also acknowledged that this can be a long and challenging process. ‘It is a compromise between 100% scientific accuracy and appropriateness to the audience. How do you decide what comes into a climate change teacher guide? Do you talk about albedo? A lot of thinking has do go in and it’s not at all easy to say "this is really important and this goes out."’
Developers of the educational short film, The Pacific Adventures of the Climate Crab experienced similar challenges when balancing fun and fact, according to Salesa Nihmeh of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). ‘How do you make something catchy that is also true to the science?’ he asked the audience.
Producing climate and disaster communications tools is one challenge, but ensuring that the messages are taken up by communities and practitioners is another.
David Gibson of the Vanuatu Meteorology Service articulated the key challenge with such climate communications tools: ‘Recently the Climate Division within the Vanuatu Meteorology­ and Geo-hazards department has done a lot of products and services for our people. These forecasts look good, they look professional, they're on the website.’
‘But the issue is this,’ he emphasised, ‘how can we get this information to our rural areas? How can we get this information so that people use it to make good decisions in their lives?’
Fortunately, Gibson also has an answer, or at least an example of how the Vanuatu Meteorology Service has approached this challenge in a country where 70% of the population is rurally based.
The Vanuatu Meteorology Service has developed an Engagement Partnership and Communications Strategy in order to engage other government partners, such as the Vanuatu Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. ‘When we produce something, say for example climate information or a seasonal forecast, we pass that information to agricultural extension officers. They will then pass the information to the traditional and commercial farmers,’ Gibson explained.
In this way, Vanuatu is demonstrating how government departments can design communications strategies to improve service delivery and at the same time integrate with other agencies to achieve mutually satisfactory goals. Vanuatu Director of Meteorology Jotham Napat noted, ‘We’re serving the same government and the same aims. By integrating our work, we are also using resources wisely.’
Gibson said in closing, ‘With all these services and products, when we get them to the last mile to our communities, we allow them to be able to adapt to climate variability, and in doing so, we are teaching them how to adapt to climate change.’
The Joint Meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable is 8–11 July and is jointly organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme. The meeting is hosted by the Government of Fiji.
Photo caption: Hanna Sabass of SPC/GIZ presents examples of climate change communication products.