Saturday 23 Mar 2019 | 08:43 | SYDNEY
Saturday 23 Mar 2019 | 08:43 | SYDNEY

Fiji: From disaster, an opportunity


Jenny Hayward-Jones


18 March 2010 07:58

I've written previously on the diplomatic opportunities provided by natural disasters to reduce political tensions. Fiji is again suffering from the impact of a natural disaster. Tropical Cyclone Tomas, which struck Fiji this week, was one of the worst cyclones to ever to hit the country.

Both Australia and New Zealand (as well as France) have committed military aircraft to assist with surveying damage and providing support to affected communities. Humanitarian and reconstruction assistance will follow, in response to a formal request from Suva.

While this is not the first time since the December 2006 coup that Australia and New Zealand have assisted Fiji after a natural disaster, the agreement of Fiji's Government to accept help from Australian and New Zealand military assets is a new development. Perhaps all three governments could harness this spirit of cooperation to further their trilateral engagement

A joint visit by Ministers Smith and McCully to Fiji in the next few weeks could be timed to take a look at the delivery of Australian and New Zealand cyclone relief and carry on their dialogue with Fiji's Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola. 

A visit to affected communities and meetings with disaster management authorities and humanitarian agencies would send a tangible signal to the people of Fiji that its neighbours are committed to the country, despite political differences. It would also be an appropriate gesture from Australia in its role as chair of the Pacific Islands Forum.

Photo courtesy of the Department of Defence.