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PRESS RELEASE October 3, 2000


At the 29th Annual Session of the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) Governing Council in Tarawa, Kiribati, attending representatives were advised of the announcement made by His Excellency Sergio Vento, the Ambassador for Italy at the United Nations in New York that the Government of Italy would provide financial assistance of US$ 100,000 for the Pacific regional initiative to develop an environmental vulnerability index (EVI).

The EVI tool provides a relatively quick and inexpensive way of characterizing the vulnerability of natural systems of a country, province or island.

This regional initiative has been supported by Pacific Island Forum leaders, as they have been made aware of the vulnerability of their countries with increasing globalization and occurrence of natural disasters. Disadvantages to development and vulnerability can be caused by an interplay of factors such as remoteness, geographical dispersion, natural hazards, a high degree of economic openness, small internal markets, limited natural resources and fragile ecosystems. These issues have been recognized and increasingly highlighted in international fora during the last decade, as have attempts to measure vulnerability. The need for a vulnerability index for the environment was first recognized at the Global Summit on Small Island States held in Barbados in 1994.

Over the past two years the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), with financial support from the governments of New Zealand, Ireland and Norway, has tried to come to grips with developing an EVI to summarize national environmental vulnerability circumstances. In collaboration with several Pacific countries including Fiji, Samoa, Tuvalu, Vanuatu and more recently the Cook Islands, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Tonga, the testing of the EVI with country data clearly highlighted the capability and potential of the EVI to measure environmental vulnerability.

There are several benefits of producing such an index. The most important is that it can attract attention to specific states, which are considered 'more vulnerable' and by summarizing vulnerability based on meaningful criteria it can be used by donors when considering allocation of financial aid and projects. It will also allow countries to produce a comprehensive assessment of environmental vulnerability thus identifying areas of concern and approaches to better stewardship of the environment. This is fundamental if sustainable development is to be achieved.

The next step is to globalize the EVI into an internationally robust workable tool that will involve representative countries from all over the world. With the assistance of the Government of Italy together with other international governments and partners it is expected that a practical and internationally acceptable EVI tool will be developed.

For further information please contact: Russell Howorth Program Manager SOPAC Secretariat PMB Suva, Fiji Islands Tel: (679) 381377 Fax: (679) 370040 Email: [email protected] 

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