Climate Victimhood Comes to “Corruption House Number One”?

Essay by Eric Worrall

I have fond memories of visiting Vanuatu in 2019. My tour guides in Luganville gave me a free lift back into town, refused my offer of lunch or a beer, and pointed out the best steak house in town. People dressed in rags waved and smiled, and didn’t bother me. There were no aggressive panhandlers. But even paradise has its problems.

‘Teaching our children from books, not the sea’: how climate change is eroding human rights in Vanuatu

Published: November 8, 2022 10.59am AEDT

Karen E McNamara Associate Professor, The University of Queensland
Rachel Clissold Researcher, The University of Queensland
Ross Westoby Research Fellow, Griffith University

There’s a lot at stake over the next fortnight as nations gather at the COP27 climate conference in Egypt. But the stakes are perhaps highest for the Pacific islands and their people.

A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year said global warming above 1.5℃ would be “catastrophic” for Pacific island nations. Sea-level rise could lead to the loss of entire Pacific countries this century.

Such damage is a fundamental threat to the human rights of Pacific populations who, as one research paper reminds us, are not merely “victims” of climate change, but “real people with dignity and dreams for the future”.

We have been conducting research for the Vanuatu government into how climate change is affecting the human rights of the nation’s highly exposed population. We’ve heard stories of loss and resilience from those whose lives and traditions are being ripped apart by this global catastrophe.

Read more: https://theconversation.com/teaching-our-children-from-books-not-the-sea-how-climate-change-is-eroding-human-rights-in-vanuatu-192016

Spot the problem? Every Vanuatu person I spoke to hate their politicians, they practically spat when they talked about them.

People from Luganville to Port Villa called their parliament “Corruption House Number One”. “Corruption House Number Two” was their name for the huge but mostly empty Chinese loan funded Vanuatu National Convention Centre, the construction and maintenance costs for which had all but bankrupted the country – so much so that Vanuatu had been forced to cede some of their top tourist attractions to Chinese creditors, who put gates and ticket sellers on paths which had formerly been free.

I’m not saying Vanuatuans aren’t interested in money. Vanuatuans are no socialists – they believe in making an honest dollar. But the kind hearted people I met mingled their joy in life with their business activities. The people I met would rather the path be free, but provide drinks along the way.

Those tour guides who directed me to the best steak house in town did me a big favour. The steak I ate was excellent, one of the best I’ve ever eaten, cooked to absolute perfection – and only cost $6. The other customers in the restaurant were mostly Australian civil servants from their conversation.

I can’t remember the name of the restaurant sorry. But you’ll know if you are in the right place.

I don’t know if the Vanuatu government is as corrupt as everyone told me. But I certainly believe Vanuatu’s politicians have messed up the nation’s finances, by taking out huge loans from China which Vanuatu is struggling to repay. They admitted in 2019 they can’t afford to maintain that huge expensive convention centre.

We took doxycycline the whole time we were in Vanuatu, and for several weeks afterwards. My Aussie doctor advised another thing the Vanuatuan government has messed up is Malaria control.

The government hasn’t messed up everything in Vanuatu. The streets are safe for Westerners to walk. Crime rates are comparable to Australia – a remarkable fact, given how poor people are, but completely believable once you meet some of the laid back locals.

In my opinion, the last thing the people of Vanuatu needs is for those politicians to become more powerful, for truckloads of climate cash to be parachuted into the hands of politicians who have already proven to be so incompetent when it comes to money.

Update (EW): Added a picture of the best restaurant in Luganville. I felt completely safe the whole time I was in Vanuatu, even though I was carrying an expensive camera in plain sight.

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November 8, 2022 at 09:14PM

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