Engaging the Media as Stakeholders in Climate Action in Tonga

By Viliami Takau, JNAP Secretariat Communication and M&E Officer

Tonga is highly exposed to multiple natural hazards and the effects of climate change. In the 2020 World Risk Report, Tonga was ranked as the second most vulnerable country in the world to disaster risk.

Recently, Tonga has felt the sting of many climate hazards, including high climate variability, temperature increases, sea-level rise, and more severe tropical cyclones.  Extreme weather has caused severe flooding in low-lying areas. Sea level rise is also contributing to coastal erosion, putting infrastructure, property, and lives at risk. Climate change is the single biggest issue that will affect Tongans’ lives and livelihoods in the coming decades.

To tackle these challenges, Tonga is implementing its Joint National Action Plan (JNAP) 2 on Climate Change Disaster Risk Management, which was launched in 2018.

Tonga’s first Joint National Action Plan (JNAP1) was implemented from 2010 to 2015. It was the first JNAP in the Pacific region and successfully brought together climate change donors to set up major projects in Tonga, such as the construction of the Princess Fusipala Hospital through the Climate Resilient Sector Project (CRSP) co-financed by the Asian Development Bank and the Tongan government.

Watch: Tonga’s media briefing and workshop on communicating climate change adaptation.

Structure for Engaging JNAP Stakeholders

On the right chart, the light blue box represents the central agencies of the JNAP institutional arrangements structure. They are made up of Tonga’s technical experts, namely from several line ministries. They make decisions on technical requirements, from large-scale national projects to correcting Tonga’s NDC targets for the Paris Agreement. They collaborate with the ministry of MEIDECC’s Department of Climate to create proposals and seek accreditation and access to funds to build a resilient Tonga.

Although they are mainly from government ministries, these stakeholders can also come from Tonga’s non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector, and community groups. Support staff from these groups have also been named as focal points.

On Thursday, March 25, 2021, in partnership with the NAP Global Network, the director of the Department of Climate Change, Luisa Tuiafitu Malolo, and her staff hosted the Tonga Media Association for a half-day briefing on the activities currently being undertaken by the department.

This half-day briefing was a milestone as the first time the media had been engaged as stakeholders in the JNAP in Tonga. The gathering was an opportunity for the director and her department to integrate the media into the JNAP’s stakeholder engagement structure, establishing a focal point in the media. Many of the representatives from the media were glad to be finally formally engaged by the Department of Climate Change.

As the president of the Tongan Media Association, Remanlal Vallabh, remarked, “We have always wondered why were not engaged 5 or 10 years earlier but are happy to be here today and look forward to working more with the Climate Change Department.”

Building Capacity for Tongan Government Staff to Communicate About Climate Action

The following day, on Friday, March 26, a full-day capacity-building workshop for the “focal points” from Tongan government ministries and NGOs was held.

This workshop was facilitated by the Tonga Broadcasting Commission’s chief news editor, Laumanu Petelo, with support from Sia ‘Uhila Angilau, the journalist behind Tonga’s most popular social media photojournalism blog, Ordinary Tongan Lives.

Ms. Petelo commented on the value of the workshop: “Today is a milestone and a first for Tonga. We look forward to helping build the skills of media officers and government staff so they are able to share climate change and disaster information more effectively to the public.”

Based on the workshop, Ms. Petelo and Ms. Angilau developed a report with recommendations for how the engagement and conversations that started through these workshops can be continued.

Read More

Key Recommendations for Communicating Climate Change in Tonga

Pictured sitting in the middle is the ministry of Meidecc CEO Paula Ma’u and the Director of the Department of Climate Change to the far right, Ms. Luisa Tuiafitu with Tonga Media Association President Remanlal Vallabh from Tonga’s Radio Nuku’alofa 88.6. on the far left.
Pictured sitting in the middle is the ministry of Meidecc CEO Paula Ma’u and the Director of the Department of Climate Change to the far right, Ms. Luisa Tuiafitu with Tonga Media Association President Remanlal Vallabh from Tonga’s Radio Nuku’alofa 88.6. on the far left.

To learn more about strategic communications in national adaptation planning, visit our theme page.

This above support took place through funding from the NDC Partnership Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP) implemented by the NAP Global Network Secretariat, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), in collaboration with the Department of Climate Change.