The United Nations hosted a virtual event featuring artists, political leaders, and activists from 12 Pacific Island nations on Aug. 15.
The multi-hour event, Pacific Unite: Saving Lives Together, aimed to generate global solidarity in the fight against COVID-19 and raise awareness of the unique challenges facing Pacific Islanders. In many ways, it followed in the footsteps of Global CItizen's One World: Together At Home andGlobal Goal: Unite for Our Future events from earlier this year.
These kinds of events underscore the unique role that music and art can play in uniting people during crises. In the case of Pacific Unite: Saving Lives Together, the UN called on several regional artists, including Jahboy of the Solomon Islands, Mia Kami of Tonga, Juny B of Kiribati, Te Vaka of New Zealand, and many others to be part of the lineup.
The event also featured speeches and calls to actions from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) advocate Forest Whitaker.
"Much remains to be done, and no one person, island, or country can do it alone," Mohammed said in her remarks, referring to the COVID-19 relief effort.
"Let us keep standing together to fight the virus. Let’s say no to violence, no to discrimination, no to stigma, no to vicious misinformation," she added. "And let’s say yes to solidarity, yes to compassion, caring for each other in the Pacific way."
While the Pacific Island nations have remained relatively unscathed from the COVID-19 virus, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), indirect consequences from the pandemic have been devastating.
Economies throughout the region depend heavily on tourism, international trade, and remittances, all of which have been disrupted by the pandemic, the UN reported.
An additional 1.2 million people throughout the region could be plunged into poverty, the SCMP reported and it could take years to bounce back from the worsening economic recession. Fiji, which relies on tourism for 40% of its gross domestic product (GDP), is expected to see an economic decline of 21.7% this year.
Extreme poverty in the region could increase by 40% in the months ahead.
Pacific Island states are seeing growing rates of hunger, and health care facilities are facing funding gaps, according to the Guardian.
Increases in domestic violence and mental health problems have also been reported, according to the UN.
Pacific Unite: Saving Lives Together drew attention to all of these challenges, but also focused on opportunities for building back better in the aftermath of COVID-19.
"This new normal should not be the same old story, but with face masks," Tommy E. Remengesau Jr., president of Palau, said in his video message. "The Pacific has been pushing for big changes in travel, in tourism, in fishing, in plastic use, and in energy production. In a strange way, COVID-19 has cleared paths to those objectives. If we manage this challenge the right way, we can build a stronger system than we had before."