Canada’s reconstruction assistance to Tonga 40 years ago shows the way today

A map of Tonga and remote islands, and where the Tonga Kitchen project worked, edited from Google Maps.Credits: David Webster, author courtesy

Tonga still evaluates the devastation of the January volcanic eruption Hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima..

The eruption caused a tsunami that struck Tonga and remote islands, spurring tsunami warnings in North America. It reminded us that the South Pacific is not as far as we think.

Emergency relief supplies Arrive in TongaIt’s complicated by Near earthquake Restrictions on releasing the country from COVID-19 after a few days.

The bigger challenge is rebuilding after the world’s attention has shifted. As the chairman of the Diet said: “It will be a long way to recovery.”

Canada in progress International Development WeekIt is important to remember that there are lessons learned from similar natural disasters in the South Pacific 40 years ago.It was then that the Canadians helped rebuild after Cyclone Isaac. The worst storm in the region of the 20th century.. Emergency relief arrived throughout 1982, but the devastated remote islanders were still suffering a year later.

Development and kitchen

One of the urgent needs was to cook the house. Traditional societies on remote islands use three types of structures: dwellings, cooks, and bathers. International organizations helped rebuild the house, Pate ((((English kitchen).

Join a new Canadian organization: Pacific Peoples Partnership (At that time it was known as the former name of the South Pacific People’s Foundation). That director, Phil EsmondeAn American-born veteran turned into a Canadian peace activist, contacted a group of women in a village on a more remote island in Tonga, and shared the need for a cook.

A year after the cyclone, Esmonde wrote in an internal document contained in the organization’s unpublished archive:

“Currently, many pates consist of a fire pit under a tree or a few galvanized iron leftovers.”

Village women emphasized the need for a kitchen to store and prepare food, eat, and allow women to get together to perform tasks such as traditional functions and weaving.

In other words, Patos wasn’t just about rebuilding the village. They were about rebuilding the life of the village and the needs of women. This is an aspect that is not normally prioritized by international humanitarian agencies.

Focus on gender and indigenous needs

Correspondingly Pacific Peoples Partnership As the first full-scale development effort, we launched the Tonga Kitchen Project. We focused on issues of gender and indigenous needs rather than the import model.

Equally important, we paid close attention to the farther northern islands, including many of the same islands. Hit the hardest By the tsunami in January Including Nomuka And mangoWhere all the houses were destroyed after the eruption.

Dig into Archive of Pacific Peoples Partnership Discover stories about the close relationship between Canada and the Pacific Islands. The organization was founded in 1975 as a branch of the US-based South Pacific Foundation, inspired by an Australian actor. Elizabeth (Betty) Silverstein And her husband, American Studio Executive Maurice (Red) Silverstein.

The Canadian organization has increased its influence through a grant from the British Columbia Government. Under NDP Premier Dave Barrett, BC has created an innovative fund that is consistent with grants raised by BC-based non-governmental organizations.


This 2013 photo shows the island of Mango in Tonga. Credits: Scott Mills, CC BY-SA

Financing dollar matching

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was also prepared to raise funds at the time as part of its focus. Work closely with civil society Both in Canada and abroad.

With CIDA funding for development education in Canada, the Pacific People’s Partnership Host Tongan artist Sinisia Taumoe peauIn the early 1980s, it strengthened the organization’s existing relationships with a local women’s development group in Tonga.

She is part of the Tonga Kitchens project, and Pacific People’s Partnership has sent $ 40,000 (more than $ 100,000 in today’s money) to help rebuild hundreds of pates. The islanders did all the work and contributed 80% of the value of the project. As the organization’s archive says, “the project really belonged to them.”

At the time, with a focus on female integration in development, the CIDA made the Pacific People’s Partnership effort with Tongan women in Ottawa fascinating.Partnership is in Tonga Female and Child Crisis Center Currently a major partner.

Crisis Center emphasizes indigenous Tongan methods Talanoa To provide mental health and other services (speak informally).Its founder is a feminist researcher ʻOfa Guttenbeil-LikilikiA leading figure in architecture Fair North-South Partnership..

The effectiveness of aid has decreased

The Government of Canada, however, later abandoned its earlier emphasis Civil societyWomen in development, development education, and highly effective matching grant collaborations with Canadian civil society organizations.

It has replaced the following enterprise-led bureaucratic strategies: Pairing a non-governmental organization with a Canadian mining company also Promotion of structural adjustment— A shift that has been a frequent aid to Canada Low effect..

Ottawa saidCivil society partnership“When”Feminist international aid policy.. “

This is a positive development, but we too Regain the historical memory of Canada’s development aid Effective strategies for civil society and feminist assistance Canada’s network of humanitarian history To do. The Tonga Kitchens project shows that needs have remained constant for decades, including after the recent eruption.

You also need to learn from the lasting involvement of groups like the Pacific People’s Partnership, rather than relying on short-term contracts or project-based approaches. The Government of Canada seems to create and celebrate new aid strategies every few years. Instead, past and present aid records should be honestly considered.

A further lesson is that initiatives should be communicated by the affected communities. Tongans know their needs better than foreign tourists. Aid needs to be restructured as solidarity, not as mercy.In other words, Canada needs to Decolonize that aid..

Finally, in the event of a disaster, Canadians need to remember that reconstruction will take years. To be effective, we need to focus on the expressed needs of the locals, especially the voices that can be marginalized: the needs of remote indigenous peoples and village-based women.

As one archive’s Pacific People’s Partnership report points out, work such as the Tonga Kitchens project not only provides concrete support, but also “strengthens and strengthens the efforts of grassroots women’s groups and confirms their organization. It will also be “to do”.

The eruption of Tonga is one of the record books

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Canada’s reconstruction assistance to Tonga 40 years ago shows the way today

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