From across the region, the UN in the Pacific brought together artists UN leaders, heads of State and international celebrities in the world’s first regional COVID-19 concert.
“I’m very proud to be part of this historic event”, said Tofiga Fepulea’i, who hosted the concert in character as the popular television persona ‘Aunty Tala’. “Now is the time for us to come together, to celebrate the strength and solutions that are possible when the Pacific unites”.
The two-and-a-half-hour show featured contributions from 12 Pacific island nations, including musical performances from Jahboy of the Solomon Islands, Mia Kami of Tonga, Juny B of Kiribati, Te Vaka of New Zealand and many more.
“This is the first ever virtual concert to comprise primarily of artists from across the region and be accessible to audiences not only in the Pacific but around the world”, Ms. Fepulea’i added.
Moreover, videos messages of solidarity were delivered from international guests, such as the United Kingdom’s Prince Charles, Oscar-winning actor and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) advocate Forest Whitaker, and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The virtual concert provided a platform for the geographically remote Pacific region to connect. Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed reinforced the message that working together is the only way to overcome COVID-19.
“Much remains to be done, and no one person, island or country can do it alone,” she said in her video remarks.
The UN deputy chief highlighted the responsibility of the global community to come together to help “our small island neighbours” respond to the pandemic by ensuring equitable access to vital medical equipment, supplies and – when they become available – vaccines.
She noted that the global community must also help the hard-hit economies of small island developing States through debt relief and rapid support that stimulates inclusive and resilient growth.
“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 urged. “And let’s say yes to solidarity, yes to compassion, caring for each other in the Pacific way.”
Already among the most remote countries on earth, Pacific island states saw their vital economic links weakened with the evaporation of tourism, severe disruptions to international trade, and a reduction in remittances.
The virtual concert brought attention to the multidimensional impacts of the pandemic, including a rise in domestic violence, unemployment, food insecurity, and mental health issues.
Speakers reinforced the need to build back better by creating a sustainable Pacific that is resilient to the impacts of climate change.
“This new normal should not be the same old story, but with face masks,” said President of Palau, Tommy E. Remengesau Jr, 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.”
Reach and reception
UN Web TV broadcast the virtual concert on radio and television networks in 12 Pacific island countries, as well as in Australia and New Zealand, throughout Asia, and globally. And it was captioned for people who are deaf or have hearing impairments.
“In the Pacific, we love our music, and to hear from our leaders across the region, and our friends, on how to cope and be safe, and how to ensure that we are living in the new normal, I think it is timely”, said Pacific Disability Forum CEO Setareki Macanawai.
Watching on Facebook, law student at the University of the South Pacific’s Emalus Campus in Vanuatu Louisa Movick, believes in the healing powers of music.
“In these difficult times with so many mixed emotions in the air, it is good to take a moment, breathe and listen to the music of our Pacific region through these artists”, she said.
The final act
The concert closed with a moving performance of a song called “We Will Rise”, written about the coronavirus pandemic in the Pacific and performed by Pasifika Voices and the International School Suva.
Sung primarily by children and youth, the heart-warming lyrics concluded on a note of hope.
“Around the world we’re closing borders, COVID-19 on the rise
A new world order behind closed doors, the storm will pass, we will survive
We will rise, we will rise again, our isles will rise again
We will rise, we will rise again, our world will rise again”