The Kingdom of Tonga consists of over 175 named islands in the South Pacific Ocean. The total land area is 747 sq km. The population of approximately 109,960 lives on 43 of the islands with a total land area of 649 sq km. Tongatapu is the most populous island, where 70 percent of the population lives.
Tongan society has been ruled by a monarchy since the 10th century AD. The King is at the top of the social pyramid, with nobles in the middle and often the highest rank in their village and estate. Commoners are at the bottom of the social pyramid. This structure has remained mostly unchanged through the centuries, except for the recent emergence of a new elite class of educated and business people, earning the same social status and privileges as nobles.
The establishment of the Constitution in 1875 was a landmark change for commoners as it gave them the rights to own and inherit land. The Constitution also formally established traditional chiefs as estate owners and they were expected to grant land from their estate to their subjects for dwelling and farming purposes. In return, commoners were expected to use their land productively to fulfil their obligations.
Like other countries in the Pacific, Tonga has been affected by the effects of climate change, including rising annual temperatures. The country is also susceptible to tropical cyclones. Tonga’s efforts to build resilience to climate change is framed in its Climate Change Policy (2015-2020).
The overall focus is towards the goal of ‘A Resilient Tonga,’ aimed at achieving outcomes that are realised more widely than can be achieved through a more conventional, compartmentalised approach. Rather than address climate change adaptation, mitigation and disaster risk reduction in a fragmented manner, a holistic approach is taken to build resilience. There are five action areas:
- Mainstreaming for a resilient Tonga – To fully mainstream the goal of a resilient Tonga into government legislation, policies, and planning at all levels;
- Research, monitoring, management of data, and information – To implement a coordinated approach to the collection, monitoring, management and use of all relevant data and information and to develop a coordinated, multi-sectoral approach to research for building a Resilient Tonga;
- Resilience building response capability – To develop the capability for resilience building responses throughout government, the private sector and civil society;
- Resilience building actions – To implement actions that are designed towards the building of a resilient Tonga by 2035 at national, island, and community level;
- Finance – To implement actions that are designed towards the building of a Resilient Tonga by 2035 at national, island, and community level.