Statement on Tonga volcanic eruption

Jan 19, 2022

UPDATE (24/01/2022): The Secretariat can now confirm that our friends and colleagues are safe, and work is underway supporting the vulnerable and others impacted by the eruption.

The Commonwealth Equality Network is deeply concerned about our friends and colleagues at the Tonga Leitis Association (TLA), the people of the Kingdom of Tonga and Fiji and those across the Pacific Islands who have been impacted by the devastating eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai and the tsunami that followed. As a result of the eruption, Tonga’s communications infrastructure has been disrupted and we are unable to confirm the safety of the staff at the TLA and the communities they support.

Tonga has historically prioritised social protection and human rights, with a focus on vulnerable groups. Climate change continues to pose serious threats to the environment and livelihood of marginalised people, and the impacts of climate-related events are felt right across the nation’s economic, social and environmental systems. We call on States to act swiftly and ensure equitable support is provided to all affected, ensuring no one is left behind.

What’s more, across the Commonwealth, many countries have only one or a small handful of organisations dedicated to upholding the human rights of LGBTI people, and their work is vital to the wellbeing and safety of those who face persecution, exclusion and violence because of who they are and who they love. TLA is the only organisation in Tonga dedicated to supporting trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people, who will be among those particularly impacted by the devastation caused. As international aid organisations respond to the disaster, we would like to remind one and all that LGBTI people must be accounted for and included in relief efforts.

Like many, we are anxious for the restoration of phone and internet lines so we can respond accordingly. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and we stand ready to support TLA and the communities they support and represent.

Steve Letsike


The Commonwealth Equality Network