Pacific solutions to the global ocean crisis took centre stage at the recent United Nations Ocean Conference. The Pacific Community (SPC) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in partnership with Member States and partners came together to co-host an official side event showcased the vital work being done in the region that has the most to lose from inaction on ocean health and how the Pacific as a region is applying the best available science and traditional knowledge to forge and strengthen partnerships to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life Below Water.
Moderated by Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, SPREP Director General the side event saw Dr Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of IOC/UNESCO, and Mr Cameron Diver, Deputy-Director General of the Pacific Community sign a Memorandum of understanding between IOC-UNESCO and SPC formalising collaboration between the organisations and stressing the importance of the UN decade of Ocean Science to bring solutions and actions to build a sustainable Blue Pacific.
The integral relationship of Pacific island people with the ocean - culturally, socially, economically and scientifically was a strong theme of the side event with Hon. Mr Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu, Minister of Culture, Environment and Marine Resources of French Polynesia stressing the importance of taking into account local and traditional knowledge of the ocean environment and announcing. The Coral Reef Protection plan for French Polynesia, which aims to protect all coral species in 2022 and then by 2030, all its coral ecosystems.
Stressing the importance of leadership at community, national and regional levels to enable meaningful, long term and inclusive sustainable development and acknowledging the role and value of traditional knowledge, the Niue Ocean Wide initiative presented a video as an example of holistic sustainable development and management of the ocean and its resources to improve economic returns and livelihoods for the people of Niue and to ensure conservation of resources for future generations.
Reaffirming the importance of continued partnerships in the Pacific for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals particularly 13: Climate Action and 14: Life Below Water, H.E Dr Fatumanava-o-Upolu III Pa'olelei Luteru, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Mission of the Independent State of Samoa to the United Nations presented on the Weather Ready Pacific Decadal Programme of Investment, a transformative plan to strengthen the technical capacity of meteorological services in the Pacific, to help safeguard and protect communities during extreme weather events and Mr Richard Bontjer, Director, Environment, Oceans and Biodiversity Section, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia spoke on the Pacific Ocean Litter Project, which is helping Pacific Island Countries to refuse, reduce and find alternatives to single-use plastics – such as cutlery, food containers, drink bottles and bags.
Dr Eric Kwa of the Papua New Guinea Department of Justice Attorney General presented on the Marine Scientific Research Database and Monitoring System that Papua New Guinea is implementing to ensure the results of Marine Scientific Research are available to policy makers and Mr Filimone Ralogaivau from Climate Change and International Cooperation of the Ministry of Economy for Fiji, stressed the importance of establishing maritime boundaries under UNCLOS, to allow governance and sustainable management of biological diversity within Fiji maritime borders and also highlighted the importance of the ocean climate nexus.
The side event closed with a song by Tongan Artist Mia Kami, reminding us all of the integral relationship of the ocean with Pacific island people and culture and our collective responsibility to protect and conserve the health and wellbeing of the ocean.
A recording of the side event is available here.