25 Jun 2013

SPC to cooperate with IUCN

5:12 pm on 25 June 2013

The Secretariat of the Pacific Community has signed a memorandum of understanding with the International Union for Conservation of Nature to work together in areas of conservation and development in the Pacific.

The four-year MOU, signed this week in Noumea, lays the foundation for co-operation in sectors related to biodiversity conservation including fisheries and marine protection, forestry, energy, food security, water and climate change.

The IUCN regional director, Taholo Kami, told Johnny Blades there's a growing feeling among Pacific government that there are too many different regional agencies working in similar areas but without cohesion.

TAHOLO KAMI: And we're seeing in the region that leaders are starting to say, 'Hey, what the heck?' (Laughs) 30 years plus 20 hasn't worked. And we're talking about the same problems that we had 30 years ago are still here today. And we've got donor and partnership relationships that have gone back for the last 30 years. What do we do that can make a significant difference and how do we cut through the noise, and how do we demand better access to benefits? How do we demand better investment - or the right kind of investment - to the communities, where it matters? And with all these institutions coming in I think it's part of the same demand from countries starting to say, 'We need something that makes sense to us that's not just fisheries'.

JOHNNY BLADES: Do you think the island countries are serious about green growth, blue economy?

TK: I think that it's coming, it's starting to emerge. Here at the MSG with the Melanesian leaders, you'll see in the next few days that this is the discussion that's happening right now. More and more leaders are starting to ask the questions, 'What do we need to do to see things change?' And I hope it's something we will see more - the Pacific Island countries coming onboard on this agenda.

JB: Do you agree with the parties to the Nauru Agreement's fisheries conservation approach?

TK: I actually think that they should be congratulated. And I think the fact that these small Pacific Island countries can close the door and say, 'We need to take action'. I think it provides an example for how other Pacific Island groups can start to say, 'Hey, it's not everyone else's problem, it's actually ours. And we need to take ownership of the challenge and do something about it'.

JB: Everyone is talking about deep-sea mining. And there's a lot of interest, obviously, from around the world in the Pacific's resources under the sea. What do you think? Do you think it's an area we need to tread very carefully in?

TK: By all means. I think, as a Pacific Islander, I wear my Pacific Island hat, I think we do need to know a lot more in terms of opportunities for natural resources - and deep-sea mining is a big opportunity - at the same time tread with caution. It'll still be there in 20, 30 years time and if takes a little longer to find out the best way to do these things, I think we should take our time.

JB: And companies can come and approach one country and start exploring if there's more pooling of resources.

TK: What you've just said, that's been the path of the last 60 years. Our small countries are always approached by organisations and companies, and I think we need to sort out our priorities first.