19 Aug 2013

PIDF should not be feared says Pacific conservation leader

7:14 pm on 19 August 2013

A regional conservation leader says developed nations should have no fears a new regional grouping will increase pressure for compensation over climate change.

One of the aims of the Fiji-led Pacific Islands Development Forum inaugurated this month in Nadi, is to provide views from Pacific Island civil society, business and governments for the Small Island Developing States bloc at the UN.

Taholo Kami of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature says the group's challenge will to be to get success on sustainable development at a national rather than an international level.

Sally Round asked him whether there's a risk of the group continuing as a political football.

TAHOLO KAMI: I think anything that involves leaders will become a political football and it's a space that's always the risk with this kind of engagement. If we can get past the politics, we might find that this is something that is useful, we might find that the 2015 post-Rio discussion, the discussion on sustainable development, that this is another door or avenue for a new discourse.

SALLY ROUND: Given the political context of it being held in FIji, would it be better for this to be headquartered somewhere else?

TAHOLO KAMI: If you take the politics out of it, you say where better to have this kind of discussion? There's a hub of countries all represented here at the highest level that have a clear dependence on Fiji as a hub. At the same time, you've got the bigger picture that Fiji is a natural hub for the Pacific and you've got to say, if you're going to do something like this, Fiji is a natural host. Sometimes, you've just got to say, if this is the starting point and the Fiji government has been brave enough to say that's the direction we'd like to see it go, let's see past the politics, let's see then whole sustainability of the Pacific and say can it add value to existing regional mechanisms and can it add value to our aspirations past Rio.

SALLY ROUND: Is it Commodore Bainimarama's baby?

TAHOLO KAMI: Well, I think you could see from the Prime Minister's speech that he wants to take it out of Fiji government and put it as an independent body and I think the concern has always been, do we need another regional body or secretariat? As you can see from the Fiji government, they want it to be something that stands independently. The question becomes, what kind of organisation should it be and I think let's see if we can avoid the bureacracy, let's see if we can avoid the whole thing like very expensive public servants...

SALLY ROUND: Do you think that's realistic?

TAHOLO KAMI: We won't know until we put our foot into the water, we'll see how things emerge from here.

SALLY ROUND: There are some fears from bigger nations, they're worried about this, because of the losses and damages of climate change that small island states are pushing for, that this will be a vehicle for gaining that holistic voice...

TAHOLO KAMI: Yeah, well Pacific island countries and the small island countries, they've done quite well with the lobbying and the Pacific voice. I think first of all this is a voice for ourselves in the region. I think that there's been some success through AOSIS, the Forum, the regional organisations, on getting messages out on climate change and issues like loss and damage. I just hope that this enhances and strengthens what happens out there...

SALLY ROUND: So should they be worried, those bigger countries?

TAHOLO KAMI: I don't think so. The big challenge we've got in the next ten years is to bring accountability on implementation at a national level. I don't think people should be worried, I think we should all stand back and say how have we been doing first? And then say maybe we can make this into a mechanism that adds value.

SALLY ROUND: And it has legs as far as you're concerned?

TAHOLO KAMI: I think it's a first step today.