Address by SG Slade and Pacific Oceanscape Commissioner at United Nations-Nippon Foundation of Japan, Pacific Islands States Alumni Meeting

Opening Remarks
Monday 14 October 2013
Statement for Tuiloma Neroni Slade
Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum
Pacific Oceanscape Commissioner

United Nations – Nippon Foundation of Japan, Pacific Islands States Alumni Meeting

Salutations & Welcome

Ms Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli (Director Division for the Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UNDOALOS)
Mr Iosefa Maiava (UNESCAP)
Guest Speaker Professor Rosemary Rafuse (University of New South Wales)
Guest Speaker Assoc. Professor Craig Forest (University of Queensland)
Mr Francois Bailet (Coordinator of the UN-Nippon Foundation Fellowship Programme – Office of Legal Affairs UNDOALOS)
Other representatives from DOALOS including Valentina Germani
Ms Kate Brown (GLISPA, Washington)
Alan Saunders (IUCN, Suva)
Hugh Govan (LMMA)
Representatives from our sister CROP Agencies (Including Mr Sefanaia Nawadra (SPREP), Mr Joeli Veitayaki (TBC - USP) and Mr Arthur Webb, Mr Johann Bell, Ms Annie Kwan Sing-Siose and Mr Dean Solofa (SPC))
My own colleagues from PIFS including DSG Teo
Last and certainly not least the nine Alumni from the UN-Nippon Foundation Fellowship Programme

Good morning and a very warm welcome to you all for what I understand to be the first meeting of the Pacific alumni of the UN-Nippon Foundation Fellowship programme.

It is very pleasing for the Forum Secretariat to be hosting the nine (9) alumni from our region, and now rightly the torch-bearers for the Fellowship programme. It is a particular pleasure to welcome Director Gabriele Goettsche-Wanli and her team from the DOALOS office in New York. Without the partnership and close support of your office, Madame Director, we would not be here today celebrating the success of this very important programme. I know you and others have travelled from afar to be here, so I sincerely hope that you will have an enjoyable and productive week of discussions.

Your meeting agenda has attracted the attention and attendance of distinguished friends and visitors from abroad and from the region, and I acknowledge the presence of representatives from the United Nations system, from the Pacific regional organisations, academia, and from NGOs. Most warmly I welcome you all.

As many of you will know, DOALOS as the Division for the Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea runs the UN-Nippon Fellowship Programme as the capacity development mechanism of the United Nations. The Programme aims to foster and network a new generation of ocean leaders and managers through the strategic development of skills and understanding across a wide range of issues, including ocean science for governance.

Knowing that, I want to stress that this workshop represents an important opportunity for Pacific countries to continue to build and to tap into the expanding pool of home-grown oceans expertise that we now find in our region. It is important that we foster and effectively utilise this expertise as we work to tackle the challenge of effectively managing and conserving our Pacific part of the ocean.

Over the past few years we have seen unprecedented recognition of the important role that the ocean and seas play as key determinants for development. I believe that small island developing States (SIDS) can claim some significant credit for this recognition, for they have tirelessly and effectively championed the ocean issue in all manner of international fora.

Perhaps the most substantive ‘recognition’ in recent times can be found in the Rio+20 outcomes document (The Future We Want) which contains 20 distinct paragraphs on the role of the ocean and seas in sustainable development. These paragraphs form the global acknowledgment, not sufficiently proclaimed, of the all encompassing vitality and importance of the ocean, not only to SIDS and coastal states but to all nations across the planet.

It is the ocean which exerts critical forcing influence on the global climate system and biodiversity and the economic factors impacting on world food security, transportation, tourism and so much else. In that larger context, the ocean requires global governance and understanding to ensure its long-term health and wellbeing and prosperity for all.

In these remarks, I would also reflect on the fact that at their very first meeting in 1971 Pacific Forum Leaders laid emphasis on the unique dependence of Pacific countries on marine resources which, in their view, merited special consideration in the recognition of territorial claims. Leaders were also concerned that Pacific countries be properly informed of the ongoing work at that time of the UN Seabed Committee and the development of what is today the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

With those early directives from Forum Leaders, Pacific delegations became directly involved in the negotiations of international norms and standards pertaining to the ocean and fisheries. For many Pacific countries it was their first real experience of key international negotiations. It was also a first opportunity for the Pacific countries to contribute to the development of key and substantive international law principles.

Over the years Forum Leaders were to return to voice similar concerns and reconfirm these earlier positions on the ocean and fisheries resources and, more critically, to call for effective management and conservation measures. While there are rights to resources, there are also concomitant obligations and responsibilities for precautionary approaches and to conserve – obligations that must play out as we look to intensify fishing practices and explore the ocean depths for precious mineral deposits.

At their meeting in the Cook Islands last year and again this year in the Marshall Islands, Leaders reaffirmed once more the importance of maintaining regional solidarity for the effective management and conservation of highly migratory fish stocks for the benefit of the region. So, interestingly, over the span of 40 years, we see the region transitioning from territorial claims and the assertion of rights to focusing on modern day economic realities and the demands for food and security for our Pacific communities, now and for the future.

As we in this region prepare for next year’s International Conference on SIDS to be held in Samoa, and as we more broadly map out our future approach to ocean management, I believe it imperative that we keep in mind the errors of the past, and so that we can learn from the experience. We cannot allow the tragedy which has blighted the ocean-commons – of illegal and unsustainable exploitation of resources, of pollution and degradation and all other manner of abuse and mismanagement – to persist and go unchecked.

For all of these issues there are many common sense solutions: not necessarily about finding the answers, but rather about using the answers we have found - and this requires collective global and regional action, practical collaboration and drawing on existing knowledge and best practices.

With the ocean now rightly sharing the developmental ‘lime light’ we must capitalise on this focus and turn the rhetoric of the numerous global agreements and programmes into tangible outcomes that make a difference for the international system as a whole and for our Pacific communities. In the face of climate change, growing populations and intensifying globalisation this will be no mean feat, but it is surely where we must identify and look to the next generation of ocean leaders that are being forged by programmes such as the UN-Nippon Foundation, one that draws us together this week

With these words, let me thank you all for your kind attention and wish the meeting well in its deliberations.

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