BBNJ Pacific Workshop Opening Remarks by Fiji as PSIDS Chair

PSIDS Opening Remarks delivered at the Opening of the BBNJ Pacific Workshop
30 January – 1 February 2019
Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, Suva, Fiji
Secretary-General and Ocean Commissioner – Ms. Dame Meg Taylor,
Presenters, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bula vinaka to you all on behalf of Pacific SIDS Missions in New York.
For those who have travelled far to get here today, a warm welcome to you.
I am honored to be part of the opening of this workshop today speaking in Fiji’s capacity as Chair of the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS).
At the outset, we would like to commend the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner and partners for organizing this Pacific workshop. It is not often we have these kinds of opportunities, and so when an opportunity such as these presents itself, we must make the most of it.
I must also thank our presenters and facilitators who will be leading and guiding our discussions over the next 3 days. Sir’s and Madam’s thank you for your time and your support to the Pacific region on BBNJ.
This workshop provides the perfect opportunity in bringing together experts to discuss perhaps one of the more pressing ocean-related issues right now on the international agenda, ‘marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction’ (BBNJ).
The PSIDS have long championed the protection and restoration of the health, productivity and resilience of the ocean and the marine environment. This overarching objective has motivated the strong involvement of the PSIDS Group on ocean-related issues, including in negotiations of the ‘The Future We Want, the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway and in the design and adoption of a dedicated sustainable development goal (SDG 14) on oceans and seas in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which helped lay the foundation for the 1st United Nations Ocean Conference convened in 2017, successfully co-presided by Fiji and Sweden.
We have a strong track record, having said that we must ensure that we in the Pacific are well-prepared for the negotiations that are before us.
We did not shy away from discussions at the 1st Inter-Governmental Conference (IGC) held last year in New York. In fact, our collective voices helped reinforce key principles that we as large ocean States have always advocated for when envisioning an international legally binding instrument (ILBI) on BBNJ namely:

  • Protection and preservation of the marine environment
  • Maintaining the rights and obligations of States
  • Cooperation and coordination amongst States
  • Common Heritage of Mankind
  • Intra and intergenerational equity
  • Special case or ‘circumstances of SIDS
  • Adjacency
  • Precautionary principle/approach
  • Polluter pays principle
  • Transparency
  • Peaceful purposes
  • Reciprocal principle of duty not to transfer damage or hazards or transform one type of pollution into another
  • Best available scientific information including traditional knowledge
  • Ecosystem-based approach

The international legally binding instrument (ILBI) needs to be flexible to take into consideration the evolving situations of SIDS and avoid disproportionate transfer of burden of conservation on SIDS.
Considering this, another important issue to PSIDS is capacity building and transfer of marine technology. Most Pacific Islands have limited capacity and capability to effectively engage in the conservation and ensure the sustainable use of marine biodiversity, including conducting marine scientific research (MSR) and development, effectively planning and implementing area-based management tools (ABMTs), including marine protected areas (MPAs), as well as conducting, assessing and monitoring environmental impact assessments (EIAs) and strategic environmental assessments (SEAs).
On this note,  the Group has always pushed to ensure that the BBNJ implementing agreement takes into account the priorities set by States, supports the long-term institutional strengthening of an administrations, agency or organization, including with regards to their reporting requirements, facilitates the transfer of technology from regional to national level and coordinates the different capacity building and transfer of technology mechanisms in place ensuring coherence and efficiency for all States including developing States.
As such, the new implementing agreement could strengthen the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), through resolving legal gaps and improving cooperation and coordination among States and relevant organizations and mechanisms.  This requires adopting a coherent and coordinated approach in the conservation of marine resources as well as the management of maritime activities. UNCLOS recognizes  that all problems of ocean spaces are interrelated and need to be considered as a whole, as expressed in the preamble.
In order to achieve these objectives, global participation in the negotiations towards the BBNJ implementing agreement is therefore vital, however, global action can only be driven through active and constructive regional and national engagement.
Initiatives such as this workshop help guide our actions on the global level ensuring our interests are not lost. In a similar vein, we welcome and support the timely BBNJ preparatory Workshop to be convened in twenty days’ time in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia and count on your input, which will be complementary to our work there.
We must also keep in mind the President’s aid to negotiations paper that was recently shared by the President of the Conference and her team. The paper is commendable and shows how far we’ve come in the negotiations. Based on the 2011 Package and on-going negotiations, the paper contains some proposed treaty language for our consideration. On this note it would be useful to see what the participants make of this paper and I am sure an even more in-depth analysis of the Paper from OPOC and the CROP BBNJ Support Team would be very much welcome by all.
In concluding I would like to encourage participants here today, the region did it once before, when we all came together to support UNCLOS, the overarching instrument that guides us today and no doubt with our collective efforts, commitment and coordinated approach as a region, we can once again shape the negotiations for an international legally binding instrument on marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction that will ensure Pacific interests are safeguarded.
Vinaka vakalevu and I wish you all a very successful workshop.
(Delivered by Mr Peter Emberson- Fiji Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director Multilateral Bureau)

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