REMARKS: SG Puna opens Blue Pacific Nature Based Solutions, Policy and Finance Workshop

18 July 2023, Suva, Fiji

Opening Remarks
H.E Henry Puna, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum


• Honourable Bikenibeu Paeniu, Ambassador of Tuvalu to the Republic of China (Taiwan)

• Acting Director General of the IUCN Regional Office, Ms Maria Goretti Muavesi

• Vice President of the Conservation International Pacific Ocean and Islands Programme, Ms Susana Waqainabete- Tuisese

• Excellencies,

• Distinguished Guests,

• Ladies and Gentlemen

• Kia Orana and welcome to your Secretariat.

• It is always a pleasure to host our officials and regional stakeholders at the Secretariat, especially when you are discussing innovative and groundbreaking solutions and policies, that will shape our very future in the Pacific.

• At the outset, allow me to acknowledge the IUCN and Conservation International, for partnering with us to deliver this workshop, over the next three days.

• It is platforms such as this, that nurture opportunities to learn from each other, to share our national experiences, and to strengthen our knowledge base and professional networks.

• To borrow a phrase from the Tongan Academic, Epeli Hau’ofa, we are a “Sea of Islands.”

• For us in the Pacific, our future and our prosperity lie in the Ocean that surrounds us, and all that it has to offer.

• Naturally, our communities and livelihoods have been built, cultivated and nurtured, on our coastal surroundings and eco-systems.

• However, with time and modernization, and dare I say it, a fantasy to be like
others, our Pacific people have increasingly foregone the lessons and traditions of our elders, in favour of development practices, that have not always been friendly to our natural environment.

• For far too long now, the world has been driven by economic gain, and has lost sight of the fact that our future is entirely dependent, on the condition of the natural systems that surround us.

• Ladies and gentlemen,

• Nature-based solutions present the very valuable opportunity, to reconnect with our past, to rebuild our futures.

• This very ideal should appeal to us as Pacific Islanders.

• Our cultures, our traditions and our customs, have been shaped by the societies and environments, in which we live.

• For us, nature-based solutions may mean something as simple as re-learning ways of the past.

• Or on the other hand, it could also mean something as complex as a bio-engineered seawall, comprising mangrove hedges, natural boulders, bunding and vetiver grass, such as the Viro Village Hybrid Coastal Protection Program in Ovalau.

• All in all, what is clear, is that the benefits of nature-based solutions are manifold.

• They are, first and foremost, cost-effective.

• Further, its community-based nature means, that it contributes significantly to societal well-being, and social cohesion.

• At a broader level, it is encouraging to see Pacific Island countries integrating nature, into their national commitments, strategies and plans, under the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

• Similarly, we see increased recognition at the multilateral level, through the opportunities for development financing focused on nature-based solutions, including under the Green Climate Fund.

• Indeed, the recognition of the ocean-climate nexus under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is testament to the value and benefits of nature, and our ocean, in the fight against climate change.

• But the question remains – are these sufficient?

• The sad and emphatic answer is no.

• We need more than recognition.

• We need to see action.

• We need to see a greater investment in nature, including concrete and real efforts, to value our eco-systems.

• We need to see a global shift in production and consumption patterns, to halt the degradation of nature.

• We need to see reinvigorated partnerships at all levels, to mobilise financing and most importantly, political will.

• For us in the Pacific, our natural environment is synonymous with our identity, and our way of life.

• Simply put, the effectiveness of these innovative solutions, depends on our collective efforts.

• It requires knowledge and experience sharing, across our region. It requires engagement, advocacy, and empowerment.

• It requires us to socialise and build our local understanding of nature-based solutions, as a concept for change in our societies and communities.

• Most importantly, it is an opportunity to bring new insights to old approaches.

• Over the course of the next three days, you will have the valuable opportunity to build your understanding, to strengthen your implementation knowledge, and to strengthen your technical capacity.

• Make the most of your time together, and the expertise you have in this room.

• Draw on the resource people that you have over the next few days and absorb as much as you can.

• Because our futures are not defined by the decisions of our political leaders, but by the innovation and design of policy developers and implementers, such as each of you in the room today.

• With those few words, I wish you well in your deliberations.

• Meitaki ma’ata and I thank you. –ENDS




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