This week we are all encouraged to know our ocean as the world marks World Ocean Day on the 8th June. As Pacific Islanders, we have a strong connection to our oceanic continent. Our totems are largely sea or land animals, and our coastal communities practiced ‘taboo’ over their fishing grounds way before the outside world entered our sphere. We can be proud of our intimate connection with the natural world around us.
However, humanity has not treated our oceans well. They are in great trouble and urgent action is required.
As stewards of the Pacific Ocean, the largest of the planets ocean systems, we have a great responsibility to take up this challenge – for ourselves and for our children and future generations.
To the children and youth of our Blue Pacific continent, I say know your ocean. It is the source of life for so many of us. Human activity is damaging our marine resources and we must act now.
Garbage in our ocean
Each year, humanity pours its trash into waterways and rivers without a second thought of what happens after they discard their rubbish. Much of this ends up in the ocean, where, for example, more than eight (8) million tonnes of harmful plastic waste ends up annually.
The world’s five ocean systems have been likened to “lungs” for our planet. For our community of ocean states, the Pacific Ocean is a source of both food and income; it has connected us in the past, and continues to do so today. The ripples of our ocean reach the shores of four continents. These connections are essentially pathways through which rubbish end up in our ocean of islands.
The repercussions of a warming planet are increasing both in intensity and in frequency. This is the case whether they are extreme, sudden, or slow onset weather and climate events. Either way they demand nothing less than innovative actions, and strengthened collaboration and cooperation of all stakeholders.
Key to how our region responds to climate change and extreme weather events and their impacts on our island homes and our resources is the nature and extent of our resilience.
It requires Pacific Islands Forum members to invest in pathways towards economic, social, and environmental resilience. It requires our Governments to complement their respective approaches with input and contributions from development partners, including the private sector, who are key to resource mobilisation and to implementation. It also requires civil society to play a key role, to ensure effective links between policies and practice are well established and they endure.
Suva, Fiji (March 29, 2018) - Increasing population movements, economic progress, human security and governance have been identified by participants at the annual regional Civil Society Organisations’ (CSO) Forum last week as thematic priority policy areas for consideration by the Pacific leadership.
These priority policy areas were agreed to by representatives from across the Pacific following national consultations prior to their participation at the regional CSO Forum held at the Forum Secretariat in Suva last week. They will be presented to the Forum Economic Ministers meeting in Palau in April, and the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in Nauru in September, by representatives selected by CSOs during the Forum.
Specific issues under these thematic priority areas include youth entrepreneurship and women’s financial inclusion, migration and finance in relation to the impacts of climate change Pacific communities are grappling with, and the importance of regional policy recognition for issues including effective border control and support for indigenous people’s rights.
We must be relentless in our efforts to end violence against women and girls. With the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence coming to an end for 2017 we must maintain our focus on the work that needs to be done.
The past 16 days has seen a flurry of activities related to the issue of gender-based violence and personally, I was reminded of a question posed by a woman journalist in Samoa at the end of the 48th Pacific Islands Forum who, acknowledging the beginning of my second term as secretary general, of the Pacific Islands Forum asked if I felt my position has made any difference to women in the region.
I had to tell her: No. I didn't think that I'd given as much as I could during my first term. Implicit in my remarks is a commitment to do a lot more in this particular area, building on the momentum of access to civil society at forum leaders' decision-making tables.
This week the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the UN Women Multi-Country Office co-hosted a talanoa exploring effective Pacific approaches to address the issue of violence against women and girls.