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Press Release: Nature Conservation

Pacific Biodiversity National Reports



Opening statement by SPREP Director, Mr David Sheppard to the Convention on Biological Diversity workshop on 4th National Reports held at the SPREP compound in Samoa from 19 to 20 April.

Welcome to this important workshop on preparing Fourth National Reports under the Convention on Biological Diversity. I hope you have all had a good trip here and are energized and ready for a busy week ahead.
Thank you Reverend for your inspiring words and for setting a positive and challenging tone for this workshop.

Thank you, Minister for honoring us with your presence today and for making time in your busy schedule to attend this Opening Ceremony. It is always a pleasure and an honor to share the stage with you. Each time you speak, I listen carefully, because I know I am going to learn something useful and important.

It is a great honor for SPREP to host this workshop. When SPREP started out it was entirely focused on biodiversity. In the 1980’s there were 2 staff, one focused on marine biodiversity, particularly coral reef management, and one focused on terrestrial management, particularly the establishment of protected areas.
Since that time we have grown significantly, to around 80 staff with a greatly increased budget. We now cover a very wide range of areas, including climate change, meteorology, solid waste management amongst many others.

This year we will be continuing our range of work but I have outlined that SPREP needs to priorities and accordingly we are giving particular attention to work on the 4 C’s – Climate Change, Communications, Capacity and the Conservation of Biodiversity – on land and at sea.

The focus on biodiversity reflects the fact that this year is the international Year of Biodiversity and that in the Pacific we are celebrating this under the theme Value Island Biodiversity – It’s our life. I hope you are all aware that SPREP, working with partners, has developed an Action Strategy for the Year of Biodiversity. It is important that you review this strategy and identify how your country, your organisation, and you, yourself can contribute to this strategy – which in the final analysis is only as good as its implementation. As Winston Churchill once said: “However beautiful the strategy you should occasionally look at the results”.

SPREP is strengthening its capacity to help Pacific countries on biodiversity matters and we are delighted to welcome Easter Galuvao to our team.

We are here this week to prepare national reports to the CBD COP 10, which will be held in Nagoya in October this year.

This is within the context of the 2002 CBD target developed to achieve by 2010 a significant reduction of the current rate of biodiversity loss at the global, regional and national level.

So how have we done?

The record is mixed – certainly there have been many positive initiatives in the field of biodiversity, both globally and in this region. However globally the picture is sobering and indicates we are currently in the middle of an extinction crisis. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened species, 70% of plant species assessed are threatened. IUCN further notes that 1 bird out of 8, 1 mammal out of 4, and 6 marine turtles out of 7 are all threatened with extinction.

How about the Pacific? In this region our biodiversity is of global significance, but is highly at risk. Extinction rates in the region, especially for birds and land snails, are among the highest in the world. There are many reasons why the Pacific has so many threatened species, including the vulnerability of small, isolated islands to impacts such as invasive species, loss of habitat and excessive resource exploitation.

All of this makes for depressing news – enough to put you off your cornflakes in the morning.

What do we do about it – First, we don’t give up. To quote Winston Churchill again, “never, never, never give up”

We need to look at how we can improve and scale up our responses to biodiversity conservation, learning from the many positive examples in our region and elsewhere.

I have 4 specific suggestions.

First, improve environmental governance. The Minister and I were recently at the UNEP Governing Council in Bali where the overriding topic was international environmental governance, with a particular focus on the status of UNEP as a Programme or some other form of organisation. To me the main issue for addressing biodiversity loss is governance at national levels, not at international or regional levels.

The key is to build strong, sustainable and effective organisations for biodiversity at national levels. We have an excellent example in Samoa. When I worked here in the early 1990’s the Environment agency was a small, relatively ineffective organisation with a small staff and weak role in government. Today it is an organisation with hundreds of staff, a strong and effective role in government, with a highly ranked cabinet Minister in charge. It is an organisation that is achieving results for biodiversity.

Donors, regional organisations like SPREP and NGOs, should pay attention to this example and focus their support on the development of strong and effective organisations for biodiversity at national levels, rather than on their own agendas.

Second, develop more effective links between climate change and biodiversity. We are all aware of the serious and immediate threats facing the low lying atolls and islands of the Pacific. In all of our countries climate change is not just an environmental issue – it is also an issue with immense social, economic and moral dimensions.

As the President of Kiribati so eloquently put it in his speech at Copenhagen, “climate change is overarching and it is a matter of national security”

Many of us from the Pacific travelled to Copenhagen to participate in the Climate Change Meeting in Copenhagen in December last year. Not only was it very cold but the outcome was also very disappointing. However what is clear is that there will be a quantum increase in the amount of future funding for the Pacific, and for other regions of the world, for climate change.

A major slice of this funding will be for adaptation to climate change. What is obvious to us but is perhaps less obvious to others, including those providing the money, is that nature based adaptation offers one of the most cost effective and efficient ways to positively address climate change.

We saw in Samoa that the protection of coastal mangroves and vegetation was one of the most effective ways to protect coastal communities from the impacts of the tragic Tsunami in October last year. The protection of the catchment area surrounding Pohnpei in FSM is one of the most effective ways to ensure water quality and supply in the face of climate change.

There are many other examples, but we as professionals in biodiversity must better make the case that an investment in biodiversity is an investment in climate change adaptation. This message is not getting through at the moment, particularly to donors. It should and it must.

SPREP will shortly be starting a scoping project on biodiversity and climate change and we are hoping this will develop into a much larger project which will benefit Pacific countries in this area.

Third, develop and encourage Pacific solutions to Pacific problems.

Long before biodiversity became a household name, Pacific islanders were using bans and restrictions (tapus) over areas or stocks that are in decline or threatened, imposed by community leaders and enforced by traditional fines.

We need to build on these and other traditional practice in our island countries.

The development of protected areas, for example, must reflect the unique system of land ownership and customary tenure in the Pacific rather than slavishly following western models of national parks and protected areas.

We should recognize, celebrate and, where relevant, duplicate initiatives in the Pacific which are working – such as the Micronesia Challenge, the Kiribati Oceanscape initiate and the Coral Triangle. A common element between many of these initiatives is partnership between government, non government organisations, and other elements of civil society.

Such partnerships should be encouraged and expanded.

We have a homegrown initiative in the Pacific. The Action Strategy for Nature Conservation in the Pacific Island Region for 2008 – 2012 provides an important basis for conserving nature. The implementation arm of this – the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation - is a growing coalition of voluntary conservation organizations and donor agencies created to increase effective conservation action. It serves as a key forum to help improve collaboration and coordination in the Pacific region for effective conservation action.

We look forward to hosting the next Roundtable in Apia in July this year.

The foundation for good, solid biodiversity conservation and for developing Pacific solutions to Pacific problems is in place – we now need to make it work.

Fourth, make better links between biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. We are all aware of the links between protecting natural resources and sustainable development, but we need to do much more to make this case with others, particularly with Ministries of Finance in Pacific countries.

We need to make the economic case of the importance of biodiversity for protecting fundamental requirements for life in the Pacific, such as the provision of clean water, the protection of fisheries, as well as the protection of basic attractions and assets for the tourism sector.

Ladies and gentlemen, all around the world the global community is being called upon to work together to help reduce the rate of biodiversity loss. In the Pacific we are calling upon the commitment of our Pacific people, governments and communities to work towards conserving our biodiversity.

Your role is critically important to build this commitment and to ensure effective biodiversity conservation.

This Year of Biodiversity provides an opportunity to highlight and promote the importance of biodiversity for our region.

Remember to Value Pacific Island Biodiversity – It’s Our Life.

Samoa is a beautiful country and I hope you will have the opportunity to visit some of its sites and attractions. I would like to thank once again the Honorable Minister for Natural Resources and Environment for his valued support for SPREP and for leading by example.

I wish you all a productive and successful workshop.

Thank you
Fa’afetai lava

Contact Name
Easter Galuvao
(685) 21929
(685) 20231


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