Over 50 delegates across the Pacific Island region convened in Nadi today to officially launch the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Pacific Ridge to Reef programme aimed at improving the livelihoods and opportunities of Pacific Islanders through local actions to conserve and rehabilitate their environments.
The 5-day GEF Pacific R2R programme launch and workshop included representatives from participating Pacific Island countries, the (GEF) Secretariat, the Pacific Community, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and other regional development partners.
Fiji’s Permanent secretary for Local Government, Housing and Environment Joshua Wycliffe in his opening speech said: “Small island developing states share unique and intimate inter-connections between land, water and coastal systems, with high vulnerability to climatic changes and limited human resource capacity making a strong case for the R2R approach in the Pacific.”
A “whole of island” approach ensures that policies, multiple sectors, agencies and community interests are properly considered and integrated to ensure sustainable development through participatory planning and management of resources.
“It is with much pleasure that I officially open this important inception meeting for the Pacific R2R Programme in Fiji. This ground breaking programme is seeking to address some of the most critical environmental issues from ridge to reef in 14 Pacific SIDS, and through this, improve the resilience of Pacific people.”
“Our livelihoods are dependent on the environment from ridge to reef, and maintaining and conserving these ecosystems is critical to our very survival in the Pacific. In Fiji the quality of the environment is what sustains our primary industry – Tourism. Sustainable development must be an integrated approach involving multiple sectors, agencies and communities, and the ridge to reef approach provides a mechanism for this.”
The 5-year programme aims to guide coordinated investment of the US$91 million package of GEF grants, and USD 333 million of co-financing from the participating countries and other development partners.
The GEF Secretariat International Waters Focal Area Lead Christian Severin explained: “The GEF Pacific R2R programme aims to deliver tangible and quantifiable local and global environmental benefits by focusing on cross-cutting approaches to water, land and coastal management with linkages across GEF focal areas.
“We are excited that participating countries will have the opportunity to strengthen their capacity to successfully demonstrate and transfer technology to support targeted vulnerable areas, improve livelihoods and public health, and upscale their effective mainstreaming efforts to support countries in achieving their sustainable development goals,” he continued.
UNDP Pacific Office Team Leader Resilience and Sustainable Development Kevin Petrini in his remarks said: “Operating across 14 Pacific Islands, the Ridge to Reef programme provides an opportunity for participating countries to develop and implement integrated approaches for the sustainable development of island economies and communities.”
“Importantly, the outcomes of this programme will also provide valuable insights and lessons learned that can be shared for replication between countries in the Pacific, and with similar initiatives covering other small island developing states for replication and scaling up,” he explained.
Petrini continued: “UNDP is pleased to be the lead agency for this Regional Programme consisting of 13 National Projects that are directly implemented by the countries and a regional programme support project implemented by the Pacific Community – SPC. The three UNDP Offices in the Pacific – in Fiji, Samoa and PNG – support implementation of most of the national projects and the regional project, and will closely coordinate with the other UN agencies and the SPC to ensure achievement of programme objectives.”
Coordination and technical support is provided by the Pacific Community (SPC), an international development organisation serving 26 member countries and territories working across more than 25 sectors in fisheries science, public health surveillance, geoscience and conservation of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.
SPC Deputy Director General Dr. Audrey Aumua said: “The Pacific Community (SPC) is the region’s principle scientific and technical organization, and we recognize the importance of integrated approaches, particularly for small island developing states in order to improve their capacity to reach their sustainable development aspirations.”
“At SPC we place a great deal of focus on major cross-cutting issues, such as sustaining ecosystem services, climate change, disaster risk management, food and water security, gender equality, human rights, non-communicable diseases and youth employment. This programme is a great example of this,” she added.
Dr. Aumua continued: “Responding to our member’s development priorities using an integrated approach, we draw upon skills and capabilities from around the region and internationally, and support the empowerment of Pacific communities and sharing of expertise and skills between countries and territories.
“We are proud to partner with the GEF, its implementing agencies and Pacific small island developing states in delivering this very important environmental initiative in the region by connecting people with the conservation and preservation of their environment for sustained and enhanced livelihoods and resilience.”
The Programme Coordinating Unit (PCU), based within SPC’s Geoscience Division possesses multidisciplinary expertise to support programme implementation in areas of science-based planning, human capital development, policy and strategic planning, results-based management, and communications and knowledge sharing to support national and local level implementation.
The Regional R2R Programme Coordinator Marc Wilson said: “The Pacific R2R programme brings innovation and opportunity to the region through an R2R or ‘whole-of-island’ natural resource management approach.”
“This approach supports locally driven solutions and mobilizes communities to take local action with global benefits, and be active participants in local level decisions related to their environment and part of a community to cabinet policy making process,” he added.
The GEF Pacific R2R Programme aims to support PacSIDS in addressing national priorities and development needs while delivering local and global environmental benefits across multiple GEF focal areas, including: biodiversity, land degradation, international waters, sustainable forest management, climate mitigation and adaptation and capacity development.
Participating countries include: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia , Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshal Islands , Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. [/restrict]