Friday, October 29, 2010

Update on Biodiversity talks in Nagoya

As of midnight, the morning of Saturday 30 October, the plenary discussion for the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity was still underway.

The Pacific Voyage Media Team are preparing to return home and an update of the final outcome will be provided to you next week, along with final stories concluding The Pacific Voyage at the Biodiversity talks in Nagoya.

To view the webcast of the final plenary, please visit:

COP10 heads for tense finish

Pacific Voyage Media Team 29 October Nagoya Japan -

The negotiations on targets to preserve the environment will continue until the last second, the Chair of COP10 told the media today, as the Nagoya Biodiversity talks wrap up.

Japan’s Environment Minister Ryu Matsumoto said governments –including a strong representation from the South Pacific – were all keen on an agreement.

"Everyone is saying that they want to wrap up a deal, that they don't want to go home from Nagoya empty-handed," he told reporters. "We will work until the last second."

Delegates from nearly 200 countries have been negotiating for two weeks goals to protect oceans, forests and rivers.  But the negotiations on how ambitious the targets should be are divided over a number of issues.

Developing nations for example are have refused to sign up to 2020 goals without agreement on a new U.N. protocol that would give them a fairer share of profits made by companies, such as pharmaceutical firms, from their genetic resources.  The protocol could unlock billions of dollars for developing countries, where much of the world's natural riches remain, but countries are split on the scope of the framework and how to check where a genetic resource comes from.

Following two days of intense discussions among 50 delegates, led by eight facilitators appointed by Japan, to help reach an access and benefit-sharing protocol (ABS), an update was presented to all delegates.

"We have made progress, but we have not finished," said Timothy Hodges, co-chair of the group working on the ABS agreement.

Broad consensus was reached on introductory language related to traditional knowledge of the use of plants and organisms in medical or biological products.   Still on the table were issues that have divided ABS negotiators since the conference began Oct. 18. Topping the list was how to include derivatives of genetic resources in a final agreement.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has announced it will begin a project to help developing countries integrate the economic benefits of nature into their state policies.  Introducing ecosystem valuation into national accounting systems will help governments make better decisions about the way their nature is managed, World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick.

"We need to give top decision-makers the tools they need to make the right decisions," said Zoellick.

The World Bank President gave an example of how a country could change its nature calculations.

"For example, in clearing mangroves for shrimp farming, the calculation will no longer simply be the revenue from profit on shrimp farming minus the farming cost,” he said.  “It would now deduct the loss of coastal protection from cyclones, and the loss of fish and other products provided by the mangroves from its calculations.”

Pacific Ocean for your children and all of us

The Pacific Voyage Media Team 29 October Nagoya Japan -

The Pacific Ocean 2020 Challenge needs a body like the Pacific Ocean Commission to achieve its goals.

The point was raised by H.E Isikeli Mataitoga, Ambassador of Fiji to Japan, during a side event at the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) on the Convention of Biological Convention (CBD) at the Nagoya Congress Centre.

“You need a body that can bring together all the issues under sustainable development,” Mr Mataitoga said.

“One that will run and keep this important Challenge in the forefront of politicians and senior democrats in the region.  This body should be able to front up to politicians and say, look guys, the Pacific Ocean is for your children, your children’s children and for all of us and we need to keep it sustainable. It won’t be a Pacific Ocean if it is not sustainable in the long term.”

The Ambassador said the Pacific Ocean 2020 Challenge also needs a framework that’s going to make everybody happy.

“But there will be obstacles,” he warned.

“There are regional frameworks that already exist in law and practise that may be considered in the long term but that has to take its shape and provision from the CBD because it is the only convention at the UN level that has a wide acceptance in this point of time."

Bernard O'Callaghan, Regional Programme Coordinator of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said part of the challenge is the fact the Pacific ocean is big.

“It’s the biggest geographical feature in the world. Governments have a number of interests. The bigger challenge is getting on the agenda of the larger countries,” he said.  “The Pacific Ocean is under resourced. People tend to use it for transport, for fish it’s all about extracting resources from the Pacific.”

The Pacific Ocean 2020 Challenge sets out to protect the Pacific Ocean.

“There is a whole lot of endangered species [in the Pacific Ocean],” he said. “Tuna is vitally important for the community, vitally important for the economies of the Pacific islands. Appropriate attention needs to be paid to ensure these tuna stocks stay viable for the long term.”

The Pacific Ocean, he said, is very important to the world.

“Two out of three fish in the world come out of the Pacific ocean so it’s important that the Pacific Ocean is managed sustainably for the long term,” said Mr O'Callaghan.

The challenge involves working with a number of governments in the Pacific region where they are asked to work together to manage the ocean.

“This is so we can firstly share good long term sustainable governance for the Pacific ocean, share research, share education, share training, identify additional financial resources for cooperation,” he said.  “Some of these changes take time; it’s not going to happen very quickly. We need to build momentum over the next two to three years.”
The Challenge was discussed at the Pacific Islands Forum this year.

According to the Challenge’s website, The Pacific Ocean 2020 Challenge aims to forge partnerships with sectors of ocean users who have not previously been fully engaged in ocean governance initiatives, and spanning geographic areas beyond the traditional ‘Pacific region’.

Working with Pacific Ocean-wide coalitions for action will enable the Challenge to complement and enhance stakeholder-engaging activities already established by intergovernmental regional agencies and NGOs around the region, thus avoiding duplication of activities.

In doing so, it is envisioned that a holistic and practical approach to ocean governance in the region will become a reality, and that the region will have a sustainable and healthy Pacific Ocean by 2020.

According to the Pacific Ocean Synthesis report, the Pacific Ocean is faced with major threats of “pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing and harvesting and climate change.” 

The Pacific Ocean accounts for half of our planet’s total ocean area and a full one-third of the planet’s surface, making it the largest single geographic feature on our planet.  This vast region supports many complex ecosystems and ocean-based economies, producing a wealth of resources for local and global consumption.  However, sustainably managing these natural and economic resources presents an enormous challenge.

Making sure gender has a place at the Nagoya biodiversity talks

The Pacific Voyage Media Team 29 October -

Marie Khan

Marie Khan, Gender Focal Point of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) says they are  hoping that gender issues win a place on the development agenda here in Nagoya.  To date, the parties to the CBD have agreed and supported that gender equality is a cross cutting issue.

“We cannot ignore that 60 percent of women are the guardians of our environment, so it is normal that we should be include a gender mainstreaming perspective at the biodiversity negotiations,” Khan stresses.

The aim of gender mainstreaming, which focuses on shifting the existing power relationships, and bringing the roles and needs of women and men high on the development agenda.  Khan says that it is the goal to  bring forth gender equality through advocacy, technical support  and  capacity-building.

Nature is  important to all of us, women and men use it in different ways, have different knowledge about it and have access to different natural resources.  However women are still the less empowered and their voices are rarely heard when decisions are made on  the environment. 

Khan says that at the CBD nations are also supportive of the implementation of the gender plan of action.  However, they would want the gender focal point position to be permanent at the Secretariat of the CBD.   Currently Khan’s position is being funded by Finland for which the funding will cease next year

Ongoing talks are still being conducted at the last day of the negotiations.

“We are hoping that decision on the budget provision will be made,” Khan cites and notes that progress on their aim at the CBD is much better than elsewhere.

“CBD is the only one with gender plan of action in the global level, “ she says.

The Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) and other members of the Global Gender and Climate Alliance are attending  the 10th meeting of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity coordinating daily women and gender caucus for gender mainstreaming advocacy.

In an  earlier interview WEDO Advocacy Coordinator Rachel Harris says their presence here is to make sure that the perspective of  both men and women are being put forward within  all new agreements at  COP10.

Solomon Islands to protect forest and plants

The Pacific Voyage Media Team 29 October 2010 -

Joe Horoku, Solomon Islands

The Solomon Islands wants its forest and plants covered by protection under the  Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) framework at the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention of Biodiversity here in Nagoya, Japan.
The 10th Conference of Parties (COP) will be concluding its negotiations, as representatives of 193 countries are expected to forge a  new global agreement on ABS for the use of biological or genetic resources.
Joe Horokou of the Solomon Islands Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Meteorology says his country is hopeful that under the ABS, bio-resources obtained by developed countries will share the benefits with local people.
Horokou cites that in the Solomon Islands, pharmaceutical companies are coming to the country and conducting research on medicinal plants that are found in their forest.
“Solomon Islands have potential for resources,” Horokou says.

The ABS framework is expected to benefit those communities from whom the pathogens or disease-causing organisms are sourced by pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs.
One company, he notes is doing research on a tree in Solomon Islands that may contain a cure for AIDS.
On the domestic front, Solomon Islands have already existing agreements that cover certain areas at present under the framework for access and benefit sharing.
The mechanism now exists for development of appropriate legislation on ABS.
Existing agreements cover some research work on agriculture and forestry.  Some proposed agreements are being examined for other researchers but still the lack of relevant expertise is a constraint. Most efforts in this field are being assisted through programmes of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP) and other international government organizations and  non-governmental organizations.
He also says that Solomon Islands is interested in biofuel which could improve biodiversity.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Samoa to host reef protection meeting

Minister Faumuina Tiatia Liuga speaks during the high level segment of COP 10 in Nagoya Japan

The Pacific Voyage Media Team 28 October Nagoya Japan -

Samoa will host a high-level meeting to discuss coral reef protection and conservation.

This was announced by the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), Faumuina Tiatia Liuga in Nagoya, Japan.  He was speaking during the high-level segment of the 10th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) at Century Hall, Nagoya Congress Centre.

The meeting is the 22nd General Meeting of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI). It is scheduled from 8th to 15th November.  Samoa will co-chair the meeting with France during which participants are expected to update the ICRI plan of work for coral reef protection and conservation.

“Samoa is among a group of small islands within the largest of oceans rich in marine ecosystems that are critical to our survival,” the Minister told leaders at COP10, who worked late into the night to deliver their country statements.  “The Pacific Ocean, the beaches and its coral reefs are home to a number of marine mammals particularly the green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles which are currently facing extinction.”

The meeting will focus on strengthening conservation programmes for such marine mammals.

“Samoa has in place a number of programmes and projects in the areas of biodiversity conservation and management, adaptation to climate change and promotion of renewable energy, community development in response to land degradation through country specific projects and regional programmes where biodiversity is an integral part,” the Minister said.

“We are continuing the partnerships with our development partners and partner organisations within the United Nations, International IGOs and NGOs, the World Bank and ADB to pursue these opportunities as they arise. On that note, we acknowledge all our development partners for their kind efforts and assistance.”

On biodiversity in general, Minister Faumuina said Samoa has taken active steps to address the loss of biodiversity.

“Because small islands are particularly vulnerable to species loss and extinction, we have to be creative ourselves, and develop innovative solutions so that shifts demonstrate that we are no longer dealing with biodiversity as business as usual,” he said.

“Hence I am pleased to inform that Samoa's pursuance of partnerships within the area of biological diversity, at the national level with communities, NGOs and private sector, regional level with fellow PIFS and SPREP members as well as international organizations, and at international level with our development partners, have enabled the progression of our programmes on Forest Conservation, Invasive Species Management, and Protected areas in marine and terrestrial locations.

“Closer relations with communities and farmers will be strengthened through national agro-ecosystem and agro-forestry projects under the GEF and government of Australia, where Samoa is at the forefront in promoting organic farming in the Pacific.”

The protection and conservation of mangrove ecosystems is an integral part of Samoa’s efforts. The mangroves’ resilience to storm surges and tidal waves provide protection against rising waves. Further, they provide natural breeding ground for marine life which people's livelihoods depend on.

“Samoa places great importance on synergistic implementation of programmes, where common objectives and activities exist,” he said.  “This provides for more effective service delivery to the public, a coherent approach to sustainable biological diversity management, reduce human and financial constraints, and contribute to achieving.”

The protection of biodiversity plays a major role in climate change adaptation, the meeting heard.

“Samoa acknowledged the commemoration of the International Year of Biological diversity this year with the promotion of Samoa to be carbon-neutral by the year 2020,” said Faumuina.

“Our national Samoa challenge to plant a million trees within our very small islands commenced in November 2009 for three years. The youth, (and children included) have already made some real contributions to this mission with plantings by young students of trees in our national reserves.
“Energy trees are also being assessed for further exploration of energy generating technologies. Ensuring these are properly designed and implemented to avoid adverse environment impacts on the biodiversity is of essence.

“That is because we believe that an investment in climate change mitigation and adaptation can also be a significant investment in biodiversity.”

Minister Faumuina urged world leaders to work together to reduce the rate of biodiversity loss.
"We should not be discouraged by the level of achievements being tabled, because within our small islands much progress has been made,” he said.

Ford calls for action from the United States

The Pacific Media Voyage Team, 28 October Nagoya Japan - 

Photo courtesy of Reuters

A famous face graced the Nagoya Congress Center today, urging the world to save the
environment as the 10th Meeting of the Conference to the Parties (COP10) of the Convention on Biological Diversity winds up.

Hollywood actor and environmentalist Harrison Ford joined the Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Ahmed Djoghlaf, to urge world leaders to come up with new ambitious strategies to protect biodiversity.

Government ministers – including Ministers from the Pacific countries – are gathering in Nagoya for the final stages a meeting to preserve natural resources.

For two days, leaders from over 100 parties to CBD delivered statements outlining their commitments to protect the environment during the high-level segment of the meeting.

Today, hundreds of negotiators were still locked on talks which are aimed at setting new 2020 targets to protect plant and animal species, a protocol to share genetic resources and more funding to protect nature, especially forests.

During his press conference this morning, Ford, a film legend and long-serving vice chairman of Conservation International, urged the United States ratify the CBD.

Ford said pressure on political leadership was needed to save forests, oceans and rivers that are home to nature's rich diversity of species underpinning livelihoods.

"We have to create a kind of undeniable groundswell of public opinion, a kind of movement-level effect, something like the Civil Rights Movement or the Women's Rights Movement," Ford told the world media.

"One of the reasons I've come is because I want to urge the United States government to sign the treaty.”

Ford said the United States is here as an observer.

“The United States is here as a source of funding, but we're not a voting delegate, and we need to take that responsibility, to have that opportunity and to show leadership," he said.

The United States has signed but not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Ford, who has had the ant species Pheidole harrisonfordi named after him in a nod to his work as a conservationist, said nature was indispensible to everyday lives.

"Nature provides us with fresh water, a way of healthy soils, foodstuffs, future pharmaceuticals and food crops," he said.

"We can't afford to create mechanisms to provide those services for ourselves that nature gives us for free when nature is healthy and protected."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Save the Dugong

The Pacific Voyage Media Team, 28 October Nagoya Japan -

Photo of dugong by Richard W. Brooks

Next year the campaign to raise awareness of the dugong in the Pacific will start, with island countries taking more concrete and more comprehensive steps in dugong conservation.

Palau, during the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10) announced the initiative to protect marine species by declaring the Palau waters as marine mammal sanctuary which include dugongs.

In his ministerial statement, Palau Environment and Tourism Minister Harry Fritz says that the country is committed to an agreement with the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) to protection the dugong population.

“We will protect our population of dugong, which is the most isolated population in the world,” says the Minister

“And, I am pleased to share that just last week, our President, with traditional and congressional support, declared Palau’s waters as sanctuary to all species of marine mammals,” Fritz says.

A Palau dugong awareness campaign is now underway to protect the marine mammal.

 The  dugong or  sea cow is Palau's most endangered marine mammal  and has  the smallest and most isolated dugong population in the world, with possibly less than 200 animals.

Proponents of the campaign say that Palauans still hunt and eat dugongs, and hunting remains a problem in spite of local laws protecting the dugong.

The awareness campaign, managed by Mandy Etpison aims to educate Palauans about the dugong, survey their feeding grounds and daily routes, and work with local government agencies to improve enforcement on illegal poaching.

Recently a 12 feet life-sized wooden statue of a dugong mother with two calves made by the Etpison Museum was presented to the Minister of State for display in August 2010. 

Dugongs are long-lived with low productive rates, low generation time and a high investment in each offspring.  

The dugong home range in the region includes the waters of Australia, Papua New Guniea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Palau.  

According to the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) website, scientific information on dugong distribution and abundance is outdated or non-existent. The status of dugongs is unknown throughout the region. It is likely that dugongs are widely distributed in small numbers in much of PNG, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and that larger numbers occur in the PNG waters of Torres Strait. Their reliance on relatively shallow water seagrass beds for food limits the ability of dugongs to travel between islands and continents that are separated by extensive areas of deep water.

For this reason, many island populations, including those around Vanuatu and Palau, are essentially isolated. Such isolation makes this group of dugongs especially vulnerable to extinction.

Recently the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Convention on Migratory Species conducted its first official signatory meeting for Dugong Memorandum of Understanding in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

 The SPREP website further states that an urgent issue is the need to address the conservation management of dugongs in the region.

Despite a comprehensive global review and excellent in-country activities, the status of dugongs remains largely unknown, few effective conservation measures exist and anecdotal evidence gives increased cause of concern for their future.

Realities of Conservation at the CBD COP

by Seema Deo, Education and Social Communications Adviser, 28 October Nagoya Japan -

While textual language is debated to determine the fate of the planet’s biodiversity in several rooms of the Nagoya Conference Centre, and environment leaders make statements in the high level segment, a different type of buzz is happening in other parts of the Centre, which is the hub of the 10th Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Side events featuring diverse conservation initiatives, presenters wearing colourful costumes reminding us of the great diversity of humans, displays with unique giveaways, movies, a massive bird carrying biodiversity messages and a host of other delights await those venturing into Building 2 of the Centre. More awaits just outside the Centre, where community groups and businesses are highlighting their work to safeguard the natural environment and the plants and animals in it.

Educational display
As I wandered around the various exhibits at the outdoor displays, I was struck by the commitment and determination of many of the people I spoke with. A group from Korea was highlighting concern about the destruction of resting spots for a migratory crane due to development; in Okinawa, a proposed military development is being opposed; a large corporate organisation has found ways to turn rubbish into resource while, next to their exhibit a small community group showcases how to plant native flowers in urban areas.

At the exhibits and at many of the side events, the underlying theme is action. People doing what they believe in and in whatever manner they are able, to make the world a better place for everyone.

A global agreement at Nagoya on working together to halt biodiversity loss will be the icing on the cake for many of these committed groups.

As the world burns

The Pacific Voyage Media Team, 28 October Nagoya Japan -

Sean Southey (Left) presenting at side event

To effectively send a message to the community about the importance of protecting the environment an organization is using the power of communication and creative media.

Sean Southey, Executive Director of PCI-Media Impact said during the "As the world burns" side event about the use of soap operas and social marketing as tools to combat climate change in the Caribbean.

“We engage the public in conservation and sustainable development through the power of storytelling,” Southey says.

In January 2010, Media Impact, the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States and 13 partner organizations launched My Island – My Community, a partnership committed to building public awareness across the Caribbean to encourage wide spread behavior change with regard to small island preparedness for, and adaptation to, climate change.

The My Island – My Community program uses the power of communications to enhance knowledge sharing, engage the public and support community-based adaption activities across 12 Caribbean countries.

In each of the 12 Caribbean countries participating in My Island – My Community, national coalitions comprised of local environmental NGOs, government agencies, radio stations, academics, and scientists will join the regional partners to create an action oriented and culturally relevant set of initiatives. Each national coalition will develop country-specific climate change campaigns to complement the radio drama through multi-tiered public awareness activities, including: interactive radio call-in shows, capacity development activities, music festivals, and community action campaigns.

With action on the ground in 12 countries, regional sharing will allow for unique peer-to-peer learning opportunities; regional advocacy; capacity building and significant economies-of-scale in implementation.

My Island – My Community will feature more than 200 episodes of a radio drama and seeks to:
(1) develop the capacity of CBO/NGOs, government and other partners to effectively engage in “communications” for climate change adaption;
(2) build a well informed, engaged community; and
(3) improve knowledge, attitudes and behaviors of key target audiences regarding climate change and adaptation.

Southey says that a similar concept is being developed in the Pacific through a partnership with regional agencies, such as SPREP, to bring climate change messages through telenovelas.

Mindful that the Pacific island nations have different issues than the Caribbean, the intention of the new initiative is the same: to effectively engage the public in critical conversations through information sharing.

Years ago, an international conservation group based in the U.S. state of Virginia, produced the radio drama Changing Tides in Palau, creating the stories with the help of local environmental and health officials. 

Southey says the partnership wants to bring forth an enhanced version of this program in the Pacific, using a more sophisticated, multi-tiered methodology to target several audiences.  

For more on this initiative please visit:

Scene @ the Pacific environment ministers breakfast meeting

The Pacific Voyage Media Team, Nagoya Japan -

Scenes from the Pacific high level breakfast - for full explanation please visit the posting on the blogsite -

L - R Dr Nick King (GBIF), David Sheppard (SPREP, Environment Minister Harry Fritz (Palau)

Francsois (GBIF) and Sebastian (Palau)

L - R Environment Minister from Samoa and Papua New Guinea

Serving breakfast

Francois (GBIF) meeting Cook Island delegates

Mr. Stuart Chape, Programme Manger for Island Ecosystems (SPREP)

Environment minister and delegates from PNG

Environment Minister from FSM and GEF CEO Monique Barbut

Mata'afa Keni Lesa (Samoa Observer) and Seema Deo (SPREP)

Pacific Environment Ministers being presented with SPREP materials

Cook Islands Head of delegation Ms. Elizabeth Munro

 Presentation of SPREP materials

Wedding proposal at the CBD COP 10

The Pacific Voyage Media Team 28 October Nagoya Japan -

Not the actual Tree of future life but one similar at the CEPA International Fair showcasing hearts

The ‘Tree of future life’ at the CBD COP 10 has attracted more than just messages of hope.  It has also been the prop to help romance bloom when one of the messages written by a beau asked for his lady’s hand in marriage.

The ‘Tree of future life’ based at the Interactive CEPA Fair has revolved around a project by the Japan Institute for Landscape and Architecture (JILA).  Students visited Lake Biwa which is based in Kanzai, learning about the issues facing the lake and what people are doing to restore it.

“A lot of activities restoring the habitats of the Lake have been happening and it is amazing,” said Dana Galbreath from New Jersey, a student studying in Japan.

“Even the locals are trying so hard in the smallest way and so we students were wondering how we could help them and so we prepared proposals which we are sharing with people here at the fair and are collecting the messages of hope from our Earth Tree.”

As for the marriage proposal – things look promising as the couple left the booth beaming!

Scenes from CBD COP 10 in Nagoya Japan

The Pacific Voyage Media Team 28 October Nagoya Japan -

Mr Namosimalu second from left

Mr. Saimon Namosimalu, a student from Nadroga Fiji is studying Agriculture with OSICA International, the Organization for Industrial, Spiritual and Cultural Advancement which has established a School of Agricultural Technology.  Having been in Japan for nine months, Mr Namosimalu has six more months of training in Japan before he returns to Fiji.  He was at the OISCA International Booth at the CEPA Interactive Fair which is held parallel to the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10).

Melissa Sinclair from Tonga, based in Australia

Melissa Sinclair, a PhD Candidate with the University of New South Wales is doing a PhD research on bio-cultural diversity and social justice. 

“I’ve been listening to the negotiations for access and benefit sharing and also the case studies as an idea that have been coming out of community – based conservation using a rights based approach and considering the principle of free prior form consent to provide for communities to have more power to do more indigenous development and conservation.”

At the CEPA Interactive Fair, the man in the middle is collecting signatures from people around the world on his umbrella - he was seeking signatures from the Pacific to be a part of his collection.

Translators at work during the negotiations

Japan Civil Network for the Convention on Biological Diversity

Rows of documents, one of numerous tables at the CBD COP 10 in Nagoya

Pacific Environment Ministerial breakfast at Nagoya biodiversity talks

The Pacific Voyage Media Team 27 October, Nagoya Japan -

High level delegates from Nauru

Environment Ministers of the Pacific met for breakfast this morning in Nagoya Japan, they have gathered together for the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP 10).

The high level breakfast segment for Pacific environment leaders was hosted by the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

The Environment Minister of Papua New Guinea welcomed all to the event including Ms. Monique Barbut, CEO of the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

Hon. Benny Allan, PNG Environment Minister
“Madam Barbut, I am sure you are aware that not all the resources that were allocated to the countries in the region under the GEF-PAS have not been fully accessed by the countries,” said Environment Minister Honourable Benny Allan of Papua New Guinea.

“We would like to urge the GEF Secretariat to encourage the Implementing Agencies to quickly complete the necessary paper work to allow the countries to access and use this much needed resources.

The Director of SPREP, Mr. David Sheppard also addressed Ms. Barbut, thanking her for her strong personal commitment to the Pacific.  The SPREP Ministerial meeting focused on environmental financing and the role of the GEF - it is critically important to continue to improve access by Pacific countries to GEF resources.

“As you know, Madam CEO the Pacific is a unique and vast region – covering 34% of the earth’s surface - only 500,000+ km2 of land area in 30 million km2 of ocean,” stated Mr. Sheppard during his statement at the breakfast.

This size, coupled with the limited capacity of many Pacific countries to manage their environment, poses many significant challenges for the Pacific.  It is important that these unique circumstances of the Pacific are recognized by GEF.”

SPREP Director Mr. David Sheppard

It was during the SPREP Ministerial meeting that the 2011 to 2015 strategic plan was adopted it places emphasis on monitoring environmental outcomes in Pacific countries and also at the regional level.

“Better information and data is essential to ensure more effective management and conservation in the Pacific islands region. Without this we are shooting in the dark - you as policy and decision-makers need timely and quality information to help you make strategic environment and develop decisions. We in the Secretariat need to understand regional and national environmental trends,” outlined Mr. Sheppard.

“This is an area where we hope GBIF can play an important role”.

Dr. Nick King, GBIF

Pacific; rich in biodiversity but few resources to record and share information

The Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) would like to strengthen relations with the Pacific Island countries to ensure a vast data of biodiversity information is freely available to all.

The GBIF hosted a Pacific Ministerial Breakfast Meeting in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

“GBIF is a technical implementation process,” said Dr. Nick King the Executive Director of GBIF. 

Small nations are rich in biodiversity but have few resources to record and share data.

“For Pacific Island countries it is very difficult to access biodiversity information as many withholds information from the Pacific.”

GBIF data is available online and has links to more than 40 million records of species and specimens.  Aside from free access to information, the organization also provides training programs to enhance countries capacities.

Dr. King said that the mandate of GBIF is to work with individual countries to improve biodiversity information but also has ties with regional agencies such as SPREP to ensure data is brought across to the Pacific nations.

Francois Rogers, GBIF
GBIF is a coordinated international scientific effort to enable users throughout the world to discover and put to use vast quantities of global biodiversity data to help advance scientific research in many disciplines, promoting technological and sustainable development, facilitating the equitable sharing of the benefits of biodiversity, and enhancing the quality of life of members of society.

Pacific urged to improve environment project ratio

A key organisation which provides funds to address environmental issues has urged Pacific countries to speed up the implementation of projects.

The call came from Monique Barbut, CEO of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) during a Ministerial breakfast meeting at the Hilton Hotel, Nagoya.

Ms. Monique Barbut addressing Pacific Ministerial delegates

“It is true we have a problem with getting projects started,” Ms Barbut said. “Today, of close to $100million, only twelve projects have been implemented and we need to improve that ratio.”

Ms Barbut said GEF is willing to do whatever it could to help.

“I promise that we are going to roll up our sleeves, picking up the telephone, meeting face to face and do whatever it takes to see what else can be done to help you improve the pace of projects in your country.”

The CEO acknowledged the key role played by the Vailima-based SPREP.

“One key challenge that I recognise is the coordination,” she said. “We need to ensure the capacity remains with SPREP to assist countries with GEF-related technical issues to get the projects working.”

Ms Barbut said recently announced reforms which include the reduction of the project cycle to 18 months and prioritising direct access reflect their commitment to help Pacific countries.

“I think the progress so far has been successful yet we need to improve and the reality is that it would make much more sense for countries in this region to move forward together rather than individual,” she said.

“So first we need a period of stocktaking and reflection to recognise where we are and where we want to go.

“I know some of you have already started such a process by requesting the application form and this process can be used for stocktaking, identifying gaps and to see where you want to go in the future and how you want to use your GEF resources.

“Once you have completed this process and identified how you want to use your GEF resources, you can then use this information to design a new programme.”

The present programme needs more projects to be implemented, she said.

“We cannot go to the GEF Council asking for new programme unless we can see the tangible outputs of the current programme,” said Ms Barbut.

“We are committed here to give you all the help you need to fully implement the current programme. The faster we have those projects operating, the sooner we can fully leverage the impact we all want.

“Your governments need your commitment to fully support the delivery on biodiversity, climate change and poverty.”

The GEF is an independent financial organisation which provides grants for projects related to biodiversity, climate change, international waters, land degradation, the ozone layer, and persistent organic pollutants.

These projects benefit the global environment, linking local, national, and global environmental challenges and promoting sustainable livelihoods.

Earlier this week, it announced key reforms to help countries access funds to protect the environment.

The reforms include:
  • Commitment to being a fully integrated results-based management system for portfolio monitoring. This will include opening the project database to agencies to input data for project implementation reports.
  • Commitment to enhance country-driven agenda. The strengthening of country ownership is top priority. GEF is also reforming the Country Support Programme for Focal points to make it even more effective. A key part will be the provision of small grants to interested countries to fund portfolio identification exercises.
  • Expansion on direct access agenda by providing grants to countries for preparation of national reports and communications to the conventions. Countries will have the option of requesting funding either from the GEF Agencies or directly from the GEF Secretariat.
  • Expansion of the GEF Partnership.
  • GEF-5 Replenishment recognised that GEF would benefit from an expansion of the member and type of agencies that are able to receive resources directly from the GEF Trust Fund. This will give countries greater choice and will open GEF to a broader range of expertise and contacts.
(Please note, more images to be uploaded tomorrow)