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Pacific NGOs up in arms

Greenpeace’s closure in Suva adds to an already growing concern amongst Non-Government Organisations in the region that their services are not appreciated. At last year’s Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting in Cairns Australia, delegates decided to limit the attendance of NGO representatives in its closed breakout plenary sessions. This prompted WWF’s Alfred “Bubba” Cook to write to WCPFC’s chief executive Professor Glenn Hurry on behalf of WWF, PEW and Greenpeace in December last year expressing his concern over the way NGOs have been treated at the Cairns meeting. He believes the WCPFC decision contravened the organisation’s founding documents and principles.

“What is more important is that, generally, the WCPFC has increasingly taken steps to become more secretive in their operation,” Cook told Islands Business. “The Compliance Monitoring Review at the Technical and Compliance Committee meeting as well as the breakout sessions in which our participation was limited should have been held in plenary in an open and transparent man ner, not behind closed doors where decisions on our public tuna resources can be made outside the public eye. This is a very disturbing trend that must be corrected and something every person in the South Pacific should be calling to correct.” Cook said the lack of transparency in the meeting process leads directly to a lack of accountability.

“As a result of this increased secrecy, the public is not allowed to know what is going on with their tuna resources and, as a result, cannot become outraged at the action, or lack thereof, decided as part of the process. “With no public pressure to influence the process, some Commission members continue to support weak management steps or the status quo that supports their individual country position, but continues to allow the decline of our important tuna resources in the region,” he said. “Furthermore, excluding observers or otherwise closing attendance of meetings is only part of it. “Another good example of non-transparency is the way that the Commission reports are “sanitised” before they are released to the public. “Names of specific countries are removed from their comments and replaced with generic terms that do not identify the speaker.

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