Mar 24, 2017 Last Updated 12:15 AM, Mar 15, 2017

Balancing the careful development of a deep sea mineral industry and environmental concerns can be a veritable minefield for PACP governments. Which is why an EU-funded project is assisting countries to develop comprehensive national policies, legal frameworks and institutional capacities to better manage this emerging sector. The EDF10 €4.7 million Deep Sea Minerals (DSM) in the Pacific Islands Region: a Legal and Fiscal Framework for Sustainable Resource Management project is implemented by SPC’s Applied Geoscience and Technology Division.

The four-year project promotes a regionally integrated approach to DSM regulation, helping countries balance their regulatory requirements with sufficient incentives and security of tenure to promote investment and private sector participation in national DSM industries. So far, national stakeholder consultations held in Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu have helped raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges whilst enabling contributions from a wide range of stakeholders. (Consultations in the five remaining PACPs: FSM, Palau, PNG, RMI and Timor Leste are due in coming months.)

This has helped establish national offshore mining committees and develop country ‘road maps’ outlining the steps for each country to develop appropriate policies, laws and capacities to regulate DSM activities.

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A spate of recent natural disasters – such as the Samoan earthquake and tsunami of 2009, the Tuvaluan drought of 2011 and the Fijian flash floods in early 2012 – have had devastating effects on Pacific Island countries, claiming hundreds of lives, displacing thousands of people and placing considerable strain on struggling economies. To reduce the vulnerability of PICTs to natural disasters and increase the region’s ability to deal with them, the EU is funding three disaster risk management (DRM) projects implemented by SPC’s Applied Geoscience and Technology Division. These projects work to increase resilience in communities by improving emergency response coordination and communication as well as access to safe drinking water. They also work with governments to develop joint DRM and climate change action plans; increase regional collaboration; install early warning systems; and improve the use of disaster-related data.

Resilient communities

Since 2008, the Disaster Risk Reduction in 8 Pacific ACP States project has been helping FSM, Nauru, Palau, PNG, RMI, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu build their resilience to drought and improve preparedness to respond to natural disasters. The approximately €9.8 million EDF9 project targets two specific areas: access to safe drinking water; and emergency communications and operation centres.

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FFor many in the region, the path to better livelihoods comes paved with a number of obstacles. A vast majority lack basic access to information and communications technology (ICT) like mobile phones, computers and the Internet, essential in today’s global economy. Those who rely on their traditional knowledge and cultural skills to earn a living often receive little or no government support, as their work isn’t deemed to have major economic potential. And rural women are some of the worst off due to gender discrimination. They are given fewer opportunities and are less likely to succeed than their male counterparts.

Three EU-funded projects implemented by SPC address these specific areas as a means to improving human development and livelihoods in the region. Laying groundwork Improving ICT access for the Pacific’s poor as well as rural and remote communities hinges on high-level government support. With this in mind, the €600,000 EDF9 ICT Access for the Poor project (which ended in March this year), targeted parliamentarians in 12 PACPs as important drivers of improvement in ICT access in the region. Implemented by SPC’s Economic Development Division, the 30-month project built their practical knowledge, facilitated networking between parliaments, provided accessible online resources on ICT for development and supported relevant policy and legislation initiatives in Cook Islands, FSM, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, RMI, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Some of the key legislation discussed concerned the deregulation of the telecommunications market and cybercrime. This has resulted in greater political support for national ICT policies and legislation – the key building blocks to creating enabling environments to advance ICT for development in countries and marshalling the government resources required to do so. In Samoa, for example, the project set up an e-Centre for parliament, which has resulted in improved ICT access and an increased government budget for ICT in 2012. In FSM, Kiribati, Palau and Solomon Islands, the project has helped draft appropriate policies to guide ICT development to support national priorities. The project has also greatly increased accessibility of resources on ICT for development via www.e-pic.info – an online portal with ICT information relating to PACPs. In time, the important groundwork being laid now should increase ICT access for everyone, including the poor.

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It’s no secret that the region’s fisheries resources – an important source of food and export revenues for Pacific Island countries – are under considerable strain. Rapid growth in commercial fishing activity in recent times has greatly reduced the stocks of our large tuna resources. Meanwhile, our coastal fisheries aren’t faring any better. They, too, are coming under increasing pressure to provide food for growing populations and cash income in rural areas. Then there are the export commodities like beche-de-mer, which have been all but depleted across most of the region.

Scientific support

Since 2010, an EU-funded project has been providing the15 PACPs with practical solutions to these problems, with an emphasis on building the management and decision-making skills of regional fisheries staff by providing improved scientific data. The €8.6 million EDF10 Scientific support for the management of coastal and oceanic fisheries in the Pacific Islands region (SciCOFish) project is implemented by SPC’s Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems Division.

It recently completed important regional assessments for the main species of tuna (an important source of export revenue for many PACPs). Results of the assessments showed that the region needs to limit catches at around current levels and reduce fishing effort on the bigeye tuna species, with subsequent management implications for countries at national level. As part of its ongoing tuna tagging activities, SciCOFish recently tagged over 4,000 bigeye tuna in the central Pacific Ocean. Information from tag recaptures contributes further to what is already the most extensive dataset available for tuna stock assessment in the Pacific.

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Can trade be a catalyst for change? With the region’s agriculture and forestry exports seen as having sustainable growth potential – and the ability to transform rural livelihoods, the answer may be yes. Since 2008, the EU-funded Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade (FACT) pilot project has been assisting 14 PACP countries to strengthen the export capacity of these primary industries.

The €4 million EDF9 pilot project, which is implemented by SPC’s Land Resources Division, works directly with rural smallholders (farmers and tree growers) and export enterprises to increase and add value to exports from the region. The project has helped transform enterprises into commercially-viable, market-driven businesses that can cope with the shocks of global financial crises and extreme climatic events.

This has been achieved through an emphasis on market studies, value-chain analyses and consistent supply, leading to more focused business plans while targeted improvements have enabled the enterprises to meet international trade standards. This in turn has helped farmers. For example in PNG, the assistance provided to three coffee enterprises with gaining certifications for high-value niche markets has resulted in better returns for nearly 6000 rural coffee growers.

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