Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations says the COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call for the Pacific on the need for regional cooperation.
“If the world ever needed confirmation of why multilateralism is important, this is it,” says Ambassador Dr Satyendra Prasad. “This pandemic has inflamed the whole of the world in a few months, and not a distant corner… is immune from it.”
Ambassador Prasad says the world needs to work together to develop, test and distribute vaccines, and produce and supply ventilators, medical equipment and information and knowledge.
“That is a confirmation of why we need multilateral agencies such as the WHO, such as the UN to share perspectives and understanding on how we deal with the pandemic.
“In the Pacific it's also a reminder, a wake up call to us that we need to co-operate as all of the cases of course are imported. But from Fiji of course it can spread to Tuvalu, from the North Pacific it can potentially spread into Melanesia because of shipping lines and because of flight patterns etc. So amongst ourselves as a Pacific island group of countries, we need to co-operate."
In response to criticism of the WHO’s handling of the pandemic from the United States government and other quarters, Ambassador Prasad says the focus of the world now should be on containing and crushing COVID 19, and the time for reflection will come.
“We understand that in the international system there are frustrations and there's anger and there's the divergence of views and there's competition as there always has been, but in a very forceful and powerful way this [pandemic] has reminded ... the smallest and the largest countries in the world of the value and the intrinsic importance of working together cooperatively and collaboratively and seeking a solution to what is truly a global problem.”
“This whole system is trying it's best in unfortunately very difficult circumstances,” he says.
“When we have come past this, there will be a time for the international system to look at what worked well and what did not work well, and learn the right lessons and apply it, ensuring the systems are much better and stronger by the time the next pandemic comes, but today is not that day.”
Tuna expert Dr Transform Aqorau says COVID-19 presents challenges and opportunities to equity in the Pacific’s tuna industry.
Marking World Tuna Day in a virtual link-up hosted by Pacific Island Developing States and the United Nations’ Group of Friends of the Oceans, Dr Aqorau said the tuna industry will suffer as “quarantine requirements; suspension of air flights; and disruptions to the supply chain will affect the supply of tuna to regional and global markets. This will have adverse impact on jobs in the Pacific and on foreign exchange earnings from the industry”.
But he said it is also an opportunity to rebuild a more equitable Pacific tuna industry, suggesting Pacific governments “should explore incentive structures that encourage increased processing within the region.”
Dr Aqorou said that climate change and illegal and underreporting of tuna catches were a growing concern that Pacific governments need to be fighting for in the international arena.
A statement issued by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission to mark the day said “it is gratifying for the WCPFC to celebrate the World Tuna Day in 2020 in the comfort and knowledge that the four key commercial tuna stocks; bigeye, yellowfin, skipjack and the South Pacific albacore tuna stocks are all assessed to be managed and maintained above the agreed sustainable levels.”
Fiji’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr Satyendra Prasad remined the UN audience that “accelerating international action in achieving the SDG 14 – Life Below Water should be part of the UN’s response. This should also become a core part of the COVID-19 recovery efforts – the recovery must be a sustainable blue recovery as well.
World Tuna Day is celebrated on May 2.
Fiji mourns a trail-blazing diplomat today.
Ambassador Satya N Nandan died at his New York home on Tuesday.
Nandan chaired the drafting of the United Nations Convention of the Sea that gave Fiji and other islands of the Pacific oversight of their 200 mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). He was the first Secretary General of the International Seabed Authority, and was the Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Special Representative of the Secretary General for the Law of the Sea, before that.
He also chaired the UN Conference on fish stocks and highly migratory fish stocks that led to the formulation and adoption of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea.
"I was privileged to work with Satya between 1993-1995," wrote Fiji senior lawyer Graham Everett Leung in a tribute on his Facebook page.
"He was one of the most distinguished and outstanding public servants of his generation and a great credit to Fiji, a country he held dear to his heart notwithstanding his rise to the highest levels of international diplomacy.
"Despite his eminence and stature, he was humble and unassuming."
Former head of the Parties of the Nauru Agreement office and now Solomon Islands ambassador to the United Nations in New York, Dr Transform Aqorau said the islands of the Pacific are hugely indebted to the late Ambassador Nandan.
"He stands tall amongst the giants of the Pacific Islands as the one who perhaps more than anyone else gave us the rights and jurisdiction over the vast tuna resources that we now enjoy and perhaps take for granted," Dr Aqorau told Suva-based writer Sadhana Sen.
"He was the chair of the drafting committee at the UN which helped shape the 200 mile exclusive economic zone regime but closer to home, he helped shape the Forum Leaders Declaration on the Law of the Sea that provided the impetus for the 200 miles fisheries zones we now have, and the Forum Fisheries Agency."
On his Twitter feed, Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama says: “Fiji has lost a titan of diplomacy with the passing of my friend Satya Nandan — Fiji’s first diplomat to the UN. Satya’s legacy is tied directly to Fiji's independent history. He will be remembered as a true global citizen, a wise mentor, and a proud son of the Pacific “
Sen quotes family members in Sydney as saying that funeral arrangements will be announced later.
Times of Israel/Pacnews: Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin has told Pacific Island leaders in Fiji that he hopes they will stand with Israel against what he claims is a strong anti-Israel bias on the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Rivlin met leaders from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Tonga and Palau at the first summit of its kind this week.
“Today Iran and its proxies are threatening Israel while spreading terror throughout the region, and around the world,” Rivlin said in a media conference after the meeting. “Israel will do all that is necessary to defend its citizens from the Iranian threat, and we will continue to work with international peacekeeping forces to ensure that our borders remain quiet.
“We were also happy to support Fiji’s election to the UN Human Rights Council, and your presidency of the UN’s Climate Change conference,” Rivlin said. “We hope that Fiji will stand with Israel against the gross anti-Israel discrimination at the UN, especially at the Human Rights Council.“
Last week the council published a blacklist of 112 companies it says are active in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Israel had reacted angrily to the publication of the blacklist, with politicians from across the political spectrum denouncing the UN Human Rights Council for compiling it and vowing to protect Israeli financial interests.
President Rivlin announced the establishment of 100 new scholarships for Pacific Island students of agriculture to train at the Arava International Center for Agricultural Training in Israel, and the opening of a centre for excellence and innovation at the University of the South Pacific.
Thanking Rivlin for what he termed a “historic” visit, Bainimarama said “This summit is very important to us as another stepping stone in strengthening the relations between us. Fiji will continue to pray for the peace of the Middle East region.”