Mar 18, 2019 Last Updated 1:19 AM, Mar 18, 2019

Indepth this month focuses on the address of the 2017 chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, Prime Minister of Samoa Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi at last December’s UNFCCC COP24 in Katowice, Poland. He gave the address at the side event of the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner at the Pacific and Koronivia Pavillion. He spoke on the theme, ‘Understanding the Ocean Climate Crosswalk: A Pacific Perspective.’

Blue Pacific
Samoa and our Pacific Island Forum members see ourselves as a Blue Pacific continent. That should not come as a surprise to you all because we recognise the geostrategic, economic, cultural and ecological importance of the world’s largest ocean, the Pacific Ocean, which we call our home.

Importance of the Ocean
The Pacific Ocean has provided our island communities their cultural and historical identity and attachment since time immemorial. The ocean exceeds land masses by an average factor of 300 to 1, and the Pacific peoples rely on the ocean for food, income, culture, and recreation that are so Pacific Ocean it also means we are custodians of some of the world’s richest biodiversity and marine resources. We recognise that this natural endowment is our greatest asset that must be sustainably managed for the benefit of our present and future generations. Therefore as guardians of the largest portion of the Pacific Ocean, our leadership as the Blue Pacific matters greatly. Coral reef ecosystems created our atoll islands and they are our natural barriers that protect shorelines from storm surge and erosion – defending our villages, businesses, government structures and residents at coastal areas.

Action on Ocean
As a region, we have adopted a number of ocean related communiques and declarations and take pride in our leadership on ocean governance arrangements. We have established a ban on driftnet fishing; invested in key partnerships to help address IUU fishing; have lobbied for the stand alone SDG Goal 14 on Oceans and continue to call for its effective implementation. Our region also has a total of 346 marine protected areas. We as Leaders of the region have committed to fast track the development of policies to ban the use of single-use plastic bags, plastic and styrofoam packaging and we called on Pacific Rim partners to join and commit to action on addressing marine pollution and marine debris. These are a few examples to address some of the mounting negative impacts on the health of the ocean, driven by human activity. These initiatives also highlight the value our region places in protecting and promoting the development and security of the Pacific Ocean. 

Furthermore Pacific Leaders in 2017 decided on a regional security declaration and welcomed the extensive security discussions held on an expanded concept of security inclusive of human security, humanitarian assistance, prioritising environmental security and regional cooperation in building resilience to disasters and climate change. Pacific Leaders in 2018 adopted a Regional Security Declaration known as the Boe Declaration which responds to the region’s complex and evolving regional security environment. An action plan for implementation, is being developed and we call on the UN and all partners for support in this regard.

National Ocean Action
For Samoa at the UN Ocean Conference that focused on the implementation of SDG14 on Ocean, we made 12 voluntary commitments in support of SDG14 implementation. These commitments included solid waste management efforts; approaches to address land-based pollution through river and coastal health ecosystem monitoring, plus policies and projects to manage plastics marine litter. We also looked at efforts that involve communities in fisheries management and coastal infrastructure management plans that also help them build resilience and adapt to impacts of climate change. We have committed to ensuring improved scientific information and knowledge for more informed policy making on fisheries issues and prohibiting the use of destructive fishing methods in Samoa’s fishery waters. In support of healthy ocean ecosystems which are under threat from plastic waste and marine litter, Samoa has restricted the importation of plastic bags since the introduction of the Plastic Bag Prohibition on Importation Regulations 2006.

We are taking further steps to address marine litter and have now instituted a ban on single use plastic bags and plastic straws which will take effect from January 2019. It is also intended that Styrofoam food containers and cups will be banned once environmentally friendly options have been identified and are in use. And our public has already responded proactively!

Climate change and Ocean
Sadly, despite our best efforts to sustainably manage the ocean, climate-change driven impacts such as ocean acidification are among a number of serious threats to the health and resilience of our shared ocean. We cannot speak about oceans in isolation and it should be an integral part of our climate discussions.

The recent IPCC Special 1.5 Report shows that a 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming is not just a limit for SIDS, it’s a limit for every one. From extreme weather events to sea level rise, from slowed economic growth to biodiversity loss, the report speaks to the risks of exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius. For our blue Pacific continent, it is a risk we cannot afford.

The coral reefs, that provide about 70% of the protein in the diet of Pacific Islanders and that help provide protection to at least 50% of the Pacific people living within 1.5km of the coast, will be severely degraded at 1.5°C of warming, and will all but disappear at 2°C. Healthy coral reefs attract tourism, which is a key industry that generates USD4 billion for Pacific Island countries. Ocean warming can mean huge losses in revenue, a turnover in species composition and changes in migration patterns of fish stocks. Estimates suggest that global fisheries catch will decrease by 3 million tonnes per degree Celsius of warming. This is worrying for fisheries-dependent nations like ours. The risk of irreversible loss of many marine and coastal ecosystems increases with global warming, especially with warming of 2°C or more.

The ocean however, has a two-way relationship with weather and climate. The ocean influences the weather, while changes in climate can fundamentally alter many properties of the oceans. Clearly, the ocean is a key component of the climate system. Scientists continue to highlight the critical role played by the Ocean in regulating the Climate. The Ocean is one of the major sinks of carbon sequestration and storage.

For us the ocean – climate “crosswalk” is clear. Addressing the adverse impacts of climate change and ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources are two key and interlinked priorities for our Blue Pacific. Ocean and Climate Action are two sides of the same coin.

Oceans in UNFCCC
I reiterate the importance of the inextricable links between ocean and climate. A key focus therefore of our engagement of the Pacific in the COP process is on this link and the need for Oceans to become an integral part of the continuing climate change agenda. The launching of the Oceans Pathway at COP23 led by Pacific leaders sought to address and strengthen actions related to the ocean–climate nexus. 

I have earlier highlighted some of the devastating impacts for us at above 1.5 degrees Celsius warming. Unfortunately, the IPCC 1.5 report confirms that the current commitments are far from sufficient and will not achieve the Paris Agreement’s warming limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is why the objective of the Talanoa Dialogue is crucial. That is, we need to raise the level of ambition of the next round of ND Cs. We believe the ocean is key to raising these ambitions not only as the Earth’s largest carbon sink, but it has the potential for clean energy generation, a source of food security and supply, and a storehouse of ecosystems, which when healthy, can protect coastlines.

Be Ocean inclusive
Oceans plays a critical role in achieving the ambitions of the Paris Agreement and objectives of the UNFCCC. Therefore I stress the need to ensure the relevant inclusion of the Ocean in this UNFCCC process.

I also call everyone to work together for genuine and durable partnerships, that can turn Urgent Ocean Action into much needed Ambitious Climate Action. - Courtesy of the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

Indepth (Id) talks to long time climate change negotiator for the Tuvalu Government, Dr Ian Fry as the world meets in Katowice, Poland this month to finalise the rule book of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. Dr Fry specially shared his views on the recent report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change about 1.5 degrees.

Id: What was your reaction when you read through the latest report of the IPCC on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 deg C above pre-industrial levels?

IF: The report confirmed the concerns we always had about climate change, as we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, particularly through more severe cyclones and weather events. A recent UN report states that the economic cost of climate-related disasters hit US$2.25 trillion over the last two decades, an increase of more than 250 per cent compared to the previous 20 years. It is patently obvious that we are suffering the impacts of climate change now. Adding another 0.5 deg C temperature will make things a whole lot worse.

(Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-10-climate-linked-disasters-soars.html#jCp)

Id: Was there anything new you read in the report or it was like, “Tuvalu told you so”?

IF: While we were aware of concerns, the details of the scientific research was far more detailed than what we knew ourselves. Concerns about the Artic and biodiversity loss are some of the details that have been highlighted in the report.

Id: From the report, what will Tuvalu look like, both on land and at sea, if global warming is kept at 1.5 deg C or less?

IF: Tuvalu is likely to look much different to what it is today. It depends on what course of action we take to address the likely impacts. Critically we are going to have to build up our coastal defences against storm surges. This means building various forms of coastal protection such as sea walls. We are likely to have to find ways of lifting the elevation of large parts of the country so that....

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In August, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) held two very public events in Fiji which signaled a new proactive approach in their work in Fiji. One was the launch of a new study it produced, funded by the Government of Australia, titled: From Farm to Tourist Table and the other was the launch of a new project to promote employersupported childcare in Fiji.

The events were officially launched in Suva by one of IFC’s Vice President for Asia and the Pacific, Nena Stoiljkovic, who took up the role in January, after working in the IFC and its sister organisation the World Bank for over 25 years.

IB’s Dionisia Tabureguci caught up with Stoiljkovic during her stay in Suva where she shared a bit about the work IFC will be doing in the Pacific region.

IB: Tell us a bit about your background experience and how you expect to apply that in your work in the Pacific region?

Stoiljkovic: I am from Serbia, a country in the Balkans. That by itself is fragile and is a conflict affected country because of the civil war. I left the country in 1995 and have worked for IFC for almost 25 years now. Being from a developing country has helped me understand development problems and development challenges in countries where IFC works across the globe. So I could always relate to issues of gender, infrastructure, issues of fragility and it has brought me to the Pacific, with some ideas of how we can  help Pacific countries develop further. And the second thing I want to point out from my background is the value of having worked across the business lines of IFC. Most of us come from the investment backgrounds, which teaches us how to structure transactions, how to identify profitable projects with the private sector. I myself had the privilege to work on advisory services. I was running all of IFC’s advisory services. I also had the opportunity to work for the World Bank to understand how the public sector works. As a vice president, I was running their global practices. And then also some innovative financial instruments to de-risk the private sector. So with a spectrum of financial tools and with my origin from a developing country, I believe that I can now use all of that to implement some innovative solutions here in the Pacific.

IB: Your background includes promoting development finance. What is it and its relevance in the Pacific?

Stoiljkovic: Normally IFC finances private sector companies. And as you know when private sector invests, private sector wants profits, wants to make money, wants to make their businesses profitable. What we have realised is that in some countries, including in the Pacific, not all the projects can be immediately profitable and viable. So the innovative financial instruments that we now have allow us to provide blended finance, which is priced below market rates or commercial rates, to encourage private sector to invest. In a first of its kind project in a particular sector, once we bring private sector to such a project using those de-risking instruments, we actually can develop a sector further, we actually can develop a pipeline of projects in the sector and bring more private sector to participate. We actually have a range of experiences like this in Africa where we worked on the first of its kind PPP solar project in one country and we are now scaling it across other countries and we are now trying to implement some of those solutions here in the Pacific. That’s work in progress but we have instruments and tools that we can use already in the Pacific.

IB: That hasn’t been done in the Pacific?

Stoiljkovic: Not much. We had a first facility of that nature with the ANZ Bank where we are trying to develop smaller renewable energy projects across 8 countries in the Pacific and for that facility which is US$50 million, we’re using blended finance to de-risk the projects. And if this solution works for renewable energy, we can use it for different sector, we can structure some similar facilities with small and medium businesses, in agriculture or any other sectors.

IB: Why renewable energy?

Stoiljkovic: We as the World Bank Group and IFC in particular are focusing on cleaner sources of energy and helping countries either increase access to power – because some countries in the Pacific, unlike Fiji, Fiji almost has full access to energy, but in the
other countries, we don’t have that, so we’re trying to help them with alternative sources of energy, to increase their access to power and in some countries we’re simply trying to increase the energy mix so that we have more clean energy. And when you have a lot of sun, a lot of water in some countries, we’re trying to pursue both solar and hydro projects. Wind as well.

IB: You have also had extensive experience in the gender area.

Stoiljkovic: Well, gender has always been with me somehow. When I was Vice President for Advisory Services (at the World Bank), I was home to our gender secretariat. When I ran IFC operations, I was also focusing on gender and in the last year, before I assumed this position, I was running IFC’s cross cutting advisory services which hosts the gender secretariat, so I was in charge for developing the strategy for gender for IFC. I promoted tackling childcare study globally, supported many of the gender efforts and solutions that IFC has been engaged in. We’ve worked now in the Pacific, in Solomon Islands on 16 companies, helping them to train their women workers to become leaders, to help them address some gender issues including violence, so I’m very proud of that work and hopefully we can do more of that across the Pacific.

IB: Is this why IFC has launched a gender initiative in Fiji? Because you came in or was it always in the works?

Stoiljkovic: Well, it is one piece of it. Because we have already done one childcare study globally, it’s an opportunity for us where we could look at the solutions around childcare for all reasons that we’ve mentioned, here in Fiji. But to me, when I look at women, I look at women as employees, so childcare is going to help women as employees to be more present and less absent, and that will help the employers. I also look at women as business owners, entrepreneurs and we also have a range of ways of supporting women entrepreneurs, teaching them and sharing experience with them and of course we have women as leaders. When you look at the world’s population, 50 per cent is women. In many countries 50 per cent of women also go to school and what is happening is they drop out somehow from the productive workforce, they obviously get stagnant, they cannot progress in their workplaces and at the IFC, we’re trying to address that.

IB: A lot is said about Private Sector Development – is this an area that the IFC will also tackle here?

Stoiljkovic: Yes, a strong focus of the IFC is the private sector. We work exclusively with the private sector but what we have learnt with this approach of creating markets and working on sectors is that they’re not fully developed or the private sector is not fully
engaged. We have learnt that there is a lot of project preparation, a lot of upstream work, a lot of advisory services that have to be put in for some of those sectors to open up. And that also means that we will work more closely with public sector. Some of the constraints to private sector development will have to be addressed by the government. Our colleagues from the World Bank will work from the public sector to help us address them. So we’re trying to be a little more proactive and not just to look at ready projects for us to finance but to work more on developing then preparing them for financing. And then as I mentioned de-risking and only then coming in with more commercial financial instruments and mobilisation. We believe that approach will get us to maximising finance for development. And that will come mostly from the private sector because as you know, the private sector has those millions and trillions to be invested in many economies.

IB: The signing of a Cooperation Agreement between IFC and the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism Fiji signals a new partnership. What will that involve?

Stoiljkovic: I’m very excited about the signing of that agreement. The report is called “From Farm to Tourist Table.” Given the importance of tourism to Fiji and Fijian economy, given the fact that tourism is a large employer of the Fijian people, we are hoping to increase the benefits of tourism to the local economy. When you look at food consumed or purchased by hotels, more than 50 per cent of it is imported. And that puts pressure on foreign exchange currency, it also means that the money doesn’t stay here in Fiji and the Fijian economy. So the study helped us address the issues or constraints of why chefs and hotels are not buying local produce. Some of the key constraints identified were around quality, reliability of supply, standards. We will work together with the Ministry with the support of the Australian Government who has financed our work on the study, to remove some of those constraints. We’ll find some pilot hotel projects and we’ll work with them to create better links to the local produce in agriculture. And of course being who we are, the next step for us would be to support some of those producers – the local farmers – and finance their operations and allow them to grow, to become more reliable and to produce more quality products.

IB: When will this work begin?

Stoiljkovic: Well the partnership has just been launched so the study is already there identifying those constraints. We will now start piloting some of the works with specific hotel companies and chefs. And that will lead us to the next stage, which will be some financing.

For four years, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has been taking governments across the world to task, exposing human rights violations and robustly advocating for the rights of victims. His appointment by the Secretary-General back in 2014 was a landmark: he became the first Asian, Muslim and Arab ever to hold the post.

Before that, Zeid had already enjoyed a long and distinguished career, both at the UN and as a Jordanian diplomat. He served his country in several capacities, notably as Ambassador to the United States, and Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, with a stint as President of the Security Council in January 2014.

The United Nations News first published this interview with Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Husssein on 16 August, 2018 and here are excerpts: 

UN News: When you compare the human rights landscape today to when you took over the UN human rights office back in 2014, what are the key differences that you see?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: When I took over, it coincided with the terrible videos put online by Daesh, or ISIS, which stoked a great deal of fear and horror. And we began to see a sort of a deepening of the crisis in Syria and in Iraq. And this then folded into two things:

One, a great determination to embark on counter-terrorism strategies, which we felt were, in part, excessive in certain respects. Every country has an obligation to defend its people, and the work of terrorism is odious and appalling and needs to be condemned and faced. But whenever there is excessive action, you don’t just turn one person against the State, you turn the whole family against the State. Ten or maybe more members could end up moving in the direction of the extremists.

And then, the migration debates, and the strengthening of the demagogues and those who made hay out of what was happening in Europe for political profit. As each year passed, we began to see a more intense pressure on the human rights agenda.

UN News: You have been very outspoken and you’ve called out governments and individual leaders around the world who have abused human rights. Do you see that as the most important role for the UN human rights chief?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: Yes. At the Human Rights High Commission, you’re part of the UN, but also part of the human rights movement and both are equally important. As I said on earlier occasions, governments are more than capable of defending themselves. It’s not my job to defend them. I have to defend civil society, vulnerable groups, the marginalised, the oppressed. Those are the people that we, in our office, need to represent. I always felt that that is the principle task: we provide technical assistance, we collect information, we go public on it. But in overall terms, the central duty for us is to defend the rights of those most marginalised and those that need it.

UN News: what if you come under pressure to stay silent?

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein: Well, the interesting thing is that the pressure on this particular job doesn’t really come very much from the governments. They all attack the office because we criticise all of them, but we also point to areas where there is improvement, and I sometimes will praise the government for doing the right thing. 

The real pressure on this job comes from the victims and those who suffer and expect a great deal from us. That’s the pressure that I think matters most in terms of the need to do the right thing.

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Recent scientific research in Tongan waters has unearthed significant findings that could lead to new cure for cancer. The research was carried out by Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) PhD graduate Taitusi Taufa, who has been credited with discovering new medicinal properties in marine sponges, including several unique anti-cancer compounds.

Taufa, who graduated in May with a PhD in Chemistry, worked on this research as part of his thesis and it involved dives in various locations in Tonga.

The dive on ‘Eua Island however was the most revealing as it was marked by the discovery of unique chemical properties in marine sponges, which is believed to be more than 30 million years old and thus has an unusually unique marine environment. Being an ancient island, ‘Eua is said to be geologically unrelated to other islands in Tonga so is thought to host organisms that produce “interesting and novel chemistry,” according to Taufa.

The high standard of his work, according to VUW, “was subsequently recognised by being selected for the Doctoral Dean’s List – a formal record and public acknowledgement of doctoral graduates whose thesis have been judged by their examiners to be of exceptional quality, and whose work makes an outstanding contribution to their field of research.”

IB interviewed Taufa to shed more light on the research.

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