NADI, FIJI—Over 50 delegates across the Pacific Island region convened in Nadi yesterday to officially launch the Global Environment Facility Pacific Ridge to Reef program aimed at improving the livelihoods and opportunities of Pacific Islanders through local actions to conserve and rehabilitate their environments.
The five-day GEF Pacific R2R program launch and workshop included representatives from participating Pacific Island countries, the GEF Secretariat, the Pacific Community, the United Nations Development Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, United Nations Environment Program and other regional development partners.
Lorna Eden, Fiji’s assistant minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment, in her opening speech said: “Small island developing states share unique and intimate inter-connections between land, water and coastal systems, with high vulnerability to climatic changes and limited human resource capacity making a strong case for the R2R approach in the Pacific.”
A “whole of island” approach ensures that policies, multiple sectors, agencies and community interests are properly considered and integrated to ensure sustainable development through participatory planning and management of resources.
“It is with much pleasure that I officially open this important inception meeting for the Pacific R2R Program in Fiji. This groundbreaking program is seeking to address some of the most critical environmental issues from ridge to reef in 14 Pacific SIDS, and through this, improve the resilience of Pacific people.”
“Our livelihoods are dependent on the environment from ridge to reef, and maintaining and conserving these ecosystems is critical to our very survival in the Pacific. In Fiji the quality of the environment is what sustains our primary industry —tourism. Sustainable development must be an integrated approach involving multiple sectors, agencies and communities, and the ridge to reef approach provides a mechanism for this.”
The five-year program aims to guide coordinated investment of the $91 million package of GEF grants, and $333 million of co-financing from the participating countries and other development partners.
The GEF Secretariat International Waters Focal Area Lead, Christian Severin, explained: “The GEF Pacific R2R program aims to deliver tangible and quantifiable local and global environmental benefits by focusing on cross-cutting approaches to water, land and coastal management with linkages across GEF focal areas.
“We are excited that participating countries will have the opportunity to strengthen their capacity to successfully demonstrate and transfer technology to support targeted vulnerable areas, improve livelihoods and public health, and upscale their effective mainstreaming efforts to support countries in achieving their sustainable development goals,” he added.
UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji country director and head of Policy and Programs, Bakhodir Burkhanov, in his remarks said: “Operating across 14 Pacific Islands, the Ridge to Reef program provides an opportunity for participating countries to develop and implement integrated approaches for the sustainable development of island economies and communities.”
“Importantly, the outcomes of this program will also provide valuable insights and lessons learned that can be shared for replication between countries in the Pacific, and with similar initiatives covering other small island developing states for replication and scaling up,” he said.
Burkhanov continued: “UNDP is pleased to be the lead agency for this regional program consisting of 13 national projects that are directly implemented by the countries and a regional program support project implemented by the Pacific community.
“The three UNDP Offices in the Pacific—in Fiji, Samoa, and PNG—support implementation of most of the national projects and the regional project, and will closely coordinate with the other UN agencies and the SPC to ensure achievement of program objectives.”
Coordination and technical support is provided by SPC, the principal scientific and technical organization in the Pacific region.
SPC deputy director–general Dr. Audrey Aumua said: “SPC recognizes the importance of integrated approaches to complex issues in our region, particularly for small island developing states in order to improve their capacity to reach their sustainable development aspirations.”
“At SPC we place a great deal of emphasis on major cross-cutting issues, such as sustaining ecosystem services, climate change adaptation, disaster risk management, food and water security, gender equality, human rights, non-communicable diseases and youth employment. This program is a great example of this,” she added.
“We are proud to partner with the GEF, its implementing agencies and Pacific small island developing states in delivering this very important environmental initiative, by connecting people and supporting them in conserving their environment for sustainable and enhanced livelihoods and resilience,” Aumua said.
Based with SPC’s Geoscience Division, the Regional R2R Program coordinator, Marc Wilson, said: “The Pacific R2R program brings innovation and opportunity to the region through an R2R or ‘whole-of-island’ natural resource management approach.”
“This approach supports locally driven solutions and mobilizes communities to take local action with global benefits, and be active participants in local level decisions related to their environment and part of a community to cabinet policy making process,” he added.
The GEF Pacific R2R Program aims to support PacSIDS in addressing national priorities and development needs while delivering local and global environmental benefits across multiple GEF focal areas, including: biodiversity, land degradation, international waters, sustainable forest management, climate mitigation and adaptation and capacity development.
Participating countries include: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia , Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshal Islands , Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. (SPC)