Biodiversity initiative wraps up, looks to the future

The final review meeting for the GEFPAS Integrated Island Biodiversity (IIB) project has just been completed in the Vava'u Islands, Kingdom of Tonga. The project began in 2012 and is due to officially close by June 2016. It engaged the Cook Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Nauru.

Vavau Islands
Vava'u Islands

The IIB project was funded by the GEF Pacific Alliance for Sustainability (PAS) and implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and executed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

Over the last three years, the project has been effectively promoting the significance of biodiversity to island life in the Pacific. The most notable outcome of the project was the completion of rapid biodiversity assessments (BIORAPs) for the Cook Islands, Nauru and Tonga. The results of these surveys constitute the most up to date information on the status and distribution of marine and terrestrial biodiversity and would be instrumental in informing future planning for the identification and management of Conservation Areas in these countries.

"I would like to congratulate the four participating countries for all achievements so far under this project" said Mr. Greg Sherley, the representative of UNEP.

"Particular thanks and appreciation is given to host country Tonga for organizing the final review meeting in Vava'u. It has been an honour and privilege to have worked with such a dedicated team of IIB Coordinators who worked hard to ensure results of the project were achieved successfully. Many notable achievements have been made under the IIB project " said Ms. Easter Galuvao, Regional IIB project manager at SPREP.

The meeting was convened from the 21 - 26 of November and provided a timely opportunity to review and take stock of both country-level and regional achievements under the IIB project. Students and teachers from secondary schools in Vava'u were able to participate and learn first-hand outcomes of the project and to view a range of educational and awareness materials produced by each of the countries including video documentaries, posters and technical reports.

"The IIB project has been a learning experience for me and I learnt a lot from attending this meeting. The project enabled me to have a voice within community consultations and to address elders of our communities on conservation matters, which was something special for me" said Mr. Kitiseni Ovia, the national project coordinator for Tuvalu.

Although the IIB project is coming to a close, participating countries have been actively exploring ideas and strategies as part of a roadmap for taking project outcomes and results forward and integrating these into strategic planning processes at national and community levels as well as into current programmes and upcoming related initiatives.

"This meeting has been very informative for me and has opened my eyes to implementation issues that I was not aware of, meeting with other country coordinators has been particularly beneficial for me" said Mr. Berrick Dowiyogo, national coordinator for Nauru.

IIB group photo 2
Participants at the final review meeting for the GEFPAS Integrated Island Biodiversity (IIB) project

"Concrete decisions and next steps have been set during this meeting and IIB project has been a good life experience for me, particularly since it has enabled me to work closely with communities, and I enjoyed this very much" said Ms. Mii Matamaki, national coordinator for the Cook Islands.

The meeting concluded with a clear roadmap on the process for closing the project which included reporting as well as strategies to expand and replicate results of the IIB projects.
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