Fiji urges healthy urban environments at Asia-Pacific Ministerial Forum

5 September 2017, Bangkok, Thailand - 2017 is a momentous year on the global environmental stage for Fiji. In June, the Pacific island country co-chaired the very first United Nations Ocean Conference; in November this year, Fiji will preside over the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and it does not stop there.

This week Fiji championed urban environmental management while serving as Chair for the opening of the senior officials segment of the Seventh Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific.

"Fiji has taken a 2-pronged strategy to establish economic resilience through urban development and to establish climate change resilience through urban development," said Chair Ms. Lorna Eden, Assistant Minister for Local Government, Housing, Environment, Infrastructure and Support of the Government of Fiji.

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Chair, Lorna Eden, Assistant Minister for Local Government, Housing and Environment, Fiji, chatting with Silvestri Marco, ESCAP Secretariat, before the opening of the conference. Photo by IISD/ENB | Sean Wu

"By establishing economic and climate change resilience in our towns and cities, we are ensuring not just economic prosperity, but also prosperous health and education outcomes," said Ms. Eden.

"A highlight of Fiji's presidency for the coming Climate COP23 is the climate change roll-out strategy for all our urban centres. Every town and city will be a signatory to a public declaration to mainstream climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction into their strategic plans."

The Conference is a culmination of UN ministerial-level gatherings that are uniting for the first time under the Asia-Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment to grow a regional approach, share best practices, and create partnerships to support sound environmental management for healthier communities.

The Second UN Environment's Forum of Ministers and Environment Authorities of Asia Pacific and the Seventh Ministerial Conference on Environment and Development in Asia and the Pacific are meeting under the theme 'Towards a resource efficient and pollution free Asia-Pacific.

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SPREP's Planning and Capacity Development Adviser Mr Jope Davetanivalu (right) with H.E. Ms Lorna Eden (centre) and Mr Pita Tagicakirewa, Counsellor and Alternative Permanent Representative to ESCAP, Fiji High Commission, Malaysia (left). 

"By strengthening our ecosystems, it will also improve the resilience of not only the national ecosystems, but also of the communities that depend on them, against climate change and disasters," said Mr Samuel Manetoali, Minister for Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology, Solomon Islands who joined representatives from Fiji, Republic of Korea, Bhutan, and Kazakhstan to discuss 'the environmental dimension of sustainable development'.

"We are working on mainstreaming climate and disaster resilience into other sectors, and a mechanism to update all stakeholders regarding their agreements for climate change adaptation."

The UN Environment Pacific Office acknowledges the united role of the Pacific island region in addressing key environmental concerns, a unity which grows in strength with support.

"The Pacific regional approach is a strong example of the power of joint action, and other parts of the world look to that example to coordinate strong, joint efforts," said Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, Head of the UN Environment Pacific office.

"Supporting this regional approach through partnerships and information sharing is critical. We will be continuing that support for Pacific nations as we look toward the third UN Environment Assembly in December."

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) looks forward to the outcomes of this event which will serve to enhance environment work already underway in the Pacific, many activities which highlight the leadership role in advancing environment actions.

"We often say – if you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far then go together, and this epitomises and is at the core of a number of our activities on the ground that are helping to make a difference," said Mr Jope Davetanivalu, the Planning and Capacity Development Adviser of SPREP.

"Partnerships have helped our work across a wide range of broad areas, all of which help strengthen the resilience of our Pacific people. We look forward to so much more."

The seventh Asia Pacific Ministerial Summit on the Environment is jointly organised by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and UN Environment. It brings together over 50 countries from 5 to 8 September, 2017 in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Pacific islands are represented by Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu.

For more information, please visit: http://www.apministerialenv.org/
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