Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to applaud the Government of New Caledonia for agreeing to host the 10th Pacific Islands Nature Conservation and Protected Areas Conference in 2020. I also want to acknowledge the Tjibaou Cultural Centre as a very fitting venue for such a significant event. Convening the conference here will send a strong message to the region and the world of the important linkage between the protection of cultural and natural heritage. Indeed, this linkage is fundamental for SPREP as an organisation with its vision of “a resilient Pacific environment sustaining our livelihoods and natural heritage in harmony with our cultures”.
The Pacific Islands Nature Conservation and Protected Areas Conference has a long history, originating with the first South Pacific Conference on National Parks hosted by New Zealand in 1974. The importance of the conferences have grown enormously over the decades, reflecting the increasing importance placed by the Pacific islands region on action to conserve its biodiversity and other natural heritage. The last conference held in Fiji in 2013 had around 800 participants, comprising a complete cross section of our Pacific community, from Prime Ministers to village communities.
And now we are excited to have New Caledonia as host and for the event to be in a French Territory for the first time.
The 10th Conference will be held in April 2020, prior to the end of the United Nations Decade for Biodiversity and provides the Pacific an important opportunity to review progress on the achievement of global conservation targets and to influence the global vision for conservation beyond 2020.
Preparation for this significant regional conference is in close partnership between the government and Provinces of New Caledonia and the Pacific Islands Round Table for Nature Conservation (PIRT) which is a coalition of regional conservation agencies established in 1997 as part of the conference process. I speak today on behalf of the Round Table for Nature Conservation, with SPREP the Secretariat of this alliance, and also on behalf of Mason Smith, Director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature Oceania Regional Office (IUCN-ORO) who is the current Chair of the Pacific Islands Roundtable, but who was unable to be here today.
I would also like to mention some important partnerships recently established with French agencies involved in supporting biodiversity conservation within the French territories and who will also be key supporters of the Conference. These include WWF-France (MoU signed), IUCN-French Committee (we are waiting for IUCN signature), AFB (MoU signed), CRIOBE and IRD –the French scientific institute.
The theme for the 10th Conference is ‘Nature conservation action for a resilient Pacific’. Effective conservation and management of biodiversity is a critical issue for Pacific Island countries and territories. Biodiversity and the ecosystem services they provide underpins tourism, agriculture and fisheries, the food and water security of communities, and is key to viable adaptation responses to climate change.
Unfortunately, ongoing loss of biodiversity in the Pacific contributes to the high levels of global loss reported in recent assessments. Across the Pacific we are still failing to protect critical ecosystems and the biodiversity within them, including mangroves and terrestrial forests through a range of development pressures. This compounds the impacts on coral reefs that are already declining as a result of climate change, reefs that are vital for food security, tourism and coastal protection. The conference theme highlights the need for urgent and real action now, and the need to think beyond what we are doing at the moment to the needs of future generations.
The branding for the conference utilises the artwork by Nicolas Mole, an artist regularly featured at the Tjibaou Cultural Centre. His inspiration is taken from Kanak culture, the Earth, the past and present, and the beetle which is one of the symbols that the artist often uses as a representation of his ancestors. In this series, his idea was to represent regions of people from across the Earth including this piece which represents ‘the ocean’.
On behalf of SPREP and the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation I am pleased that today we officially launch the 10th Pacific Islands Nature Conservation and Protected Areas Conference, including the artwork as a key part of our communications for the event, and a website dedicated to the conference. Please visit the conference website and subscribe to receive regular updates.
It is also the occasion for launching the call for the second Pacific Islands Environmental Leadership Awards. These awards were first presented at the 9th Conference in Fiji and celebrate our Pacific environment champions. The nomination process opens from today, until November, with information available on the Conference website. The winners of the second round of the awards will be announced at a special ceremony to be held during the Conference next year.
To finish, I would like to encourage your participation and support for this important conference, including the Pacific Islands Environmental Leadership Awards, once again I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the Government and Provinces of New Caledonia on behalf of SPREP and the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation.