12 February 2024, Auckland NZ - The road for Pacific countries to the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-4) in Ottawa, Canada, begins in Auckland New Zealand this week.
It starts with the ‘Empowering our Pacific Voice as Negotiators’ training attended by the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu. Held at the Auckland Office of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade at Princess Wharf, the one-day training is part of the Pacific Regional Preparatory Workshop for INC-4 from 12-15 February 2024.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) Director of Waste Management and Pollution Control (WMPC), Mr Anthony Talouli, highlighted the importance of empowering the voice of Pacific negotiators.
“While plastic pollution is a global issue, we know Pacific communities who contribute the least are at the forefront of its impacts. The one Pacific voice to amplify our priorities on the global stage in negotiating this treaty is very important and the work to build the capacity of our negotiators is critical to this,” he said.
“We know that in the Pacific we have some of the best negotiators in the world in other MEA processes, which is experience we want to learn from and grow as we move forward in this INC process and this work continues here in Auckland. We have some old and new negotiators and everyone is at different stages of their journey but the key thing for us is to bring them together so they can learn from each other. Everyone brings different strengths to the table and that diversity in ability will help us in the long run.
“SPREP is extremely grateful for the support from the Government of Australia as well as the Government of New Zealand that has allowed us to be able to do this.”
Ms Gwen Sisior, Palau’s Ocean Adviser, was amongst negotiators who shared their experiences during the session. Despite having been a negotiator since 2012 in different spaces, she said the opportunity to learn and improve is extremely valuable.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you negotiate; it doesn’t get any easier and it’s why it’s important we continue to build our capacity and prepare ourselves,” she said. “One of the many things I have learnt over the years is to ensure you prepare yourself by understanding what and why you are negotiating. For me, at the end of the day, we are negotiating for the safety and the security of our communities.”
Ms Katenia Rasch, the Assistant CEO Waste Management of Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), said the opportunity for Pacific negotiators to share experiences and learn from what transpired in the past is critical to help them strengthen their voice.
“This is a great opportunity for us to come together to reflect on our journey in the INC process thus far and look to the future in terms of our one Pacific voice. Practice makes perfect and sessions like the ‘Empowering our Pacific Voice as Negotiators’ help us overcome our fears, learn from each other and strengthen our voice for the betterment of the communities we serve,” she said.
The Permanent Secretary of Solomon Islands Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management & Meteorology (MECDM), Dr. Melchior Mataki, said negotiators should feel empowered by the fact they speak for their countries.
Said Dr. Mataki: “Our Pacific countries might be small in size but when it comes to multilateral negotiations, we have the same power and the same voice as any of the bigger nations. The flags we fly are very powerful and we need to ensure that we use this power effectively to make a difference in the lives of the communities and the people we are negotiating for.”
SPREP’s Communications and Outreach Adviser, Ms Nanette Woonton, facilitated the training in partnership with the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC) and said SPREP was pleased to be offering this training and capacity building opportunity for Pacific countries as part of the Secretariat’s support to its members.
The fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC-4), is scheduled to take place from 23 to 29 April 2024 at the Shaw Center in Ottawa, Canada. The session will be preceded by regional consultations on 21 April 2024.
The "Empowering our Pacific Voice as Negotiators" training held on 12 February 2024 was facilitated in partnership by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC) with support from the Governments of Australia and New Zealand.
Held in Auckland, New Zealand, participants were from Australia, The Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.