Ms Anama Solofa, Lead Negotiator on Ocean Issues, Alliance of Small Island States
1 June 2023, Paris France - More than 190 governments are now negotiating a new global treaty to end plastic pollution through an Intergovernmental Negotiation Committee for which there are five sessions from 2022 to 2024 to complete. Now underway in Paris France from 28 May to 2 June, is the second session known as the INC2.
Amongst the many voices being heard here are those of Pacific Women that play leading roles.
We spent time with Ms Anama Solofa of Samoa, the lead negotiator for the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) on Ocean Issues. Since 1990, AOSIS has represented the interests of the 39 small island and low-lying coastal developing states in global climate change, sustainable development negotiations and processes. As a voice for the vulnerable, its mandate is more than amplifying marginalised voices as it also advocates for these countries’ interests.
Here in Paris, Anama has taken the lead for AOSIS on the floor and, while she is no stranger to negotiations, being in this role is a new frontier for her.
“I had a little bit of experience in the United Nations agreement on marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) in the early days during the preparatory committee stage. I’m used to being the person in the back doing the research so speaking up front is a whole new story. It’s a little daunting but I have a great team around me and that makes it easier to get through.”
With a Masters Degree in Marine Policy, Ms Solofa also completed the United Nations Nippon Fellowship on Ocean Governance and Law of the Sea. Familiar with ocean issues across our Pacific Island region, Anama has worked for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency, and the Oceania Regional Office of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in Fiji. Anama has also worked at the national level in Samoa for the Samoa Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Now she takes the lead on Ocean issues for 39 states, including our Pacific Islands.
“Samoa is Chair of AOSIS for the 2023, 2024 period and there are a few key things that are happening. There are a few stock takes and reviews for specific ocean issues that we are working through. BBNJ has all but wrapped up and that’s great and we’re all happy with the outcome, we are now focusing on the plastics treaty as that will run the full duration of Samoa’s Chairmanship,” said Ms Solofa.
“We often remind ourselves that there is the Fourth International UN Small Islands Developing States Conference next year which is 10 years since the Third UN SIDS Conference was hosted in Samoa so we’re undertaking a review of the ocean issues highlighted in the SAMOA Pathway as we prepare for the next SIDS Conference.”
While Anama takes the front stage for AOSIS during the negotiations, there is also much work to be done on behalf of AOSIS to ensure there is a Plastics Treaty ready for ratification by the end of 2024. Known as inter-sessional work, she forecasts there will need to be much of that to progress the development of a legally binding instrument within the deadline that has been set.
With a career spanning both national, regional and international ocean work including advocacy, Ms Solofa has recognised that there have been more and more women’s voices heard in these spaces.
“It’s always encouraging to see women speaking up front at these negotiations and at oceans events. It shows that we’re applying this approach to managing our oceans, we’re being more holistic in how we’re engaging women in Marine Resources management and development which is great as women’s voices are key in all sectors of this space.”
Global negotiations are often demanding work with long hours, very little sleep, and much strategising and working with 39 states to present a unified position to the remaining 150-plus governments that negotiate in the UN system. A typical day can see the first meeting held at 7am with the last meeting finishing when all is done – working through the night when negotiating is not uncommon.
“I’d say my top health tip is definitely to keep hydrated! I would also say that we must be flexible. Yesterday we were thrown what most of us consider was a curveball in how the negotiations were happening and just being able to pivot was key and adjust to what we were asked to do and present,” said Anama.
“We must also remember that not everyone’s situations are the same and we keep saying this about the special case of Small Islands Developing States, but also just keeping the goal in mind, and that is ensuring that SIDS are taken into consideration in this treaty.”
And as for words of advice and encouragement for our Pacific Women entering the field of negotiations?
“It’s one thing to do the research and keep tabs on what’s happening during different negotiations. There’s a whole team of work behind the scenes, but when that mic comes on and it’s your first time to speak, especially when you represent a group of countries it’s something else! To me, it really drove home that this is what I’m here for and this is what I want for the group that I represent, so in terms of doing what you want for something that you care a lot about, I’d say take that step!”
The second Intergovernmental negotiating committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment is taking place in Paris France from 29 May to 2 June 2023.
The Pacific Islands are represented by the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu through the support of the Government of Australia and the United Nations.
They are supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), working with partners the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Environmental Investigation Agency, Centre for International Environmental Law, University of Wollongong, WWF and Massey University.
For more information, visit: https://www.unep.org/events/conference/second-session-intergovernmental-negotiating-committee-develop-international