Tuesday 24 November 2020, Apia, Samoa – “Nature Conservation Action for a Resilient Pacific” is the theme under which the 10th Pacific Island Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas is convened.
The conference is organised every five to six years by the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation (PIRT) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). The 10th Conference is hosted by the Government of New Caledonia.
The conference was originally scheduled to be held as a face-to-face event in Noumea, New Caledonia, from 19 – 24 April 2020. However, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the closure of borders for most countries in the Pacific, it has had to be postponed and changed to a virtual meeting.
The President of New Caledonia, His Excellency Thierry Santa, delivered the opening remarks and welcomed the estimated 1500 participants, and declared the 10th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas opened.
“I am proud that New Caledonia has been selected as the host of this 10th edition of the Conference, which is original both in its form and its content. The COVID-19 pandemic raging at our doorstep has forced this conference to go virtual, which has not prevented a new record number of more than 1000 participants to register.”
“To deal with a world that is rapidly and sometimes too rapidly evolving, I invite you to reflect upon the theme of this Conference, ‘Nature Conservation Action for a Resilient Pacific.’ Let’s discuss, share, exchange, to remember where we come from and what we would like to pass on to our children.”
“For the first time, the region’s Environment Ministers will participate in a high-level segment and this meeting will lead to the approval of the Vemööre Declaration. This Declaration will ensure that our voice, the united voice of the Pacific, will be heard during international negotiations, most notably during the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in China in 2021.”
“Today, more than anything, I wish that Pacific people continue to work hand in hand to make sure that Men and Nature remain at the heart of every debate and every fight,” he concluded.
SPREP Director General, Mr Kosi Latu, delivered his remarks on behalf of the Secretariat, and officially acknowledged the partnerships that have brought about the 10th Pacific Island Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas.
“This conference would not have been possible without the great partnerships from Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation members that has been established for more than 20 years. I would also like to acknowledge all our sponsors and donors who have also been critical in making this conference a success – we thank you for continuing to be engaged and supportive after the conference,” Mr Latu said.
“The conference unites everyone involved in protecting and sustainably managing our Pacific biodiversity to review our work and plan ahead for the next five years to strengthen nature conservation in the Pacific island region.
Mr Latu stated that at the last conference held in Fiji in 2013, approximately 800 people were involved, and a large number of events were held. This year, the virtual conference has brought together more than 1,500 people and more than 150 speakers, not only from the Pacific but across the globe, in what is probably the largest virtual event in the Pacific region this year.
“The outcomes of this Conference will take the voices of the Pacific to international forums as part of the Blue Pacific contribution to urgent actions for nature conservation and building back a better planet for future generations,” Mr Latu concluded.
The State of Environment and Conservation in the Pacific Islands: 2020 Regional Report was also launched during the opening, by Mr Stuart Chape, Director of SPREP’s Island and Ocean Ecosystems Programme.
The report provides regional indicators that lay the groundwork for sustained monitoring of our actions and measure our success and shortfalls in achieving sustainable development in the Pacific island region. It is also the first combined regional assessment of the state of environment and conservation, which will look to guide the actions of countries, regional organisations, and developments.
Mr Mason Smith, IUCN Regional Director and Chair of the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation, reiterated the words of President Santa on the importance of the conference’s theme, emphasising the operative word, “action.”
“Post-conference, we must hold ourselves accountable and take action where necessary. Let us help ourselves first before we ask others to help us. Let us be resilient,” Mr Smith said.
The conference will be held from 24 – 27 November, with more than 150 speakers expected to present on various topics pertaining to the themes of “Our Ocean”, “Our Island”, and “Our Connection with Nature.”
For more information or to register for the conference, please visit the conference website at www.pacificnatureconference.com.