Moe Saitala Tuvalu
Waste Management and Pollution Control

Negotiating a Legally Binding Instrument on Plastic Pollution including in the Marine Environment

The Fourth Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committing for a Legally Binding Instrument on Plastic Pollution including in the Marine Environment is taking place in Ottawa, Canada from 23 to 29 April.  In this series we feature Mrs Moe Saitala Paulo a negotiator from Tuvalu in the INC process. Moe has worked for the Department of Environment in Tuvalu for over a decade and has graduated from the University of the South Pacific with a Bachelor of Environmental Management and a Postgraduate Diploma in Environmental Management.

On the pathway to the Shaw Centre, home of the INC4 you may pass statues of the “Famous Five”, women celebrating their victory in the “Persons” case which saw the British Privy Council declare that “Women are Persons!” on 18 October 1929, making them eligible to be appointed to the Senate of Canada.

Close to 100 years later the voice of women are heard loud and clear here at the INC4 in Ottawa with Pacific Islands women leading the charge in global negotiations to find a way forward to protect our people from the impacts of plastic pollution.

Familiar with climate change negotiations is Mrs Moe Saitala Paulo, the Acting Director for the Department of Environment of Tuvalu who has attended three of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conferences of the Parties over the past ten years supporting Tuvalu.  She now adds three INC’s to this list with her engagement in the plastic pollution negotiations space.

“Understanding the whole process of these negotiations in the Intergovernmental Negotiations Committee is a challenge, as well as the language used in this text.  Based on my experience in the UNFCCC negotiations, this is very different, but the good thing is that I am a part of this from the very beginning,” said Moe.

“With the UNFCCC I came on board partway through the ongoing negotiations, but for this once we have a legally binding instrument in place, I’d have a broader and stronger knowledge of what needs to be done when we action it.”

INC, in this case is the Intergovernmental Negotiations Committee on a Legally Binding Instrument on Plastic Pollution including in the Marine Environment.  The United Nations Environment Assembly has directed five INC’s to take place between 2022 and 2024 to land on text that makes up a Legally Binding Agreement for Parties to ratify.  

For Tuvalu, comprising eight small coral atolls boasting a population of over 11,000 the impacts of climate change upon its population are overwhelming.  Compounded by the problems from plastic pollution, this additional challenge to their survival on the limited land space propels Moe to amplify her voice despite this being a new area for her.


“I think a shared challenge for the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (PSIDS) here in these negotiations is the lack of resources and human capacity.  With many different streams of text negotiations happening concurrently, we are not always able to attend all at the same time.  This is when the PSIDS work together to ensure the Pacific is heard across all spaces,” said Moe.

“While plastic pollution is a new issue for me and it is very challenging, I’m grateful that our fellow Pacific Islanders that do have the knowledge and background in this topic are sharing what they know with us all.  I’m especially grateful for SPREP helping us with the experts and the technical assistance they’re providing from people from all around the world.”

Moe anticipates many late nights and long hours ahead as negotiating text becomes more urgent during the INC4, this is preceded by a week of preparatory meetings for the Pacific Islands.  This includes several days of strategising for the PSIDS themselves, as well as three days of preparation with the Alliance of Small Islands States.  Expectations are high for a legally binding instrument to be ready for ratification by the end of 2024 as the plastic pollution crises continues to grow.  Around 430 million tonnes of plastic is produced each year for which two thirds are short-lived which soon become waste. Every minute the equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic is dumped into the ocean.  

While Moe is working on negotiations at the global level, on the ground in Tuvalu she also takes action at home to help build the resilience of Tuvalu through the range of Multilateral Environment Agreements that Tuvalu is a Party to.

“The negotiations themselves can be boring.  It’s very technical and involves a lot of listening and speaking with over 110 countries who all want to ensure their concerns are reflected in the final document.  It can also be very daunting as we negotiate with countries that are better resourced and equipped – you need to develop a thick skin and don’t take anything personal.”

As for her advice for Pacific Islands women considering a career in negotiations under multilateral environment agreements, Moe has these words of wisdom.

“Never stop asking questions.  There is no such thing as a silly question and there are no such thing as long or short answers. Keep raising your hands to ask questions and learn.  Each time you ask you are enabling your own growth and empowering more women to gain confidence and raise their voice. Keep putting yourself out there and keep asking those questions.”

The fourth Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment is taking place in Ottawa, Canada, from 23-29 April 2024. The Pacific Islands are represented by the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, 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 (PIFS), Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC), The Pacific Community (SPC), Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL), University of Wollongong, WWF and Massey University.

For more information visit: 

Voices of Pacific Women, Tuvalu, INC4, Plastic pollution