14 December 2022, Montreal Canada - Youth representatives from Pacific islands attending the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) in Montreal Canada this week, have issued a challenge to world leaders present.
“Please take the time to come and visit our Pacific countries so you will know what we are talking about. Sitting here and talking about the issue is very different to what would happen if they come and experience the struggles and the tough reality for us on the ground,” said Ms Camari Divuniwaqa, of Fiji.
In the Solomon Islands, that “reality” is very grim, said Mr Rodrick Holness Rollands.
“We live the devastating impact of ocean acidification, our corals are dying, islands are sinking, we see dying mangroves, we are losing corals and we worry about what the future holds,” he said.
“In some cases, our cultures are attached to these things so these are also impacting on our cultures. Our food security is under threat, our marine ecosystems are being damaged, our way of life is impacted.”
For Ms Marinda Imakulata Tagiilima, of Samoa, she said this is why world leaders must agree and endorse a post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework by the end of the week, that is responsive to the lived reality of Pacific countries.
“I hope they see that there is a biodiversity crisis, there is a climate crisis, and they really need to directly address them. We don’t need any more words, we need more action, we don’t need any more promises, we want them to deliver now,” she said.
Ms Divuniwaqa, Mr Rollands and Ms Tagiilima were chosen from hundreds of applicants to join the Global Youth Biodiversity Network in Montreal where the negotiations for a new biodiversity framework continues. The conference is taking place amidst a biodiversity crisis where more than 70% of the planet's land has been transformed, more than 60% of the oceans have been impacted and more than 80% of wetlands have been lost, while more than one million species face extinction.
The Youth representatives say the Pacific communities are at the forefront of the impacts of the biodiversity crisis.
“As young people, the impact of what is happening now, which as you all know, is not good. We are heading for a perilous future if we don’t act now. Our lives have already been impacted by biodiversity loss, and while we are doing so much back home in terms of conservation, we feel it is not enough. We have come with a message from our countries and we want to make their concerns known,” said Ms Divuniwaqa.
The Pacific has four key messages and high on the priority list is the critical importance of an effective and coherent Global Biodiversity Framework that reflects the needs of Pacific communities. Mr Rollands said the Pacific youth have a key role to play.
“We have some serious concerns about the loss of biodiversity in our home countries we have come here to voice in this global forum. We know that as young people, it is our generations that are going to be impacted the most. If we don’t speak up now for ourselves, we will not have a future,” he said.
“So we are here to engage and fight for our communities back home. We are the future and we have to make sure our voice is at the table and is heard. We need to have one strong voice, one that must be coherent and inclusive and takes into account all the concerns of our people back home.”
Ms Tagilima agrees.
“We are very much on the front line of the climate change impacts and biodiversity loss. We live and the breathe the negative consequences of something our people have had very little contribution to,” she said. “Our leaders today need to take more proactive action, less talking but more action. We need them to walk the talk, consider the concerns of all the nations, especially small countries as we are at the forefront of these impacts..”
Aside from amplifying our Pacific voice at COP15, all of them agree that they also have some work to do back home to get more youth to be involved in biodiversity conservation advocacy.
“It is a privilege to be here, especially knowing that there are only a few of us representing the Pacific but we need more youth to participate, we need more Pacific representation here,” said Ms Divuniwaqa. “We want to take what we have learnt here and use it back home to build more capacity so our voice is strengthened. We want a strong network of youth to advocate for our Pacific biodiversity priorities.”
They hope to return home and set up a Pacific chapter of the Global Youth Biodiversity Network.
The Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) is held in Montreal, Canada from 7 – 19 December 2022. Chaired by the Government of China, the CBD COP15 will result in a new Global Biodiversity Framework that will continue the 2020 Biodiversity Targets with the global goal of halting biodiversity loss.
Fourteen Pacific Islands countries are Party to the CBD. They are contributing to a unified One Pacific Voice on collective issues at COP15. The countries present in Montreal are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Led by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), support to Pacific island countries has been implemented with technical input through the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation (PIRT), and includes a One Pacific approach involving support from the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, and the Pacific Community at COP15 with financial assistance from the Government of Australia and the ACP MEA Phase 3 Project funded by the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States for the ACP countries.
For more information on the CBD COP15 please visit: https://www.cbd.int/conferences/2021-2022 or email [email protected]