EXPERT OPINION: Kesaia Marama Tabunakawai | WWF

EXPERT OPINION: Kesaia Marama Tabunakawai

Posted on 12 August 2014    
WWF Pacific Representative Kesaia Tabunakawai with Pacific Islands Development Forum interim Secretary General Feleti Teo
© WWF Pacific
In this heartfelt Q&A, WWF Pacific Representative Kesaia Tabunakawai talks about the significance of the recent Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) and the attendance of the President of Indonesia, and the possible linkages with CTI-CFF.

In what ways was the PIDF summit memorable and significant?

Having the President of Indonesia, the first to visit Fiji, and the contingent of 90 Indonesian government officials was quite extraordinary. I have not had the opportunity to be at meetings where such large government delegations are present. It is impressive.

It was significant, as a marker of the momentum shown by the leaders to follow up on their commitments at the inaugural PIDF meeting in 2013. This was showcased by the announcement of the opening of the Secretariat HQ in Suva, the appointment of the Chief Executive, the setup of a multi-country, multi-sector Senior Officials Committee to guide the Secretariat, signed partnership agreement for further actions around commitments, and wide ranging support from stakeholders regionally and globally. Fittingly, Fiji is first off the block to complete its national green growth strategy, “A Green Growth Framework for Fiji: Restoring the Balance in Development”, prepared through stakeholder consultation over an 8-month period, which was presented at the meeting.

How significant is the President of Indonesia's visit?

Very significant. The Fiji Prime Minister in his opening speech acknowledged the role of the Government of Indonesia globally, and in particular the President’s influence at the global UN Forum, as one of 3 world leaders appointed to the high level panel advising it on the global development agenda beyond 2015: “Fiji regards Indonesia as a close friend and valued development partner, an important ally in our joint effort to improve the lives of the people of developing countries the world over, whether it is through the United Nations, the G77 Plus China or the Non-Aligned Movement, of which Indonesia was a founding member.” No doubt, the visit has strengthened connections between the Government of Indonesia and Pacific Island governments. The impact at global fora of a collective loud voice from Pacific Island states, joined to that of Indonesia, will always be a good outcome for Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) issues, and especially if it results in the desired action.

Indonesia has committed to intensify cooperation with the PIDF in areas of common interest and concern. One such priority is to work more closely to conserve and enhance fisheries and marine resources. In this regard, there is commitment to collaborate to build linkages between marine protected areas. This is big. I think that perhaps momentum has just gathered for realizing cross-region MPAs.

The President also offered various capacity-building programmes, and funding of US$20 million for Pacific Island countries over the next 5 years.

In your view, what would be the key opportunities from South Pacific countries joining the CTI-CFF?

The President confirmed his support of the idea of expanding the participation of other Pacific countries in the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security. I see key opportunities around sharing the wealth of lessons, experience, appropriate technology from member countries to inform and guide Pacific Island country developments and vice versa. Another opportunity would be around strengthening the Pacific input and thinking around fisheries and MPAs, given the current Pacific leadership within the administration of CTI-CFF. Regional and inter-regional MPAs have long been discussed around tuna, leatherback turtles, coral reefs and—lately—sharks. This is an opportunity to look again at the blockages and work harder, given the information on fish stock collapses and near collapses in our region.

Big businesses working in the Pacific work across the CTI countries, and many are Coral Triangle country owned businesses - another opportunity to engage under the ecologically sustainable agenda.

How optimistic are you to see Green Blue economies taking hold in the Pacific, and why?

I am optimistic. It has been a long time coming. I mean, openly embracing the reality of the concept and aligning our collective national and regional thinking around it. Our current global consumption, including the proportion (9 million people) from Pacific Island nations, require the resources of 1.25 planets and 2 planets by 2030, if we do not change the way we live and consume. The blue green economies approach provides a global platform to reconcile what we want and what we need, given what we know. The PIDF blue green economies platform is strong on a Pacific Identity, a Pacific model of development that is rooted in the Pacific way of life, recognizing spirituality, wisdom, skill and knowledge that grew and flourished beyond small islands, respecting the vastness of the ocean, living off it and navigating it fearlessly in a way that does not destroy the planet.

Please describe the new MoU with PIDF, and the role of WWF Pacific

The MOU is around jointly facilitating a Pacific business-to-business forum styled around the CTI-CFF regional business-to-business (B2B) forum. In the Pacific, the opportunities for growth in the domestic as well as export markets lie in part with small and medium sized enterprise that have yet to be fully tapped. Many more Pacific islanders are involved and can be involved – in ecotourism, agriculture, fisheries, handicraft, fashion etc. These are more likely to be sustainable and I think easier to put on the way to environmental sustainability. The thinking at this stage is around this sector as well as the larger sector of tourism and fisheries.

The other platform is focused around Pacific Ocean Future Sustainability, bringing the major sectors of fisheries, tourism and seabed mining to talk about ocean management and protecting the ocean. What this means is learning from each other about the “mechanics” of fishing, seabed mining and tourism and the technology of the trade, and a sense of what this means to the environment.

What are your hopes / vision on what this would all mean to Pacific Islanders' socio-economic future?

The spirit of the PIDF vision is one that aspires for the Pacific communities to live in harmony with nature and within its means, healthy people consuming wholesome natural foods, a resource base that is used sustainably locally and globally to support national development and a Pacific region where financial wealth is not everything.

Given the trajectory that the planet is on, brought about by humanity’s activities and consumption, the Pacific -- through its commitment to blue green economies-- recognizes it must act for its survival and for the planet. As a “citizen” of planet Earth, the Pacific countries must act on consumption as well by taking the right action in terms of managing access to resources within its boundaries. Recognizing and supporting small and medium enterprises to grow and be sustainable fits the size of our islands and is cause for fairer distribution of benefits.

I am one with this vision and committed to doing my part.

WWF Pacific Representative Kesaia Tabunakawai with Pacific Islands Development Forum interim Secretary General Feleti Teo
© WWF Pacific Enlarge

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