i-Taukei students in Samoa provided the evenings entertainment

i-Taukei students in Samoa provided the evenings entertainment

It was a night not to be missed! On the eve of the closing of the UN Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) conference, the Fiji government, WCS and the Waitt Foundation, with the support of our partners IUCN, WWF and FLMMA representatives, hosted a small celebratory event to recognise the renewed as well as new commitments Fiji had made at SIDS over the week.

In a challenging economy-driven world with climate change on our doorstep, we can often get pessimistic about the environment, and what the forecast is for SIDS like Fiji. I have always believed that when you do have a positive story, an achievement, it is worth stopping and celebrating a historical milestone. Taking the time to celebrate becomes even more important when your government is chartering a bold path forward to achieve sustainable development.

WCS - Fiji Deputy Director, Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai alongside Waitt Foundation Managing Director, Jacob James and Associate Jessica Cramp

WCS – Fiji Deputy Director, Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai alongside Waitt Foundation Managing Director, Jacob James and Associate Jessica Cramp

IUCN's Etika Rupeni with Fiji delegates at the side event to announce its 2020 goal

IUCN’s Etika Rupeni with Fiji delegates at the side event to announce its 2020 goal

It was a great privilege and honour for me to be asked by the Fiji Government to make the keynote address at our event “The sustainable development of marine resources in Fiji – achieving the 2020 target.” We were fortunate to have the Deputy Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation present, representatives from other government departments and other SIDS nations, our partners, as well as Mr. Kaliopate Tavola, the former Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Relations and currently a high-level representative of the Melanesian Spearhead Group. Mr Tavola made the original visionary commitment at the 2005 SIDS in Mauritius, to effectively protect 30% of Fiji’s seas by 2020.

We began by acknowledging the pioneers of the Fiji Locally Managed Marine Area (FLMMA) network, some of whom are no longer with us, and the community of Verata, Ucunivanua, from where the practice of community led management of traditional fishing areas (called qoliqoli) first began, and started to take root. It is through the support of FLMMA partners, and empowered local communities, that 78.2% of Fiji’s coastal waters within traditional fishing grounds are now under some form of management.

I shared the Fiji government’s vision and way forward to achieve the ambitious 2020 goal. Firstly, we need to support and strengthen inshore locally managed marine areas that are vital to the livelihoods and food security of our people. This is even more imperative given the pressures on our coastal fisheries in Fiji.

Secondly, we all need to work in partnership with civil society, development and industry partners to identify and establish offshore, multiple-use marine managed areas, to effectively manage the unique biodiversity, fisheries and other ecosystem services the ocean provides Fiji and the wider global community. These offshore areas would be designed to complement and support inshore community efforts.

Invited guests at the Fiji Government side event

Invited guests at the Fiji Government side event

We also celebrated Green Growth Framework for Fiji, which was recently passed by Cabinet. Fiji is apparently the first country in the Pacific to complete a Green Growth Framework, with real tangible targets and deliverables, which included the 30% commitment by 2020. Again, an achievement worth celebrating!

As I came to the close of my keynote address, I reflected on the fact that “history is often marked by inspiration leaders or everyday people that bring about change. People that are not afraid of taking bold risks, or leaps of faith.” I shared my aspiration that “as we move forward, let us be the people that stood strong together, united, and to build a prosperous sustainable future for Fiji.”