Pacific’s missed opportunity at Oceans Conference

One of the region’s strongest advocate for the sustainable management of fisheries resources, Dr Transform Aqorau says the Pacific missed an excellent opportunity to take a strong position on Oceans in New York last month.

Instead, the final Call to Action adopted by leaders the first UN Oceans conference in June ‘continues to perpetuate the myth that we are weak and small and need to be treated differently’.
Dr Aqorau, who is a former CEO of the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), said Pacific and other Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) need to change this mindset because the current myth of smallness and we need special help is ‘undermining’ the value of their natural capital.
“Seeing ourselves as small and weak – often this is the label we carry with us everywhere not realising that the value of our oceans resources is worth billions of dollars, something that is of value to developed countries, Dr Aqorau explained at a seminar in Suva Thursday organised by the University of the South Pacific’s School of Governance, Development and International Affairs.
“We are our own worst enemies because we are promoting our own weaknesses - we are small and need special attention. We continue to have the tendency to depend on others when we are the custodian of tradeable commodity that is worth billions.
Dr Aqorau said the Pacific went to New York with a rather weak regional position but strong on national commitments.
Th challenge for all PSIDS is implementing the commitments made in New York to reverse the decline of the health of the world’s oceans.
“We need to see how many of our countries and stakeholders have taken the Call to Action and translated them into national policies – or do they forget and move on to the next issue. That is the nature of big international conferences.
“In New York, the Pacific could have done things differently and pushed for closure of the high seas. We are tired of the same kind of language at every UN meetings that skirt around the issues. There is also no review mechanism in place to hold governments and other stakeholders that have made commitments to account, said Dr Aqorau.
He welcomed Fiji’s leadership at the UN Oceans Conference but suggested that in the Pacific, the true leaders in fisheries and sustainable management of this resource are countries up north.
“Countries that are strong on fisheries especially their tuna resources are the countries in the North Pacific because they host the PNA Secretariat (Marshall Islands) and the Tuna Commission (Federated States of Micronesia). They are also in contact daily with China, Japan, Korea and the US.
“Fiji’s leadership at the global level in hosting oceans conference has enhanced its standing globally but not in fisheries. They articulate issues well on behalf of the region but in fisheries the countries in the North are strong in advocating the proper management of tuna resources, said Dr Aqorau.
At the end of the Oceans conference, 193 Member States of the United Nations unanimously agreed to a set of measures that will begin the reversal of the decline of the ocean’s health. The outcome document, together with more than 1,300 commitments to action, marks a breakthrough in the global approach to the management and conservation of the ocean.     


Photo by UN media