Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Hon Milner Tozaka has highlighted the need for Pacific Islands Development Forum member states and the globe to invest in the Pacific Ocean to better understand its capacity to underpin development, and build its resilience against threats such as acidification and pollution.
“We must invest in our Ocean. In particular, we need investments in science and research in order to better understand the capacity of our Ocean to provide for our future, including the need to understand and build its resilience against acidification,” Hon Milner Tozaka said when speaking at the Pacific Preparatory Meeting for UN Ocean Conference in Suva, Fiji, this week.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade represented the PIDF Chair, Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare.
Hon Tozaka quoted what Prime Minister Sogavare shared during the Pacific Ocean Summit and the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders in Hawaii in 2016 about the significance of the ocean to Pacific Islanders and that is: “We the Pacific people live in the ocean, and the ocean lives in us. The ocean enfolds our very being, it defines who we are, and our present and future. The Ocean is both a place that identifies us and the source of our livelihood. We cannot manage the ocean, but we need to manage the users of the ocean.”
And he said as the PIDF leaders have reiterated in their summit last year that the ocean is the most important natural resource for the Pacific, the Pacific needs to assert its connectivity and right to self-reliance in the use of its marine resources and needs not be apologetic for doing so.
“We must keep the momentum going. Over the last year, we have seen a sharper focus on the sustainable development of the Ocean by the international community.
“We are encouraged by the progress towards a legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ). In addition, Rio+20, the SAMOA Pathway and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development have been significant milestones in addressing Oceans issues,” Minister Tozaka said.
Rio+20 refers to the United Nations on Sustainable held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil 20-22 June 2012. SAMOA Pathway is the abbreviation for SIDS (Small Island Developing States) Accelerated Modalities of Action Pathway. It is the outcome of the third international conference on Small Island Developing States held in Apia, Samoa, from 1-4 September 2014. This outcome document reaffirms the commitment of SIDS to sustainable development.
Minister Tozaka said the Ocean Conference will start the next chapter- implementation-and the important work ahead is to make sure the points raised by the Pacific States are reflected in the ‘Call for Action.’
He said whilst the zero draft is comprehensive and concise, it makes no mention of non-living resources such as oil, gas and seabed minerals, nor sea transport which are all crucial for economic development.
Minister Tozaka said the Pacific States also need to be part of the discussions in the partnership dialogues, adding that this regional preparatory meeting was indeed an important step to make sure that ‘our’ voices are not only heard but that ‘we’ continue to lead the agenda.
He said in terms of a way forward, Pacific states need to also further think post-2017 June UN Ocean Conference in terms of processes at the global level.
“Oceans issues must remain an ongoing process at all levels in order to ensure comprehensive monitoring and evaluation of global efforts on the issue of oceans governance,” the Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade said.
Minister Tozaka also took the opportunity to thank the host- Fiji Government and People- for what he described as ‘excellent arrangements and great hospitality that we have all witnessed and experienced since the beginning of this meeting.’
He also thanked the officials and technical partners for their ‘hard’ work and deliberations during the three-day summit as well as his fellow heads of delegations for their commitment in supporting and working towards the SDG14 targets.