Conference calls for Pacific conservation action

The 10th Pacific Island Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas closed on Friday with a call for concrete action on nature conservation in the region. 

The conference was the biggest ever virtual collective event held in the Pacific this year. According to a statement issued by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P), the three-day conference ended with several substantive commitments made to improving conservation. 

Participants included some 13 Pacific island countries and territories, partner countries, and the heads of organisations of 12 members of the Pacific Islands Round Table for Nature Conservation (P.I.R.T.).

The participants endorsed the Vemööre Declaration, which sets out commitments to nature conservation actions across the Pacific 2020-2025.

The word “Vemööre” is a term in the Kwenyï language spoken by people from the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia, which refers to making something viable, and is used to highlight a collective commitment and responsibility.

Its etymology relates to preserving balance, building alliances, and respecting the word between people and between the spirits of our environment.

A statement released jointly by conference participants said: "Under the Vemööre Declaration, Pacific island countries and territories declared that the global biodiversity crisis is urgent and that transformative action must not be delayed, as the crisis is an existential threat to the Pacific.” 

The statement also notes with “grave concern” that none of the global 2011-2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets have been fully met.

“The Blue Pacific collectively calls for all countries to adopt a strong deal for nature and people, to reverse or halt the loss of natural ecosystems and put nature on a path to recovery by 2030,” the statement said. 

Mr Mason Smith, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Oceania (I.U.C.N.) Regional Director and outgoing Chair of the P.I.R.T welcomed Margaret West who took up the role of Chair of P.I.R.T at the closing of the conference.

Mr. Smith singled out his colleagues at S.P.R.E.P and P.I.R.T for trusting the International Union with the chairmanship of the P.I.R.T for the past three years.

“For me personally it was a very fulfilling and professionally rewarding time chairing the various sessions of our P.I.R.T. meetings,” Mr. Smith said.

“As we leave this afternoon, I wish to reassure you all that IUCN will continue to support not only P.I.R.T. but also the incoming Chair. 

“We will continue to be an active member of P.I.R.T., and I look forward to working closely with our new Chair and our teams throughout the Pacific.”

Ms. West stated that she was honoured to take up the role of Chair and to deliver a new framework for increasing nature conservation across the Pacific. 

“We will draw on our collective strengths to deliver the best science, traditional and indigenous knowledge, environmental expertise, communication, and innovation to inspire action for and into the Pacific,” she said.

The Director-General of S.P.R.E.P., Leota Kosi Latu, stated that the conference had successfully achieved the objectives it had set out to achieve.

“I would like to thank the Government of New Caledonia, and Members of the Pacific Island Roundtable for Nature Conservation,” Leota said.

“I would also like to thank the donors and sponsors without whom this conference would not have been possible. Last but not least, I would like to thank all the more than 1800 participants and 150 speakers who joined the conference.”

Leota said there were 21 action sessions held during the three days of the conference, featuring an array of speakers from around the world including Ministers, the First Lady of Palau, scientists, youth representatives, and more.

He said the conference had defined progress towards the achievement of a Pacific-based and initiated agenda for conservation beyond 2020.

“We hope that we have inspired and enhanced the capacity of speakers, hosts, and participants to utilise the latest technology and adapt in this virtual world, which is the new norm, and use this as a tool to build back better,” he said.

“I would also like to acknowledge the Government and people of New Caledonia, who before we had switched this event to a virtual one, have shown so much passion and so much commitment to making this all a reality.”


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