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SUVA – MAY 31, 2022 :6.09pm (SPREP) : The very first Pacific dialogue forum on traditional knowledge for biodiversity and Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) opened Monday in Suva, Fiji.

The Pacific islands region is of critical importance for global biodiversity conservation and cultural heritage values. The focus of the meeting is to have an open dialogue to share experiences and challenges and explore opportunities to address biodiversity conservation goals in the Pacific in the context of linkages to traditional knowledge.

The value of traditional knowledge when it comes to Pacific biodiversity and recognising its role in achieving the SDGs and implementing the new 2030 Global Biodiversity Framework were acknowledged during the opening of the Dialogue on Traditional Knowledge for Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Pacific.

This includes safeguarding traditional knowledge associated with genetic resources – one of the crucial topics on the table discussed by over 100 participants during the hybrid event. “Through resilience, communities have learned to live within the constraints of present issues such as the current pandemic COVID-19 and environmental issues that contribute to biodiversity loss but that did not dampen the spirit of people in our communities, instead some have turned to traditional knowledge to survive,” said Paula Tuione, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of I-Taukei Affairs of Fiji

“It has been realised that traditional knowledge is integral to biodiversity conservation. It is a known fact that one of the main reasons for the loss and endangerment of our biodiversity is the loss of traditional knowledge. It is this type of knowledge about our environment that we need and have sought to preserve and revitalise.”

Fiji is one of 10 Pacific Islands to have ratified the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their utilisation of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) that came into force in 2014. It joins the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu in laying the groundwork to action this Protocol at the national level.

 

 

The Pacific region has extensive traditional and local ecological knowledge in marine, reef, and coastal areas. Pacific peoples have stewarded many customary-use areas for centuries, however, the region faces issues of misappropriation of knowledge, intellectual property rights, unfair distribution of benefits, biopiracy, and the lack of protection of traditional knowledge.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen, the question before us is simple: How can traditional knowledge related to biodiversity contribute to sustainable development? We have excellent examples working with communities in the Pacific, and traditional knowledge holders will share practical and hands-on experience about managing their natural resources.

 

With well-planned community-based management of natural resources, conservation targets are achieved, but livelihoods are also created,” said Sefanaia Nawadra, who spoke both as the Director-General of SPREP, and as outgoing Head of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Sub-regional Office for the Pacific. “We must ensure that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2  Zero Hunger, Goal 14: Life Below Water, and SDG 15 on Life on Land remain our priority. Based on the objectives of the CBD and the Nagoya Protocol, SPREP is here to provide institutional support and coordination in the region to bring greater transparency and accountability in the process of access and benefit-sharing.”

 

From 30 May to 1 June, the Dialogue will feature five sessions that will be led by panels on key themes before breaking into groups to discuss a range of topics including how traditional knowledge can be protected by countries, and how best to build partnerships and trust in the context of traditional knowledge, biodiversity and conversation.

 

The special opening session featured Paula Tuione, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of I-Taukei Affairs of Fiji, Cameron Driver, Deputy Director-General of the Pacific Community with a speech via Zoom, Andreas Gettkant, Manager of the ABS Capacity Development Initiative through a video recording and Elizabeth Maruma Mrema the Executive Secretary of the CBD who joined the Forum live, via zoom to present her statement.

 

“Globally, biodiversity is declining at an unprecedented rate, affecting nearly half of the human population that is directly dependent upon its natural resources for its livelihood. To rebuild our relationship with nature we need to take urgent action to protect biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides us,” presented Mrema in her statement.

 

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) expressed its appreciation to Mrema for making time to meet with the participants at the opening of the event. Parties to the CBD have been negotiating the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework over the past two years, with a fourth session of the Open-Ended Working Group to be held on 21 – 26 June in Nairobi, Kenya to continue their negotiations.

 

Mrema encouraged the Pacific Islands to take outcomes from the Dialogue on Traditional Knowledge for Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Goals to the negotiations in June – “I look forward to our continued partnership as we work together to strengthen action on the links between biodiversity, traditional knowledge and sustainable development goals.”

 

The Forum complements work executed by SPREP through the “Ratification and Implementation of the Nagoya Protocol in the countries of the Pacific Region” project. Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the UN Environment Programme, this project supports Pacific Islands to ratify the Nagoya Protocol. It also helps put into place the measures needed to make the Nagoya Protocol work across the Pacific Islands region.

 

The Pacific ABS Project spans the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

 

The Dialogue on Traditional Knowledge for Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Pacific is held from 30 May to 01 June 2022 at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva, Fiji. It is executed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme

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Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) refers to the way genetic resources may be accessed and how the benefits that result from their use are shared across the people or countries that use, and provide, the resources. Genetic resources are all living organisms such as plants, animals, and microbes, that carry genetic material that could be useful to humans.

 

Editor’s Note:

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