The US and Palau co-host the seventh Our Ocean Conference 2022. Photo courtesy of the US Secretary Of State Flickr
Our Ocean Conference 2022 kicked off the Easter weekend in Palau with representatives from around the globe who share a common goal to combat climate change.
Aupito William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples, and Associate Minister of Foreign Relations, was present at the event to strengthen New Zealand’s commitment towards the conservation and sustainable use the Pacific.
Sio stated, “I hope we can demonstrate Pacific leadership in ocean conservation but also reconnect with many Pacific partners after a long period Covid-19 disruption.”
“The Pacific is central to the lives, cultures and wellbeing of Aotearoa and our Pacific whānau.”
The conference in Palau focuses primarily on sustainable fisheries, creating blue economies that are sustainable, advancing marine protected zones, achieving a safe ocean and combating marine pollution.
It’s the seventh Our Ocean Conference, co-hosted jointly by The Republic of Palau (USA) It’s expected to be a major event that will encourage countries to take concrete actions to save the ocean.
The conference was hosted by an island state in the Pacific for the first time. This highlights the crucial role of local communities and indigenous peoples in tackling climate change.
Sio stated to the Herald that the Pacific narrative and indigenous viewpoints were the most important solutions that emerged.
“The Pacific world was united in the belief that the ocean is central and what connects us. I’ve used the term kaitiakitanga which all islands can understand.
Sio stated that it was important for people who aren’t from the Pacific to see the reality about rising ocean levels and recognize that Palau is in danger of being destroyed.
“People who’ve never been to this area of the globe before are seeing for their first time what it’s like living and breathing climate change.”
He said that 20% of the world’s nations emit 80 percent of global greenhouse gases.
“Those who can reduce carbon emissions in their countries had the opportunity to learn from the Pacific.
“Be more pro Pacific, align your narrative to what we’re doing. This is the narrative that I hope they leave behind.
“We demand greater ambition and commitment to protect the ocean. It will require strong voices from all Pacific Island countries. Our strengths are in standing together.
Participants at the six previous conferences have managed to protect at most five million square miles ocean.
More than 500 representatives represent foreign governments, intergovernmental organizations, academic research institutions, private sector, civil society organisations, and other international organisations.
A group of youth delegate also showed their leadership and youth-led initiatives in ocean action.
It is the indigenous belief that the ocean is deeply rooted within the cultures, identities and histories of oceania people. To ensure the ocean’s protection, each generation must nurture a connection with it.
As the first Pacific country and the first small island developing state (SIDS) to host this Conference, Palau will seek to highlight the realities of islands in the face of the ocean-climate crisis – particularly for the Pacific region.
The threat to the Pacific ocean directly impacts ocean ecosystems and threatens people’s livelihoods in Palau and other small island developing countries, especially where the ocean is a primary food source.
“This year’s theme — Our Ocean, Our People, Our Prosperity – draws on Palau’s history as an ocean society and focuses on the approach to Pacific issues of Pacific peoples.”
“The ocean as a pathway for our enduring connection with the Pacific is central to Tātai Hono, the recognition of deep and enduring whakapapa connections.”
Yesterday, Sio announced a partnership of $5 million between Aotearoa New Zealand (FFA) and the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency.
It is expected to increase employment and economic benefit from the Pacific’s offshore fishing industry. This is the third phase in a successful partnership with the FFA, which has resulted in improved economic outcomes for the Pacific region for sustainable tuna fisheries use.
Sio stated, “The FFA is an essential part the Pacific, building regional solidarity as well as supporting economic resilience through sustainable management of the shared tuna fishing stocks.”
It also welcomed the new component to increase the participation of women in this sector.