16 Oct 2013

New generation of ocean leadership being fostered

5:27 pm on 16 October 2013

The development of a new generation of leaders and managers of the Pacific ocean is in the spotlight this week in Suva.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat is hosting the fifth UN-Nippon Fellowship Alumni Meeting organised by the United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea office, or DOALOS.

This year, nine alumni representing six Pacific Island countries are attending training workshops at the meeting where the theme is 'Ocean Governance in the Pacific Islands Region'.

Johnny Blades has more:

Since 2009 the UN Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea has trained over 90 alumni from 58 states. The fellowship programme takes 10 people a year and brings them to New York for a three-month internment at the UN to work in the various global systems, build networks and institutional knowledge. A senior legal officer with the division, Francois Bailet says the Pacific faces the same big issues as other regions.

"FRANCOIS BAILET: We're dealing with global warming, we're dealing with sea-level rise, we're dealing with capacity within countries to manage oceans and ocean affairs. We're dealing with fisheries management, community involvement. Of course when you zoom into regions there are some very specific issues based on country and region and politics, which can get kind of complicated, as you can well imagine. But over all, I'd say we are really focusing now on what is the capacity needed to implement a lot of these global agreements that have been put in place."

Francois Bailet says those who have been through or are going through the programme include not only scientists but lawyers, fisheries managers or administrators, enforcement officers, political scientists, government ministers and even advisors to heads of state. Anama Solofa is the Pacific Regional Alumni Representative at this week's conference. She had a background working for the Samoa government in fisheries before undertaking further studies and taking up the fellowship.

ANAMA SOLOFA: In the fellowship programme, I branched more into ocean governance and policy from the more technical side of fisheries management. For me it's more about where my passion lies, and it's fisheries and oceans. Also to use the experience I've gained through the programme to better manage resources, marine resources.

A current Fellow from the Pacific is Tearinaki Tanielu, a geologist from Kiribati who is focussing on ocean-based mineral resources. He says the increasing interest in such resources in the Pacific underlines the need for better ocean management by Pacific island nations.

TEARINAKI TANIELU: I think there is a critical need to have capacity. At the moment there is, I would say, a gap in that capacity. That's where I see this programme, as one of these platforms that can help address those critical capacity gaps.

Tearinaki Tanielu says the UN-Nippon Fellowship's work is crucial in building the capacity that island nations need to have in place before governments decide on whether to exploit their marine resources.