By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor
19 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - The President of Kiribati, Anote Tong has urged Parties at the Rio+20 conference currently underway in the Brazilian city to show leadership on the management of the high seas, also known as areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ).
In addition, the Kiribati leader appealed to Parties to agree to negotiate an implementation agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to address the effective management of the high seas.
Key issues to be addressed in the implementation agreement include the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), access to marine genetic resources and environmental impact assessments.
President Tong said the world was watching to see if the Rio+20 Outcomes document will reflect the Pacific’s concern and interests in managing areas beyond the region’s exclusive economic zone.
“The high seas represent more than 60 percent of the planet’s surface and are under threat. We as stewards of the Pacific Islands and ocean region, our interests transcend the limits of EEZs. We look to the global community to support effective management of high seas."
According to the draft text, now provisionally approved, all Parties recognise the importance of the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction. Parties commit to urgently address the issue of conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity through the development of an international instrument under UNCLOS.
The ‘Future We Want’ draft text was endorsed by Parties Tuesday, awaiting the final approval by Heads of States, who are now in Rio de Janeiro for the High Level Segment.
President Tong used the analogy of journey in a canoe to describe the regional initiative of Pacific Oceanscape.
“It is a journey whose time has come to ensure our ocean recovers and survives so that in turn we may do so, because our future is intrinsically linked to the health of our ocean."
“The Rio process might also be described as akin to a voyage - one that for twenty years has taken many of us all over the world, one that has weathered both fair and hard winds of change, and a voyage which traverses all oceans and called at all lands on our planet.
Looking back 20 years ago, President Tong said there are a lot to be proud of but there is much more to be learnt, to take stock of to guide us in our way forward.
“This coming week at Rio is an opportunity to adjust our course and re-equip this voyage for the planet’s survival. Kiribati and my fellow Pacific Island states are here to do just that."
“Voyaging is a common heritage to Pacific Island peoples and can only be done with careful planning and understanding of the ocean, to ensure the right timing , to know and wait for the right winds, and to take advantage of the right currents to ensure we got to our destination."
“In preparing our ‘te wa’ we built the right canoe for the journey and selected carefully the supplies, tools and expertise needed and this is exactly how my government has approached designing the Pacific Oceanscape and in ensuring the support and ownership of this initiative from within the region."
The concept of a Pacific Oceanscape was first raised at the 40th Pacific Islands Forum in 2009. There, Pacific Leaders unanimously supported the idea based on integrated ocean management. Regional organisations, NGOs and experts worked helped develop a full framework for the Pacific Oceanscape.
“We drew expertise from across our region, peoples and cultures. We also engaged expertise and knowledge from the wider international community. We built this canoe from the foundations of our Pacific Plan, Ocean Policies and our national and regional institutions", said President Tong.
The six priority areas for the regional oceans initiative includes ocean governance, jurisdictional rights and responsibilities, integrated ocean management (including marine protected areas and high seas issues), responding to climate and environmental change, sustaining action and financing.
Kiribati has made its first commitment to the Pacific Oceanscape – declaring Phoenix Islands a marine protected known as Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPPA).
“We have learnt much in the voyage to design and establish our PIPA and we are proud to share this and to commit this site as a foundation site for the Pacific Oceanscape. We hope to expand our effort to join with the United States Phoenix Islands to foster a whole-of-archipelago approach for island and ocean conservation.
“We call this an Ocean Arc initiative and this forms a new basis for effective collaboration for protected area management at scale, said the Kiribati leader.
The ocean, President Tong said is ‘our neighbour and this neighbourhood is shared with our states and the high seas.
“We need the support of the global community to sustainably manage our common neighbourhood. We welcome the recent signals of support such as the World Bank’s Global Programme on Oceans.
"In our region ‘the ocean unites and divides, connects and separates, sustains and threatens our very survival and influences every aspect of life.
“At Rio+20 we are seeing many issues that still “unite and divide us’, ‘connect and separate us’ but I would urge you all that on the issues of the oceans and indeed more widely for the future we want - we must unite , we must connect, we must voyage together, said President Tong.