We must admit, after over a year of planning for the 10th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas that was scheduled to take place in New Caledonia from April 19 to 24 2020, the pandemic Covid-19 hit home on so many fronts. We weren’t sure of what was to happen to our Pacific people and communities with this virus, and we knew we’d have to regroup and recalibrate our conference, moulding over a year of planning into something new to make sure our conference happens. Every five or so years, everyone that works on saving our Pacific biodiversity unites to review work done over the last five years, and plan work ahead in the coming five years for nature conservation – also known as our Framework for Nature Conservation and Protected Areas. The last conference in Fiji in 2013 saw over 800 people register and participate. For us, our Pacific biodiversity – all living things – is crucial for our survival. Our biodiversity helps bring us a livelihood. It is the foundation of our culture and our traditions. Our biodiversity is responsible for bringing us fresh water, protecting us from the elements and feeding us.
With unsustainable development comes many threats to our biodiversity, which in turn threatens our Pacific way of life. Working together in partnership to protect our biodiversity is one thing this conference lays the foundation for. Once we gained some certainty and became used to the changes brought about by Covid-19 we were more confident in forging ahead, with our partners at our side. We’re proud to say that the 10th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas is now to be held virtually from Nov. 24 to 27, 2020. We anticipate that this is going to be the largest virtual event for our Pacific islands’ region, all of which is made possible through partnerships. Never underestimate the power of successful partnerships in helping to “get things done.” We have an effective Pacific partnerships story, one that is over 20 years old – it’s the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation (PIRT), a membership-based network of NGOs and regional agencies that is committed to support governments and civil society in Pacific island countries and territories in their efforts to sustainably manage and conserve the regions biodiversity.
The PIRT have coordinated their work in our Pacific, to bring about some real successful outcomes. This partnership also helps implement our Pacific Nature Conservation and Protected Areas Framework. PIRT is a myriad of partnerships working together to empower our Pacific people to protect our biodiversity. These partnerships are also at the core of bringing you a virtual conference, trying new and innovative technology, to ensure we achieve real goals to protect and conserve our Pacific biodiversity. We acknowledge the government of New Caledonia for their role in our partnership who has also shown tremendous support and commitment towards making this event a success, in light of the challenges brought about by Covid-19 in the past months. The virtual conference is more than a series of webinars, but uses an event platform to deliver an event that has sessions, but also ensures maximum engagement of participants throughout the event through networking lounges, exhibition booths, and ability to real-time chat and meet with speakers and other participants.
We know that in striving to deliver something that showcases the current rapidly developing technology we will face challenges, but we are confident that the strong partnerships we have in place and their support and ownership for this event, will ensure an event that is state-of-the-art and from which we can all learn much throughout the journey toward the conference. On that note, I’d like to thank all partners that have come together with enthusiasm and passion, for the "greater good" - a Pacific biodiversity that is strong, building the resilience of our Pacific islands people and communities. The 10th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas demonstrates what we can achieve when we work as one. (SPREP)
Kosi Latu iis the director-general of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program.