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Pacific leaders: indigenous knowledge must be part of policy development for plastic waste solution

By Pacific Island Times News Staff

Scientists and policymakers must include indigenous knowledge and practices in developing solutions to the plastic garbage problem in the Pacific islands region, Pacific leaders said.

The adoption of traditional practices was among the recommendations made

by Pacific leaders and high-level representatives during the Environmental Ministers’ High-Level Talanoa, which took place last week at the conclusion of the 30th Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme’s (SPREP) meeting of officials.

In the Pacific Regional Declaration on the Prevention of Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution and its Impacts, the Pacific leaders emphasized the need for accessible information and scientific research to come up with evidence-based and coherent policy.

The declaration stressed the importance of incorporating indigenous and traditional knowledge systems, practices and innovations as appropriate, together with their free prior and informed consent, that have evolved through generations into nature-based solutions for the sustainable conservation of ecosystems as an integral part of the solution to the plastic pollution crisis.

“We, representatives of the people of the Pacific region and stewards of the world’s largest ocean, meeting at the environment ministers’ High-Level Talanoa on Sept. 10 are deeply concerned about the impacts of plastics and microplastics pollution on our region and that the current patchwork of international legal instruments is not sufficient to prevent the acceleration of these impacts,” the declaration says.

The leaders expressed their grave concern about the environmental, social, cultural, economic, human health and food security impacts of plastic pollution at each stage of its life cycle on the enjoyment of certain human rights for current and future generations.

Their concerns also extend to migratory marine species such as seabirds, marine turtles and whales as they are especially vulnerable to the impacts of marine plastics through entanglement and ingestion of plastic and reaffirming these species as important cultural icons for Pacific peoples.

“Marine litter and plastic pollution impacts continue to be of grave concern to the Blue Pacific,” said Faipule Kelihiano Kalolo, chair of the Environment Ministers’ High-Level Talanoa.

“Notwithstanding that Pacific island countries contribute as little as 1.3 percent of global plastic pollution, we are grossly and disproportionately affected by its impacts.”

“The Pacific island region continues its leadership on this issue at home and abroad and call for a new binding global agreement on the prevention and reduction of new plastics and management of plastic pollution already in our environment,” he added.

The leaders and high-level representatives declared that they strongly support and urge all United Nations member states at the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly to support the establishment of an intergovernmental negotiating committee to negotiate a new binding global agreement covering the whole life cycle of plastics.


They also called for a new binding global agreement on the prevention and reduction of new marine litter and plastic pollution, as well as for future discussions on this agreement to consider the need for financial and technical support mechanisms to adapt international science and best practice to the challenges specific to the Pacific region.

The international community was also called upon to take urgent and immediate action to help the Pacific protect its region and peoples from further marine litter and plastic pollution impacts that threaten their marine ecosystems, marine species, food security and health.

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