Saturday, 23 June 2012

Q&A with Iosefa Maiava, the Head of the UN ESCAP Pacific Centre based in Suva, Fiji Islands

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor

Iosefa Maiava, Head UN ESCAP Pacific Centre

22 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - The UN ESCAP Pacific Centre was instrumental in assisting Pacific Island Countries prepare their positions in the lead up to the Rio+20 conference. It convened a PrepCom meeting in Apia, Samoa in July 2011 to assist Pacific countries formulate a regional negotiating position. After following the two weeks conference here in Rio de Janeiro, the Head of the Pacific Centre, Iosefa Maiava shares his thoughts on the final outcome document with PACNEWS Editor, Makereta Komai.

Maiava: I think the Pacific positions that were agreed to in the Pacific PrepCom meeting which was endorsed by the ESCAP Commission session in May have been fairly well reflected in the Outcomes document. For example, the reaffirmation of the special case for small island developing states (SIDS), the importance of oceans, green economy in a blue world, climate change in sustainable development andmeans of implementation like additional and new finances, transfer of appropriate technology as well as capacity building. In terms of those four key issues that the Pacific countries wanted to highlight, they have been reflected very well in the outcomes of the Rio+20 meeting.

I get a sense from Pacific Island delegates and regional organisations that they are fairly happy with the outcomes. Off course the document does not provide the specific ideas, tools and ways and means to implement this except in areas of finances, technology and capacity building. But the side events have been very useful in discussing specific ideas and tools for strengthening these things. For example in the case of oceans, the importance of scientific studies to deal with degradation of the oceans. There was a side event on things like marine protected areas, and there were those on things like debt swap which is an interesting tool for helping protect the oceans. There was also side event on the use of economic things like perverse subsidies and how to deal with it. That’s an area that the Pacific had highlighted in presenting their outcomes to the meeting. We may have to look at perverse subsidies as a way that we don’t over fish and over exploit because these subsidies under price and under value the fish.

Makereta Komai: Now that the draft declaration has been endorsed as the outcomes of Rio, what happens now, especially for the Pacific?

Maiava: We can go back to our regions and implement these outcomes in a way that is suitable. The Outcomes document is every clear on what role the regional commissions will play. I think it says that regional commissions will help compile national inputs into the establishment of sustainable development policies. The document is also very clear that green economy for sustainable development and poverty eradication is to be implemented in accordance with certain countries circumstances, which means that it’s now up to each country to decide on how it implements the outcomes from Rio.

Makereta Komai: What is the role of UN ESCAP and regional organisations in implementing the Rio outcomes?

Maiava: The regional commissions and regional CROP organisations have been given strong mandate to co-ordinate the implementation of sustainable development at the regional level. Given those strong mandates, there is a clear role for regional organisations and the UNESCAP regional commission. There are plans already with regional organisation on how to organise the process developing the sustainable development goals (SDGs). That is one of the major outcomes of Rio is the agreement to launch a process that will lead to the establishment of SDGs to merge with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Makereta Komai: What is the difference between SDGs and MDGs?

Maiava: The MDGs will continue up until 2015. There are already some discussions on the post2015 agenda and what it will look like. This outcomes document says the sustainable development goals will be considered launched in a way that is co-ordinated and coherent with the post 2015 development agenda. So I think the feeling right now is that the SDGs and MDGs will be merged into a post 2015 development agenda into what is going to be one set of global goals for sustainable development.

Makereta Komai: Are the goals between MDGs and the proposed SDGs the same?

Maiava: The SDGs are going to be different in the sense that the outcomes document refers to some new thematic areas like renewable energy, oceans and climate change. For Small Islands Developing States these kinds of issues are not clearly articulated in the MDGS because there are no targets. The other difference is the recognition of the need to balance the three pillars of sustainable development. It’s not very clear from the MDGs that there is clear balance between the use of economic instruments to bring about greater protection of the environment and to bring about greater social equity, which is what green economy is really about. From the outcome, there is a section on thematic and sectoral priorities. At the end of that is a section on sustainable development

Makereta Komai: What does that mean?

Maiava: All those thematic and sectoral identified in that section will make up these sustainable development goals. So the outcomes document already gives priority areas that will be covered in the SDGs, whatever goals that we end up with post 2015 will cover all those areas.

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