Friday 15 June 2012

Rio+20 side event: Women's Resistance and Resilience

By Ms. Kathleen Leewai, SPREP

 15 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro -- The Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG) was featured at a Women Rio+20 side event this morning.
Maureen Penjueli (middle) from PANG, presenting on a panel

Represented at the event by their coordinator, Ms. Maureen Penjueli, PANG’s message to the conference is that there is a need to change mindsets about the root causes of our crisis.

“There needs to be a recognition in Rio that the crisis we’re faced with is linked to the current model of development which is about endless, unlimited growth,” said Ms. Penjueli.

“A second key message is the need for political will and commitment to ensure that we set the world on a path that is going to lead us to sustainability.”

Speaking about how the conference could affect local communities in the Pacific, Penjueli said that it would depend on if the root causes of unsustainable development and that the way forward is a discussion of alternative forms of economies.

“The models we are looking at are around bridging the subsistence economy with the cash economy, and we are finding very strong examples in Vanuatu and also in Papua New Guinea where there are lots of women still engaged with traditional farming.”

She says that these have shown that small scale subsistence livelihood projects are important as they have shown improvement in quality of life for women in the Pacific.

PANG is a small regional NGO based in Suva, Fiji, that works specifically on critiquing current development models and dealing with trade agreements such as the World Trade Organisation agreements, economic partnership agreements, and the Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations (PACER Plus) and to what environmental impacts these agreements pose to island economies.

Organised by the Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) of the Women’s Major Group to Rio+20, the side event showcased presentations from 7 countries; Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Cambodia, Fiji, the Niger Delta, Sudan, and Guatemala.

Youth empowering youth

Story by Miss Brianna Fruean, 14 years, Samoa

15 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro – At Rio+20 there has been a lot of talk of green economy and the youth's role in today’s world. Young people have been encouraged to take up opportunities in green jobs because they are both the answer to a sustainable earth and future.

Mr John Wali talking about Junior Achievement Africa
A young man that is here in Rio+20 has been running a program that helps in two key areas, empowering youth and green jobs.

Mr. John Wali from Kenya runs a program called Junior Achievement which empowers youth to take up green jobs. It has three key focus areas; work readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy.

The program has thousands of young people participating.

They recently ran an invention competition in Kenya where environment clean and friendly original inventions can be submitted for which the winners were two boys from Kenya who were awarded for their Iron Box submission.

Mr John Wali with Ms. Brianna Fruean
The iron box is an Eco friendly portable iron for kids to iron their uniform on the go. They used all three skills provided by Junior Achievement with their project. They put their time in their inventions showing work readiness and went out to schools and sold their invention showing entrepreneurship and their invention is now a business showing they used financial literacy. Their invention is now successful and the iron box is selling like hot cakes in Kenya. It's opportunities like these that Junior Achievement provides.

Green jobs are recommended to youth and with smart initiatives like Junior Achievement young people will not have a problem with getting one.

For more information about Junior Achievement Africa.

Adapting to climate change through the ecosystem based approach

Story by Mr. Evan Wasuka, One Television, Solomon Islands

Panel discusion on ecosystem based adaptation at Rio+20 side event

15 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - The effectiveness of an ecosystem based adaptation approach to deal with the impacts of climate change was highlighted by conservation groups at a Rio+20 side event in Brazil.

In the Pacific, Ecosystems Based Adaptation or EBA's include the use of plants such as mangroves to deal with coastal erosion, in place of or alongside engineering structures, such as sea walls.

Mr. Sefanaia Nawadra of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, SPREP, says EBA's offer a valuable and cost effective means of dealing with the impacts of climate change.

"It’s something that needs to be considered instead of taking the hard engineering option only. In the long run it might be the cheaper and beneficial option."

One of the cases highlighted at the side event is a Fiji based initiative between the United Nations Environmental Programme, SPREP and the United Nations for Habitat.

The project looked at the best options for adaptation for the community in dealing with flooding, coastal erosion and impacts of climate change.

The project looked at how the surrounding ecosystem was being utilised by the community for food, fuel, and materials for shelter.

Dr Jacqueline Alder of the UNEP, says the preliminary findings from the Lami project clearly showed the benefits that the local community would gain from EBAs.

"We came up with values for what services the ecosystems were providing, such as the use of the mangroves for fishing, charcoal and timber."

The project put the contributions of the ecosystem into dollar figures and its affordability by the community.

The value of the services provided by the ecosystem was worth over US$100,000 per household but their income was between USD 10,000 –15,000 a year.

"If you remove the ecosystems, such as the mangroves the communities cannot afford to replace it. They don't have income to buy their charcoal for fuel or fish for food."

Alder says EBA's offer a valuable adaptation option but each situation is unique and there is no one size fits all solution.

Nawadra says EBA's should be considered in areas away from the city where a softer approach is justified, rather than a major engineering work.

Green jobs for youth

Story by Ms. Brianna Fruean, 14 years, Samoa

“Young people are the most important resources a country has.” - Executive Director of UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin

The voice of youth at the Rio+20

15 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - Our youth will be affected by decisions made today at Rio+20. We must invest in Youth, in their education, health and development for future sustainable living.

Young people make up half of the World’s population with the majority of young people aged between 15 -24 are unemployed and looking for jobs.

Countries must engage their youth in programs to try and reduce poverty.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has established a tool kit for young people to use to obtain green jobs. A green job is a modified job based around issues and solutions having to do with the environment.

The green job toolkit can help young people, providing the opportunity to improve and achieve higher paying employment and positions.

“Young people are the most important resources a country has," said the Executive director of UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin during a special presentation at a Rio+20 UN Conference for Sustainable Development side event, “Green Jobs for Youth”.

“In today’s world, people are focusing on green economy. There will be no jobs or an economy without capital resources that the earth provides. This is why today’s generation are advancing to jobs based around an earth that is sustainable. Green Economy goes hand-in-hand with green jobs.”

Week one nearly over, 15 June 2012

L-R SPREP's Sefanaia Nawadra, Ms. Brianna Fruean, Ms. Kathleen Leewai in front of the SIDS exhibition

From Fiji to Papua New Guinea to Samoa then on to Rio! Ms. Kathleen Leewai, the Publications and Communications Intern at SPREP is attending her first international environment conference - the Rio+20, this has been made possible with support from PACMAS, SPREP and Conservation International Pacific Island Program. Born and raised in Fiji, Kathleen has lived in Papua New Guinea, Australia and now in Samoa at SPREP where she works as the Publications and Communications Intern. This is Kathleens first time outside of the Pacfic region, read about her experiences!

"Day 5 in Rio is now my second day inside the main conference venue. The sheer size of the conference and the issues being discussed is quite overwhelming, but it means that I get to learn a lot.

The conference venues are packed with people from all over the world and it’s very rare to see other Pacific Islanders because there are so few of us compared to some of the larger country delegations.

However, it’s always nice to see a friendly island smile from across the room as we all seem to have a knack for finding each other in a crowd. I suppose wearing bright floral prints helps! We’re a beacon of fresh colour in rooms full of blues, blacks, and grays.

I haven’t managed to conquer the language barrier yet, and it continues to be a massive undertaking trying to communicate with people. Nonetheless, I’ve make do with the few words of Portuguese I’ve picked up and may perhaps try to learn the language fully once I get back to Samoa.

There is one major event that I’m really looking forward to this week, and that is The Oceans Day at Rio+20, which will be held tomorrow. It is a whole day event that will be run at the Rio Conventions Pavilion in Athletes Park and it celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Global Ocean Forum.

Having oceans issues on the agenda at Rio+20 is vital to the Pacific because of the importance of oceans to, not only our economies, but our very livelihoods.

One of the other great learning experiences this week has been working alongside two seasoned reporters who are part of the Pacific media team here in Rio. Watching how they work and listening to the way they conduct their interviews has given me better insight on how to develop as a writer in the context of Pacific environment issues.

It’s been an action packed week and, as we head into the weekend, the week ahead looks to be even more of an experience than the last."

Scene @ Rio+20 with the Ri+20 Pacific Media Team

15 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - The Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development is an historic event marking the 20th anniversary of the 1992 Earth Summit which led to three vital UN conventions; the Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), the Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), and the Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

With over 50,000 participants expected to attend, the conference venues have been bustling with activity, especially around exhibits and side events. Here are some scenes from Rio+20.

Brianna Fruean with a Amanda Martin from Brazil during the arts activity at the Youth Blast Rio+20

One of the art messages from the Youth Blast Rio+20 featured at the entrance of the Conference venue

Delegates making their way to the RioCentro Conference building

The gateway to the conference where passes are scanned before allowing entrance

Isl delegates in front of the entrance

An exhbition showcasing SIDS prominently featured in the Conference venue
Sign board above one of the entrances announcing events, meetings, times and venues

The welcoming committee at Athletes Park, across from the RioCentro Conference Venue

A pavilion at Athletes Park made from crates

One of the many pavilions at Athletes Park 

WWF South Pacific Programme at Rio+20

By Ms. Kathleen Leewai, SPREP

Alfred Ralifo, WWF, South Pacific Programme interviewed by SPREP's Kathleen Leewai
14 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - A policy officer for the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) South Pacific Programme is travelling with the Fiji delegation to Brazil for the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Mr. Alfred Ralifo is providing support to the delegation during the negotiations to strengthen Fiji’s policy positions.

“The good thing about this is that most of our positions are based on experiences from the WWF Office in Suva, in terms of our field work, so the advice is relevant and complements the Fiji government’s position,” says Ralifo.

“Mostly we’re working on motions for the zero draft to try to make it more applicable for Fiji’s position, as well as the positions for other small island developing states.”

In line with the message from other Pacific nations, Fiji is bringing the issue of oceans to the table, and Ralifo is advocating the ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change approach as a tool for sustainable development and management of marine resources in the Pacific region.

Oceans, and oceans management, is a vital issue for the Pacific Island nations attending Rio+20 due to the role oceans play in the economy.

Commenting on this, the Director of the Environmental Monitoring and Governance Division at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Mr. Sefanaia Nawadra said, “We are small island countries, or sometimes we refer to ourselves as large ocean states, with our main resource or asset being the ocean and the economies that we can derive from it.”

To this end, Pacific countries are advocating stronger recognition of oceans issues at the Conference, with the hope that this will be reflected in the outcomes document.

Weapon contamination at Rio+20 has links to the Pacific

By Ms. Brianna Fruean, 14 years, Samoa

15 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - The different ways that war affects people is shared at the Rio+20 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), one in particular is that of weapon contamination. The ICRC has a display showing they different ways lives have been impacted by war.

The Pacific can relate to this as there are islands that are affected by weapon contamination. These island states including Papua New Guinea, Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Marshall Islands, all of whom are still suffering from the abandoned weapons from World War II left on their lands and in their oceans over 60 years ago.

World War II left behind unexploded ammunition such as grenades, bullet shells, bombs and rockets. Even bigger weapons are still there like the sunken ship USS Mississnewal in Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The US Navy, US Coast Guards and the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) helped pump out all the oil of this vessel that was spilling and polluting the ocean.

However there are still many more sunken WWII wrecks in the pacific especially in Chuuk Lagoon in FSM and Iron Bottom Sound in the Solomon Islands. It is more than 70 years since WWII and there is real risk of leaking from these ships.

Weapon contamination can destroy wild life and degrade soil. They are also dangerous in the if children are exposed to unexploded ammunition that can maim or kill them.

These problems were raised at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 they were addressed in Agenda 21, Principle 24 - “protect the environment even in times of armed conflict”.

20 years on at the anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit, the world will discover if this principle has been followed through.

Greenpeace backs Pacific islands over Oceans support

By Evan Wasuka, One Television, Solomon Islands

14 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - Environmental group Greenpeace says Pacific Island countries must hold out against pressure from the United States and other industrial countries to push for oceans to be included in the outcomes document at the Rio+ 20 Conference in Brazil.

As negotiations on the draft document, which will presented to world leaders next week, heads towards closure Greenpeace says this week’s UN meeting is critical in saving the world’s oceans.

Greenpeace backs Pacific Islands over oceans support from Wasuka Media on Vimeo.

Pacific NGO's step up Oceans campaign at Rio+20

By Ms. Makereta Komai, Editor, PACNEWS

Maureen Penjueli, PANG
14 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - A Fiji based regional non-governmental organisation has used the global platform at the Rio+20 conference to call for urgent action on the sustainable management of ocean resources.

Speaking at the Major Groups press briefing here in Rio de Janeiro, Maureen Penjueli, co-ordinator of the Pacific Network on Globalization (PANG) said the ocean is part of the identity and culture of every Pacific Islander.”

“We are extremely concerned with how slow negotiations have progressed with many parts of the text still bracketed.

“We urge officials to approach negotiations with a sense of urgency given the complexities of threats faced by our oceans including impact of climate change, overfishing, pollution, ocean acidification and emerging new threats from experimental seabed mining. The impacts of which include threatens our food sovereignty, livelihoods which disproportionately affect women and children in the Pacific," said Penjueli.

She urged negotiators to address structural changes needed for implementation.

“To that end we support government’s efforts to push for the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to be given more power to respond to the complexities and challengers faced with the management of our Oceans. We owe it to the next generation to leave behind a healthier ocean.

“We are in a state of interconnected crises - financial and economic crises, food and energy crises, the ecological crises including the climate change crises and the resultant impact of growing inequality within and between states which continues to disproportionately affect women and children. It is clear that root cause of the crises is clearly linked to an endless growth model.

Penjueli said there needs to be a clear acknowledgement in Rio of the root causes of the crises.

"Unfortunately there seems to be no political will to confront the endless growth model. The business as usual model is no longer an option if we are to avert imminent disaster.”

Partners with Melanesians Inc. featured at Rio+20

Story by Ms. Kathleen Leewai

Mr. Rufus Mahuru, Project Manager for Partners with Melanesians
14 June 2012 – The voice of Partners with Melanesians Inc. was heard at Rio+20 in an event organised by the United Nations Environment Programme. 

Papua New Guinea was the only Pacific Island nation represented at the “Driving innovation towards a green economy: Lessons learned and recommendations from the field in Asia and the Pacific” event alongside South-East Asian countries Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Singapore.

Mr. Rufus Mahuru is the Project Manager for Partners with Melanesians, a local national NGO that focuses on conservation and community development.

“We work with local communities to facilitate conservation efforts and sustainable community development,” said Mr. Mahuru.

“In this way we encourage more effort in protecting their natural rainforest and discourage communities from going into large-scale logging, mining, palm oil, etc, which is detrimental to the environment.”

Partners with Melanesians are currently working on four projects in various areas of conservation and community development, the Ona Keto Community Project was the feature of his presentation at the Rio+20.

The Ona Keto Community Reforestation and Sustainable Livelihood Alternatives Project is coordinated with two tribes (Ona and Keto) in the Daulo District, Eastern Highlands Province in Papua New Guinea and aims to rejuvenate the forest and inform community members of ways to live off the forest sustainably.

“Much of the work that we do begins with requests from the local communities who ask for our help to get things going when it comes to conservation work. At the inception of our projects there was 70 – 80% involvement from the local communities that drive the initiatives, now it’s 100%.”

Since is inception in 2003, the project has seen greater community mobilisation and engagement with conservation efforts, a return of previously lost flora and fauna, engagement with schools, as well as the recognition of the Global Energy International Award
The other three projects consist of the Managalas Plateau Conservation Area in the Oro Province; Mt Karimui in the Simbu Province; and the Inaina Wildlife Management Area in the Central Province.

The event was held at the UNEP Pavilion at Athletes Park and was a showcase for the Asia-Pacific Forum for Environment and Development (APFED) featuring success stories from five project countries.

Rio+20 for everyone

Story by Ms. Brianna Fruean, 14 years, Samoa

L - R Humberto Fernandes, Brianna Fruean

14 June 202, Rio de Janeiro - Accessibility is a key concern for the United Nations at the Rio+20 in Brazil this week.

For the first time, the conference proceedings will not only be translated into the official UN languages, but they will also be translated into sign language and closed captions for Deaf people.

Close captions are the audio sound that happens but is not said, for example music. People who cannot hear the music will be notified of it with a message in brackets; (music playing). The audio is transformed into text by a trained accessibility member in a booth at the back of the conference room.

This member uses a program to talk into a computer and the program turns what he or she is saying into audio. The accessibility members train all week getting the computer to use to their voices.

Humberto Fernandes from Brazil is one of a team of 28 people working on accessibility that carries out this work at Rio+20.

“I repeat simultaneously what is being said at the conference so a software program can create subtitles through my voice.”

As well as repeating what is being said, Humberto also announces what people are doing for example; “the Prime Minister has raised his hand”, for people who are blind.

“I love doing this work, I love helping people”

The Rio+20 is the first UN Conference to start this program with plans for it to be continued at other UN meetings.

Vibrant village at Athletes Park, 14 June, 2012

One of the many amazing sights at Athletes Park
From Fiji to Papua New Guinea to Samoa then on to Rio! Ms. Kathleen Leewai, the Publications and Communications Intern at SPREP is attending her first international environment conference - the Rio+20, this has been made possible with support from PACMAS, SPREP and Conservation International Pacific Island Program. Born and raised in Fiji, Kathleen has lived in Papua New Guinea, Australia and now in Samoa at SPREP where she works as the Publications and Communications Intern. This is Kathleens first time outside of the Pacfic region, read about her experiences!

"(Written on Day 3, 3 June) As day 3 in Rio rolled by, the battle for accreditation continued as some of our delegation managed to receive their credentials but we were told once again to come back the next day. Fortunately the day was salvaged and we kept our spirits up as we decided to use the day to check out the venue of some of the off-site Rio+20 side events and exhibits.

Athletes Park is the first venue built by the municipal government of Rio de Janeiro for the next Olympic Games which will be held here in Rio in 2016. It was finished in 2011 and will be used as an area for rest, leisure and relaxation by the athletes competing in the games.

During Rio+20, Athletes Park is housing exhibits from industries and countries, as well as pavilions set up by UN agencies and the main Brazilian pavilion for the conference.

An Island Hub exhibit has been organised by UNDESA, with support from the Government of Italy, at Athletes Park and will showcase Small Island Developing States (SIDS). One of the ways we are showcasing the Pacific at this global conference is by being a part of this exhibit, which we will be populating with publications and material from SPREP and regional partners.

Athletes Park is an exciting, vibrant venue with so many exhibits ranging from electric vehicles to the culture of the Amazon states, from the Island Hub to the socio-biodiversity market that is a part of the Brazilian pavilion. With so much on show I hope there’ll be time to see it all!

(Written on day 4, 14 June) I was lucky to have the chance to go back on our fourth day here as, after receiving our credentials and heading inside, we were invited to a side event at Athletes Park that featured an NGO from PNG and I got to go talk to him. There is still so much to see here, though, so I will look out for more opportunities to return to Athletes Park."