Townsville, AUSTRALIA – Fourteen Pacific Island countries reaffirmed their commitment to better managing their environments through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – funded Pacific Ridge to Reef (R2R) Programme, at the Third Regional Steering Committee in Townsville, Australia last week.
The Pacific Ridge to Reef Programme is a GEF multi-focal, multi-agency and multi-country initiative that guides the coordinated investment of GEF grant funding across its focal areas of biodiversity conservation, land degradation, climate change adaptation and mitigation, sustainable land management, sustainable forest management, and international waters in Pacific Small Island Developing States.
Over 60 national governments, project staff, and development partners convened for the week to discuss programme progress and outcomes from the Regional Science and Technical Committees, and the Regional Programme Coordination Group. Also in attendance where representatives from GEF Implementing Agencies including the United Nations Development Program, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations Environment.
A big ticket item at the Pacific R2R 3rd Regional Steering Committee meeting included the endorsement of the work plan and the budget for the next 12 months prompting lively discussions.
Meeting Chair and Chief Executive Officer for Tonga’s Ministry of Lands, Survey and Natural Resources Rosamond Bing said the meeting has had robust discussions on priorities for implementation, among them harmonized results reporting and enhancing platforms for communications and knowledge management.
“We looked at our communications strategy and a proposal for having a regional R2R website and for for participant countries to also be part of that communications strategy. We have identified challenges, and I think most importantly the committee has been able to reach an agreement on resolutions on how to move forward. There was a very strong appeal for SPC to conduct country visits, and of course they have committed in doing that as well.”
Key meeting highlights included the value of South-South learning and exchange visits between countries; and an increased demand for on-the-ground technical support for participating countries to encourage national level coordination and implementation.
To improve national capacity in implementing the R2R approach, countries requested that the current partnership between the programme and James Cook University to deliver a post graduate course be open to more participating country staff.
Deputy Director Disaster and Community Resilience Programme (DCRP), Rhonda Robinson said: “SPC is proud to partner with 14 Pacific SIDS to support their national priorities and development needs while delivering global environmental benefits by focusing on cross-cutting approaches to water, land and coastal management. We are pleased with the outcomes of the meeting, which provides the development partners, including SPC, with the necessary feedback we need to improve programme coordination and delivery for the sustainable development for our member countries,” said Robinson.
Pacific R2R aims to guide coordinated investment of the US$91 million package of GEF grants, and USD 333 million of co-financing from the participating countries and other development partners.
The programme also guides the mainstreaming of gender and culture issues, and the effective engagement of young people, in environmental and natural resource management. Pacific R2R is supported in areas of science-based planning, human capital development, policy and strategic planning, results-based management, and knowledge sharing through a regional GEF International Waters project, which is executed regionally by the Pacific Community.
Pacific R2R has a Programme Coordinating Unit (PCU), hosted by the Pacific Community’s Geoscience Division in the Fiji Islands. This unit is tasked with the provision of technical, operational, reporting and monitoring support as requested by the participating Pacific Island Countries which include: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia , Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshal Islands , Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The 4th Pacific R2R Regional Steering Committee meeting will be held in Nadi next year.