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‘We are the Pacific Ocean’ says Tonga’s PM in Palau

To address the multifaced nature of ocean challenges encountered by island communities, “we need the support of the region and the world,” says Tonga’s PM

Tonga’s Prime Minister has told the Our Ocean Conference in Palau that island communities encounter several multifaceted ocean challenges.

Hu’akavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni told 500 delegates from more than 80 nations “that we are small island communities with small economies and capacities and managing our ocean alone.”

The prime minister quoted renowned Pacific academic and ocean champion, the late Epeli Hauʻofa:

‘Oceania is vast, Oceania is expanding, Oceania is hospitable and generous, Oceania is humanity rising from the depths of brine and regions of fire deeper still, Oceania is us.’

“We are the Pacific Ocean, it is the largest and deepest ocean base on earth. So for small island and large ocean states, it is critical to understand the inter-connectivity between land and oceans for sustainable development.

From the highlands to the high seas where the connection between people, planet, and profit systems underpin security and livelihoods. And therefore sustainable development requires a paradigm shift from sectorial to eco-system based systems,” Sovaleni said.

“As island communities, we encounter several ocean challenges which are multi-faced. We are small island communities with small economies and capacities to manage our ocean alone.

We are vulnerable to natural hazards and disasters such as extreme weather events, climate change, volcanic eruptions, and tsunami which was experienced in Tonga on 15 January, this year,” he said.

He said Pacific communities cannot control transboundary impacts of marine bio-diversity… beyond our jurisdictions, these include pollution, illegal unregulated unreported fishing, and other climate change impacts.

“The multifaced nature of these challenges encountered by our island communities is one that we cannot address alone and what we need is the support of the region and the world.

This conference is one of the many solutions to our multifaceted ocean challenges, like the all-encompassing sustainable development goals, the proposed areas of actions [conference] are interlinked in their common intent, yet different to their approaches,” he said.

This story was written by Moera Tuilaepa-Taylor, originally published at RNZ Pacific on 14 April 2022, reposted via PACNEWS.

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