“We are challenging the global forum on behalf of our future generations. The impacts are being felt today but it will be worse in the future if we don’t do anything now.”

The challenge comes from Niue, one of the smallest countries taking part in the ongoing negotiations for a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment.

With a population of less than 1,800 people, Niue is among 12 Pacific countries amplifying the One Pacific Voice for an urgent ambitious treaty, as Small Island Developing States (SIDS) continue to take the brunt of plastics that wash up on their shores.

Haden Talagi, Director for Niue’s Department of Environment and Luinalofa Vilila, the Environment Officer of Niue’s Ministry of Natural Resources have travelled thousands of miles, crossing different time zones, to make their voice heard at INC-2 taking place at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris France.

“The One Pacific Voice needs to be louder than other countries as we are at the forefront of plastic pollution, biodiversity loss, climate change and the Pacific Ocean is our home that we need to fight for,” Talagi said.

“No matter where we run to, the impacts are global, the urgency is global so we have a shared responsibility at the global level. We can’t hide from plastic pollution, but we can work together where all voices are heard. Being on the frontline means, our voices need to be heard at the table.”

After the official opening of the main plenary on Monday, most of the first day of INC-2 was taken up by discussions of matters of procedures. The debate involving several big countries will continue on the second day, and it is likely to place the discussion of substantive matters in relation to a proposed instrument, on hold.

The Director for Niue’s Department of Environment said time is of the essence and the discussion must focus on getting an instrument to end plastic pollution approved.

“The treaty is critically important for a small country like Niue and this is why we are here,” Talagi said. “A treaty will provide a global approach to plastic pollution for big, small, developed or developing countries and inclusive of small island developing states.

“SIDS like Niue are at the forefront of plastic pollution, biodiversity loss and climate change so we cannot fight alone but need the resources at the global level to take necessary actions on the ground. It is a shared responsibility.”

Both Talagi and Vilila were at INC-1 held in Punta del Este Uruguay in 2022 which considered broad options for the structure of the instrument and potential elements of the future instrument. In Paris this week, Mr Talagi said progress must be made and officials cannot walk away without a tangible outcome to take back to their people.

“For Niue when it comes to progress of the INC process, we want a robust discussion on the key issues that affect our people. We want a draft instrument that reflect our needs and the struggles we are all dealing with when it comes to plastic pollution.

“We want progress made from where we were in INC-1 in Uruguay, that we can build upon and give us something to have further dialogue with our communities in-country upon our return.”

Having travelled so far to be in Paris for INC-2, many Pacific delegates share Niue’s views.

This story was written by Sosikeni Lesa, originally published at SPREP on 30 May 2023.

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