PNG in 'visionary' move to sustainable development | Asia Pacific

PNG in 'visionary' move to sustainable development

PNG in 'visionary' move to sustainable development

Updated 29 July 2014, 11:56 AEST

The Papua New Guinea government says it's working to refocus its economic and development efforts - including mining and logging - around an overiding goal of sustainable development.

Planning Minister Charles Abel in April, launched the National Strategy for Responsible Development, which will be the vehicle to achieve the goal.

This week, Mr Abel will meet with the International Union for the Conservation of Nauture who are helping to take the process to the next level.

Correspondent: Jemima Garrett

Speakers: Taholo Kami, Regional Director of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature

GARRETT: With its birds of paradise, tree kangaroos and other terrestrial wildlife and its rich marine resources Papua New Guinea is home to a staggering 7 per cent of the world's biodiversity. Its mainland forests join with those across the Indonesian border, to create the third largest rainforest in the world.

Planning Minister Charles Abel says it is imperative that national policies put greater value on those assets and he has has chosen the world's biggest conservation organisation to help him do that.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has 1200 member organisations including 200 governments and 11,000 volunteer experts.

Its Regional Director for Oceania, Taholo Kami, is looking forward to working with PNG.

KAMI: Environment is often on the fringes of development and in a time of rapid growth for Paua New Guinea in terms of extraction of minerals and energy and gas, they are also recognising through this, that they have other strategic assets, which is the term they are using for their environment, for their forests, for their water systems, for their incredible culture and diversity that they have, and how do they ensure that these assets are still there in 50 years time and in 100 years time, and that this boom is not one in place of another. We are keen on making sure that we can walk with government and that we help partners in working through what we think is pretty visionary.

GARRETT: Planning Minister Charles Abel has invited NGOs to be part of the National Strategy for Responsible Development and he believes the approach has the potential to be at the cutting edge globally.

PNG is not yet a member of IUCN but Taholo Kami says negotiations are underway.

KAMI: The most important thing from our side is that there is some vision from the leadership from this government. I think it should be supported. They see the importance of biodiversity, the whole thinking about the boom impacting society and communities. We want to support where we can. We have been invited in to the national planning process. Normally with conservation it deals with just the conservation environment side. I think this case is the best shot we have at mainstreaming what we all know is important and then you have a government that wants to do something about that. As long as that is happening I hope IUCN is there providing the kind of the support, the kind of expertise to make some of this happen.

GARRETT: You have a lot of scientists involved in IUCN. What role could they play in Papua New Guinea, because there is so much biodiversity there that hasn't even been catalogued yet?

KAMI: Given IUCN, its networks and its members, you have got a lot of scientists and often I think you find that the scientists are doing amazing things at a species level working with communities. What we are often not getting is commitment at the highest level. I think what we are finding in the Pacific, it is not just in Papua New Guinea, in Vanuatu, in Fiji. In Tonga we are talking at the Prime Ministers level saying 'Do we want to do more with bigger declarations and protected areas?'. We are seeing leadership with places like Palau, and Kiribati and Cook Islands. That is the kind of leadership and ambition in terms of doing something with conservation that we have never seen in the last 50 years since independence for many of these countries. Of course, these kinds of commitments, as we have said in the past, need new kinds of partnerships if we are going to see any hope of bringing some reasonable capacity to manage. That is where I think IUCN can help and we have a lot of technical people, we have a lot of scientists on the ground in our membership, in our networks. It is this opportunity to connect that to leadership, to political will, potentially better funding and resources to move things forward. Otherwise, we are back to where we are lots of splitters and splatters, lots of little dots everywhere but not the big commitments, so being able to tie good science to big decisions, I think there is this rare opportunity to do some special things.

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