Professor Rajesh Chandra speaking at a UN Oceans Conference side event in New York on 5 June, 2017.
The Pacific Ocean is not just important to the Pacific Islands, it is a matter of survival and to a dignified existence.
Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP, made the comment during the High-Level Meeting - Developing regional nodes for capacity building and transfer of marine technology using data-based reporting to support delivery of SDG14 in the South Pacific and Beyond in New York on 5 June, 2017. The side event was organised by the Australian Mission to the United Nations.
He stated that as an Oceanic University, the Pacific Ocean is therefore vital to the students, USP alumni, to the Pacific Islands governments that own the University, and to all its other stakeholders.
“It is vital that this opportunity for advancement of science and capacity is taken forward, not just to meet SDG14 or other SDG14 targets, but to create a platform for improved integrated management and monitoring of the oceans, a strengthened blue economy, and the potential to respond to emerging needs, such as the management of the High Seas beyond national jurisdictions,” he said.
Acknowledging the Chair and organisers of the event, Professor Chandra said he was grateful for the opportunity given the importance of capacity building to enabling both implementation of initiatives and for monitoring, and given the centrality of USP in higher and tertiary education, research and policy work in the Pacific Islands.
USP, he said, is the premier Higher Education provider in the Pacific region and is one of two regional Universities in the world, with 14 campuses located in 12 Pacific Islands Counties, meaning that it is immutably connected with many Pacific governments and communities.
He stated that USP’s almost 50,000 alumni from 48 years of operation have reached the pinnacle of political leadership as heads of government, ministers, majority of senior public servants and the bulk of scientists and professionals in the Pacific Islands, as well as forming a strong and connected diaspora across the world.
“In collaboration with its other sister regional organisations in the Pacific, it has significantly facilitated regional co-operation and integration so crucial to the vision of Pacific Islands leaders,” he noted.
Professor Chandra noted that USP delivers a broad range of degree curricula as well as having extensive and accredited professional training facilities.
“Capacity development in the Pacific region requires a broad suite of capacity; from scientific and technical, to economic and project management, to community and spirituality. USP covers most of these key areas through its undergraduate, postgraduate and professional training delivery.
Taking more of a focus on oceans, USP he noted, has three specifically dedicated units - first, the School of Marine Science, which undertakes undergraduate and postgraduate teaching in marine science and marine affairs as well as allied research. Second, the Institute of Marine Resources which focusses on regional ocean research and development, in collaboration with other regional agencies and development partners. Third, the University has recently established the Micronesian Centre for Sustainable Transportation (MCST) in collaboration with the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), to spearhead policy and practical work in low-carbon sea transportation.
In addition, USP has many other units which address aspects of oceans, such as the School of Government, Development and International Affairs which works on regional diplomacy and marine resources, work on Climate Change in the Pacific Centre for Sustainable Development and Climate Change and drug discovery unit in the Institute of Applied Sciences.
However, he also noted the two challenges in the depth to which USP can fully deliver on regional capacity for oceans including limitations to technical and scientific capacity and infrastructure and the need to advance the depth and diversity of partnerships.
“Capacity development across the Pacific has abounded over the last decades and yet we still see many of the indicators of ocean health declining. When talking about capacity development, it cannot be fragmented and periodic, it needs to be systematic and sustainable. It needs to be programmatic- rather than project-based. It needs to be focussed on different levels, from undergraduates to high-level technical career professionals,” he added.
Professor Chandra also stated he is very pleased with the strong leadership taken by the Pacific SIDS in focusing on the importance of capacity building. In this particular case, the international partners, the PSIDS, and USP are committed to developing the proposals further to ensure that programmatic, strategic, and sustained capacity building, including sophisticated research and analyses, can be available to the Pacific Islands.
Professor Chandra further reaffirmed USP’s strong and unwavering commitment to the work required as part of the landmark conference.
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