USP VC stresses need for committed leadership for ocean sustainability
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Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President speaking during a UNOC Side Event, High Level Exchange: Pacific Leadership through Innovative Approaches to the Oceans Economy – Pacific 2050 in New York.
To uphold the aspiration of the UN Oceans Conference, there needs to be more than just business-as-usual and a demonstration of committed leadership and excellence in scientific research, to promote the health of our ocean for our people, planet and prosperity.
These were the words of Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of The University of the South Pacific (USP) during a UNOC Side Event, High Level Exchange: Pacific Leadership through Innovative Approaches to the Oceans Economy – Pacific 2050 on 8 June, 2017.
The High Level Exchange: Pacific Leadership through Innovative Approaches to the Oceans Economy – Pacific 2050 in progress in New York.
Chaired by the Honourable Tuilaepa Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, the event was held at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), New York office. Honourable Malielegaoi said the Pacific Ocean is the largest of the oceans domain, and over generations, our people have created an intimate relationship and a unique dependency on the ocean for our sustainable development, food security, social structures, livelihoods and tenure systems as well as traditional systems of stewardship governing its use.
According to Professor Chandra, the UNOC aims to be a “game changer” and decades of experience at USP suggest that such “game changers” need both leadership commitments, in the context of an uncertain backdrop, as well as excellence in research and analysis to produce innovations,” he stated.
He mentioned the importance of recognising that the Pacific has a long history of sustainable ocean use and management, with full respect for nature and the need to reflect and learn from previous successes to allow more effective progression into the future.
“The Pacific has a number of examples of successful innovations in oceans management; these should be celebrated and not lost or forgotten. Application of such research into the oceans discipline may help facilitate the design and implementation of future innovations,” he remarked.
According to Professor Chandra, it is essential to have a strong base for capacity building, adequate investment, infrastructure, and a culture of innovation in the Pacific Islands which many leaders have called for.
Research he noted, needs to be embedded in national and regional needs and feed into effective policies and generate further innovations.
“USP, owned by twelve (12) Pacific Island countries, with almost 30,000 students and operating in all these countries through its 14 campuses, has been a major source of ocean related capacity building in the Pacific Islands.
He announced that much of the knowledge of species, ecology and marine resources in the Pacific has stemmed significantly from research carried out at USP over these decades.
Professor Chandra gave a few examples of innovation stemming from USP including:
• The Fiji Locally Managed Marine Areas (FLMMA) methodology jointly led by the Fijian Government and USP’s Institute of Applied Sciences through its Director, Professor Bill Aalbersberg. USP incubated nurtured and incubated the concept and its application, provided funding through a grant from the McArthur Foundation, and the community took over. This initiative changed the nature of the management of marine resources in Fiji, and was awarded the 2002 Equator Award at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The FLMMA was awarded the 2015 Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Award that mentioned that FLMMA was being adopted in other countries;
• The Centre of Drug Discovery and Conservation was established in 2001 and is involved in bioprospecting work on marine and terrestrial organisms and plants. The Centre houses a library of more than 1900 strains of marine bacteria and more than 3,350 marine invertebrate/algae extracts that have been analysed for useful chemical properties. The Centre was recently awarded a Global Environment Facility grant to work on nature-based products and building capacities for the application of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and Benefit Sharing (ABS) in Fiji. This centre is unique in the Pacific;
• USP has been working on sharks for a number of years. Technological developments in genetic research from around the world have permitted enhanced genetic analysis at USP to help study shark populations. Using these advances, recent field-based and genetic work on the endangered “scalloped” hammerhead sharks in Fiji have identified a specific nursery area in one estuary area; population estimates suggest that this may be one of the largest hammerhead nursery areas in the world. Recommendations on conservation and protection have been passed to the government and possible ecotourism options are being considered;
• The Micronesian Centre for Sustainable Transport was established by USP and the Republic of the Marshall Islands Government in November 2016. Through the research expertise, advocacy, and systematic harnessing of international networks—combined with the drive and passion shown by RMI, sustainable transportation has now become a major priority for the Pacific, and RMI has now produced its own Low Carbon Sustainable Transportation Plan. Since 2012, USP has been using internal funds to support basic analysis and assessment and to build international partnerships, even when this topic was little considered by many regional stakeholders. Support from the German government through GIZ is now permitting fuller assessment, policy strengthening and actual practical demonstrative retrofitting on the RMI domestic fleet for a low carbon and more sustainable future. Whilst being based in RMI, the Centre intends to be the repository of excellence for sustainable low carbon shipping across the Pacific; and
• The University’s School of Engineering and Physics has registered an innovation patent with the Australian Patent Office for a device that exploits both wave and solar energy that can support artisanal fishermen and women. Patents represent the highest level of scientific endeavour, and USP expects to file many more patents in the near future given the confidence generated by the grant of three patents recently.
Professor Chandra said these are just examples of the sort of innovation that excellence in research at USP have achieved for the Pacific region on coastal and marine science and management.
“In all these cases vision and leadership has been required to facilitate these innovations, and funds have had to be prioritised and committed on a long-term and sustainable basis,” he added.
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