Specials Environment

Posted June 1996

A Programme for Sustainable Development in the South Pacific


by Nadia Scialabba
Environment Officer
Environment and Natural Resources Service (SDRN)
FAO Research, Extension and Training Division

THE TECHNICAL CONSULTATION of South Pacific Small Island Developing States on Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was held in Apia, Western Samoa, from 6 to 9 May 1996. The Consultation was organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), and with the financial support of the Government of Australia, FAO and the Netherlands Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). The Government of Western Samoa kindly hosted the meeting.

Background and purpose of the Consultation

In collaboration with the UNCED Secretariat, FAO had organized, from 7-10 April 1992, the Inter-regional Conference of Small Island Countries on Sustainable Development and Environment in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, held in Barbados. That Conference mobilized the agricultural sector for UNCED and recommended a follow-up technical meeting to translate policy decisions contained in the Bridgtown Declaration into action.

In 1994, the UN Global Conference on Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, held in Barbados re-affirmed the principles and commitments to sustainable development embodied in the Rio Declaration and adopted the Programme of Action for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which translates Agenda 21 into specific policies, actions and measures to be taken by SIDS in 14 Programme areas. Although coastal and marine resources were included among the programme areas, agriculture, however, did not receive specific treatment.

The Consultation is one of the major steps taken by FAO and SPREP in relation to the UN Global Conference Programme of Action on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. This Programme makes reference to the efforts made by FAO in pursuing sustainable development in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, but does not include a specific chapter on agriculture. It is therefore felt useful to give an opportunity to the agricultural sector to develop its specific agenda, tailored to South Pacific needs and conditions, and thereby contribute to a vital component of the overall sustainability equation.

In order to develop a set of common views and to identify proposals for action which are of particular interest to the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector, the Consultation identified areas of cooperation and joint action and suggested mechanisms and support requirements by the international community. The outcome was a Programme for the Sustainable Development of Pacific Island Countries in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The Programme of Action contains recommendations for policies, actions and measures to be taken at national, regional and international levels as well as Priority Areas of Assistance.

The Consultation

The Consultation was attended by 17 participants from 6 small island developing States including the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Vanuatu and Western Samoa. Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia (Federated States of), Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu were invited but could not attend. Observers from Australia, China, Japan and New Zealand, and United States of America were present as well as from the European Commission, WHO, UNDP, UNESCO, International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), South Pacific Commission (SPC), South Pacific Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), South Pacific Forum Secretariat (SPF), South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Institute for Research, Extension, and Training in Agriculture (IRETA), University of South Pacific (USP), Ole Siosiomaga Society, University of West Indies, Caribbean Systems Ltd., and FAO. (See the Agenda and Timetable of the Consultation.)

The Consultation was opened by the Honorable Misa Telefoni Retzlaff, Minister of Agriculture, Forests, Fisheries and Meteorology of Western Samoa. The Director of Agriculture of Western Samoa, Mr. Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau was the Chairperson. Mr. Vili Fuavao, Sub-Regional Representative of FAO Office for the Pacific, presented the introductory statement on behalf of FAO's Director-General. The Technical Secretary of the Consultation was Ms. Nadia Scialabba, Sustainable Development Department of FAO.

After the Opening Ceremony, Monday was devoted to the presentation of background documents (see Policies for Sustaining Food and Agriculture in the South Pacific, Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and Sustainable Primary Production). The Forum Secretariat presented the South Pacific Regional Strategy. AusAID, UNDP, UNESCO, ISNAR, FFA, SOPAC, SPC, SPREP, IRETA, and USP presented their activities and objectives in the Pacific. Systems Caribbean Ltd. presented approaches to sustainable agriculture development in the Caribbean. On Tuesday and Wednesday, participants held working groups to develop the Programme, which includes Priority Areas of Assistance (see Programme for the Sustainable Development of Pacific Island Countries in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries).


In order to seek policy commitment to the Consultation' output (i.e. the Programme for the Sustainable Development of South Pacific Small Island Developing States in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries), the Chairperson was entrusted with the task of presenting the outcome of the deliberations to the South Pacific Ministerial meeting held on 13 May 1996 in Apia, Western Samoa (see the Summary of the Consultation and the report of the Inaugural Meeting of South West Pacific Ministers for Agriculture).

The recent establishment of the FAO Sub-regional Office for the Pacific in Apia, gives a further opportunity for South Pacific SIDS to pursue the development of their agricultural sector specific policies, actions and measures, with the technical support of FAO, which is primarily intended to propel participatory-driven sustainable agriculture and rural development in the South Pacific.

FAO gratefully acknowledges the collaboration of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in the organization of this Consultation, and the financial support provided by the Government of Australia.

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