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The Ocean State of Fiji - Turning the Tide

Summary 

Ocean Conference co-host Fiji will soon share the voices of the Pacific people and their children. They know the ocean as the connective tissue linking the planets entire population. Heeding their warnings of its health will safeguard humanity’s future.

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The Pacific is an ocean cut in half by most maps, skirting their edges. Perhaps as a result it has all too often been only at the edge of minds, when it should be framing them. A view of the Earth centred on someone living upon one of the more than 25,000 islands of the Pacific reveals an ocean so large it occupies the entire face of the globe, its blue eclipsing all but a few hints of land. The Pacific Ocean makes up one third of the planet’s surface area and, covering more than 165 million square kilometres, is large enough to swallow all the continents combined. The oldest body of water in the world it is also the largest and most bio-diverse, containing over 50 per cent of all our water. 714 million cubic metres of ocean.

This large blue expanse is home for the people living on small Pacific islands. They live, love and bring their children into the world, never far from the water. The vast majority depend directly on the health of the ocean for their livelihoods and survival. In Fiji some 60 per cent of people are thought to live in coastal communities, surviving on activities linked to the water. Fisheries and tourism are vital sectors of the economy and ocean reliant activities are intrinsically linked to the health, wealth, history, culture and identity of Pacific people and their region. A threat to the ocean is a threat to the very existence of these people, cultures and islands. 

Whilst island nations have in the past been labelled “Small Island Developing States”, it is crucial that their growing role on the global stage is recognised and understood. Increasingly, they are coming to be seen as Large Ocean States, stewards of the ocean capable of addressing the world with a voice weighed heavy in authority. Fiji is preparing to co-host the Ocean Conference at a time when the state of the world’s oceans have never been more stressed. As a co-host and ambassador for the region Fiji will seek to impress that humanity has a common agenda, we are all connected by the same ocean, every second breath we take is generated by it, and, if we fail to reverse its declining health, it is our children who will feel the impact.

In the Pacific, UNICEF is working with children and their communities to promote a more sustainable future based on respect and understanding of their ocean and their environment. Educating and involving children in issues and decisions which affect their futures is extremely important. Children who have been able to participate in decisions over issues that affect them pass into adulthood empowered with a greater sense of ownership of these issues and with a confidence that they are able to shape their communities, societies and world for the better. For more than 50 years UNICEF, together with local partners, national governments in the Pacific and children themselves, have been working to better the situation of children in the region improving, amongst other things, their access to healthcare, education, water, sanitation and hygiene. These gains risk being lost if resources and international political will are not invested to reverse the degradation and exploitation of the oceans. 

As Peter Thomson, Fiji’s Permanent Represent to the United Nations, and current President of the General Assembly recently stated: “All human problems have human solutions and that’s what the Ocean Conference is about.” These solutions should heed the voice and authority of large ocean states and their children. Ultimately it is children who will inherit the oceans, let us ensure they are part of charting the course - their future.


 

 
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