Island nations commit to protect their futures

Posted on 29 March 2006
Island nation leaders attending a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity announced conservation commitments to protect the future of their islands. Mushroom Islands, Palau.
© WWF / Jürgen Freund
Curitiba, Brazil – Island nation leaders attending the eighth Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) announced significant conservation commitments — both on land and at sea — to protect the future of islands.

At an event hosted by Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr, leaders announced the Micronesia Challenge: to protect 30 per cent of near-shore marine and 20 per cent of terrestrial resources on islands by 2020.

"We intend to be the first in the world to meet our CBD 10 per cent target, and more,” said President Remengesau, referring to the goal adopted by parties to the biodiversity convention to effectively conserve at least 10 per cent of each of the world's ecological regions.

He emphasized that his country is able to make this commitment because of the strong partnerships within Palau, between the national and state governments, and with traditional leaders and local communities.

“We have come to Curitiba for partnerships that will strengthen our region's and our respective islands’ capacity to meet our conservation commitments."

Inspired by the Micronesia Challenge, the Caribbean nation of Grenada pledged to put 25 per cent of near-shore marine and 25 per cent of terrestrial resources under effective conservation by 2020. This will lead to a nine-fold increase in the total area of protection in Grenada’s marine environment and more than double protection of its terrestrial environment.

“Efforts to ensure the health, prosperity and cultural heritage of nations are unlikely to succeed if the ecosystem services on which we rely continue to be degraded,” said Grenada's Environment Minister Ann David-Antoine. “Expanding conservation efforts and achieving them through partnerships with the international conservation community and across all regions are required for our sustainable development.”

These commitments contribute to global targets such as those set forth at the World Summit on Sustainable Development and in the Millennium Development Goals, and recognize the vital importance of conservation and sustainable use of island biodiversity to the livelihoods of island communities.

Islands are home to more than 500 million people and represent one quarter of the nations of the world, 16 percent of the planet’s known plant species and more than half of the world’s tropical marine biodiversity. Thirty percent of the world’s coral reefs are severely damaged and, without immediate action 60 percent may be lost by 2030. Half of the species in the world that have become extinct have been island species. Without immediate action, islands face continued damage to species, biodiversity and human inhabitants’ way of life.

"For the islands, this is a new dimension on how to preserve our fragile reserves for future generations. Our traditional way of conserving has been reawakened through this global concern to protect our fragile resources," said Ratu Aisea Katonivere, Chief of the Macuata community in Fiji, a province of 100,000 people, and home of the world’s third largest barrier reef. “For us, in Fiji, this is about our survival, our life."

Other island nations pledging new conservation commitments included New Zealand, Indonesia and Kiribati.

"We applaud the leadership shown by these governments to address the escalating threats facing the world's coral reefs and island habitats, and urges nations everywhere to support these significant commitments, as their success or failure will have global ramifications," said WWF International Director General James Leape.

Delegates to the CBD meeting is expected to adopt a work programme that will lay out guidance for island nations and nations with islands for integrated conservation and management of their vital natural resources.

• The Micronesia Challenge is a shared commitment by the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Territory of Guam. Grenada’s 2020 vision is an outgrowth of the successful Grenadines Parks in Peril project, a TNC/USAID partnership that has advanced implementation of key actions within the CBD’s Programme of Work on Protected Areas.

• The event was co-sponsored by the Governments of Italy and the United Kingdom, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), The Nature Conservancy, WWF, Conservation International, International Coral Reef Action Network, Palau Conservation Society, Conservation Society of Pohnpei, Micronesian Conservation Trust, IUCN, Birdlife International and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

For further information:
Olivier van Bogaert, Senior Press Officer
WWF International
Tel: +41 79 477 3572
Island nation leaders attending a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity announced conservation commitments to protect the future of their islands. Mushroom Islands, Palau.
© WWF / Jürgen Freund Enlarge