SG Puna takes Blue Pacific priorities to France Summit


Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Henry Puna has called on all States to play their part when it comes to maintaining the health of the ocean.

SG Puna made the plea as he attended the One Ocean Summit conference in Brest, France, also attending in his capacity as the Pacific Ocean Commissioner.

Commissioner Puna drew attention to the priorities of the Blue Pacific including the importance of finalizing and adopting the agreement for marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions commonly known as BBNJ. In addition, he outlined the ground-breaking Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise, recently adopted by Forum Leaders.

Commissioner Puna also stated “the nature of the ocean implies that any action in your own waters can have transboundary impacts on other countries’ and on our global commons. This is particularly true with marine pollution, including radioactive discharge.”

He reminded the audience of the global impact of the world’s largest undersea volcanic eruption in centuries, the Hunga Ha’apai-Hunga Tonga event, on 15 January 2022.

“From Tonga, the underwater eruption was felt thousands of miles away on the shores of Japan, Peru, and the United States’ Pacific Coast. This disaster reminds us just how interconnected we all are uniquely, inextricably, with the ocean,” he said.

Speaking at the governance workshop held during the summit convened by French President Emmanuel Macron, Commissioner Puna shared the Pacific Islands Forum’s commitment to ocean governance and other Pacific priorities.

Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) “must have adequate teeth,” he said. “It must break from the status quo of fragmented governance. Coordination, cooperation and coherence must mean that we all play our part, and that proper accountability is implemented.”

Commissioner Puna also addressed the high-level summit on Friday where he spoke on the ground-breaking Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise that was adopted by Forum Leaders.
The Declaration addresses an issue at the heart of Pacific countries and other countries, including Small Island Developing States and low-lying States. It provides certainty in relation to their maritime zones and the entitlements under UNCLOS in relation to our EEZ boundaries and continental shelf, in the face of shifting tides and diminishing coastlines.

Amongst other Pacific priorities he raised–the existential threat of climate change, and the importance of the oceans-climate nexus.

President Macron has organized the One Planet Summit dedicated to the ocean to mobilise the international community and take tangible action to mitigate pressures on the ocean. The three-day summit was held in the context of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, with the support of the United Nations.