By Pita Ligaiula in Lisbon, Portugal

The Tongan government has joined other countries in the call for the adoption of the “Declaration for the enhancement of marine scientific knowledge, research capacity and transfer of marine technology to Small Islands Developing States (SIDS).”

Speaking at the 2022 United Nations Conference in Lisbon, to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said as a small island developing state and stewards of large portions of the ocean, the health of the ocean is critical for his country’s survival.

“The Declaration sets out principles of engagement, one based on SID’s needs and shifts away from one-way initiatives and approaches and moves to best practices to develop, implement and sustain capacity development partnerships.

“Partnerships” are crucial for the success of conservation and sustainability initiatives and the implementation of Goal 14 in Tonga. Such collective effort is critical to assist Tonga, whether it be finance, technology transfer or capacity building to join all in implementing Goal 14 and thereby effectively combatting the negative impacts and threats to the health and resilience of our ocean and its resources.

Tonga would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge all of our partners who have worked “with us to facilitate our conservation and sustainable development efforts, through the provision of funds for various initiatives, capacity building of our people, and technology provided. We look forward to a continuation of such genuine and durable partnerships for the present and future of our Ocean,” said PM Sovaleni.

He said despite the progress made, to effectively conserve their resources for current and future generations, ambitious actions are necessary at the national, regional and global level.

“We welcome the Political Declaration entitled “Our Ocean, Our Future, Our Responsibility. which stipulates concrete actions by Member States.

“We look forward to join the scaling up of actions that will be agreed in this conference towards achieving our common goals, joining in partnership towards the UN Decade of the Oceans and the UN Decade of the Oceans and the UN Decade for Ecosystem Restoration.

Prime Minister said as a large ocean state, Tonga holds Goal 14 very dear to its heart.

“The livelihood, culture, conservation efforts and the overall sustainable development of Tonga are dependent on a healthy and resilient ocean due to the essential ecosystem services it provides, including the provision of oceanic resources and importantly, its role as a climate regulator.

Tonga recognises the importance of ocean science and technology in identifying imminent pressures and threats and identifying the necessary solutions to address the increasing pressures from anthropogenic activities exacerbated by the impacts of climate change which Tonga has fallen victim to. This coupled with relevant traditional and local knowledge passed on from generations of fishermen only strengthens ocean knowledge” said PM Sovaleni.

He said Tonga has committed 30 percent, and 100 percent marine areas under management consistent with IUCNs Protected Area categories and SDG14.