Fiji will be at the helm for Oceania, representing the regions' interests on the Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. Currently occupied by the Marshall Islands, the responsibilities will be handed over to Fiji once the 11th Conference of the Parties is finished.
The standing committee meets in between the triennial Conferences of the Parties and provides guidance and direction on behalf of their region to the Ramsar Convention. The Oceania region consists of Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Samoa - all contracting parties to the convention from the Pacific region.
Fiji acceded to the Ramsar Convention in 2006 with the establishment of the Upper Navua Conservation Area as the Ramsar Wetland site of Importance, the island nation is now planning to have more sites submitted for inclusion - the Nasoata Islet and Lake Tagimoucia.
"Fiji very much appreciates the support of the region and we will do our best to consider their interests and encourage those first, before we try addressing the wider Ramsar issues," said Ms. Taina Tagicakabau, the Permanent Secretary for the Fiji Ministry of Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment," said Taina Tagicakabau, the Permanent Secretary for the Fiji Ministry of Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment.
"We thought we could arrange a regular meeting in the next three years to brief our leaders, with the plan that this raised awareness would bring more commitment to the Ramsar initiative - a regional type of approach which may help widen our group."
The level of support for wetlands conservation is strong in Fiji. This is indicated by a four member delegation at the 11th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention in Romania that includes a Cabinet Minister as the Head of Delegation, as well as a member of the environment NGO - NatureFiji-MareqetiViti, and the Department of Environment.
While the delegation is at the Ramsar COP11, they hope to strengthen partnerships with donors and other interested organisations and contracting parties. Fiji is undertaking projects at the national level which requires co-funding and the island nation is also hopeful they can reinforce possibilities for financial support here in Romania, as well as technical support for their wetlands conservation.
Ms Tagicakabau said the biggest challenge in Fiji right now is to do a proper inventory of identified sites, 42 in all, and this is going to be a costly activity. "We are calling for interest to undertake this inventory, and are still seeking the bit of funds needed to help us move forward."
The 11th Conference of the Parties to the Ramsar Convention was hosted in Romania from 6 - 13 July. Of the Oceania region; Australia, Fiji, Marshall Islands, New Zealand, Palau and Samoa are attending Ramsar COP11.