SG Puna: Justice remains evasive

Pacific Islands Forum Secretary-General Henry Puna. Picture: RAKESH KUMAR/FILE

Pacific Islands Forum secretary-general Henry Puna says that for more than seven decades, the Pacific  and its people have suffered and continue to suffer the enduring impacts and injustices of nuclear testing, injustices to people’s rights, health, their homes and environment.

And he said justice remained evasive.

Mr Puna made the comment as he joined the chorus of international support for the landmark resolution recognising the right to access to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Jul 28 this year.

He commended the global solidarity on this critical issue and congratulated all who contributed to the major milestone.

“As large oceanic States, our Blue Pacific depends on the environment, on the ocean and on our biodiversity for our livelihoods and well-being,” Mr Puna said in a statement.

“Our peoples have deep connections with their natural resources and environment. Indeed, we have a long-standing commitment to protect our environment, and through our Boe Declaration, we prioritise environmental and resource security.

“We know that environmental damage has direct and indirect implications for the effective enjoyment of all human rights.”

Today, he said people of the Pacific faced similar injustices through the climate emergency and threats to our ocean.

Last month, at their 51st meeting, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders recognised the many impacts of climate change and disasters, and its threat to the future of the people and statehood of many Pacific nations.

“I firmly believe that the UNGA resolution recognising the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right is a turning point – a Kairos moment – that will heighten ambitious actions on all environmental issues, such as those highlighted above by our Forum Leaders, and including actions towards negotiations at the UNFCCC COP27 in Egypt this November.

“In the Pacific, we are guided by our 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, prioritising people-centered development. We stand ready to deepen international cooperation to ensure that this landmark UNGA resolution for a universal human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is upheld, including through the full implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.

“We will also continue to uphold our regional instruments such as the Convention for the Protection of the Natural Resources and Environment (Noumea Convention), and the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty which safeguards our region against environmental pollution by radioactive wastes and other radioactive matter.”

Mr Puna encouraged all States to work towards national laws and measures to entrench this universal right for their people.

“We must reach higher standards of environmental protection for our One Blue Planet.”

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