May 02, 2006

The Kaselehlie Press

Palikir, POHNPEI: - The meeting on last Friday - April 28, with the Environmental and Sustainable Development Unit was the Vice President's follow through on the role of the Federated States of Micronesia in the Micronesia Challenge that was recently issued in Brazil during the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Micronesian Challenge commits at least 30% of the marine areas and 20% of the forest areas of the signatories of the Micronesian island countries and territories by 2020 as "protected areas." The protected areas represent 20% of the Pacific islands region and, when implemented, the Micronesian Challenge will protect 10% of the world reef area and 462 coral species, which represents 58% of all known corals.

A total of US$6 million was pledged during the Conference by the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International, two of the world's leading conservation organizations, to fund the Micronesian Challenge conservation initiative.

The Micronesian Challenge was presented by President Tommy Remengesau Jr of Palau and Vice President Redley Killion of the Federated States of Micronesia at a dinner attended by nearly 500 delegates attending the 8th CBD Conference. The guests at the unveiling ceremony included Brazil's Minister of Environment in her capacity as President of the Conference, Executive Secretary of the Montreal-based CBD Secretariat, representatives of various conservation organizations and conservation financing institutions such as the Global Environment Facility, donor countries, SPREP, delegates of island countries and countries with islands from the Pacific and other regions.

The signatories to the Micronesian Challenge are the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Territory of Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The regional conservation initiative was conceptualized by the Micronesian Conservation Trust (MCT), headquartered in the FSM, and other stakeholders.

In his remarks at the unveiling ceremonies, Vice President Killion described the Micronesian Challenge as a "collaborative initiative that exemplifies the best in the Micronesian spirit of working together toward common objectives and shared concerns," adding that the initiative is a "regional framework that is aimed at poising the Micronesian island governments toward achieving the targets and objectives set forth in the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Millennium Development Goals."

In his prepared statement, President Remengesau remarked: "To address the islands' unique biodiversity challenges, we need a unique approach and unique response. The Micronesian Challenge is our shared response."

The Micronesian Challenge was launched at a time when the international community, in the context of the CBD COP processes, is confronted with the alarming rate of degradation of the global biological diversity. In particular, it has been estimated that 30% of the world's coral reefs are extensively damaged and the extent of the damage will double by the year 2030 if no conservation measure is undertaken immediately. Moreover, approximately 50% of the species in the world that have become extinct are island species.

An estimated amount of US$18 million is required to fulfill the targets of the Micronesian Challenge. The US$6 million pledged by the Nature Conservancy and Conservation International is intended to generate matching funds from other sources including donor countries, GEF, regional financing institutions such as the Asian Development Bank.

As Steve McMormick, President of the Nature Conservation remarked, "Our pledge is inspired by the leadership shown by the Micronesian islands in committing to the establishment of protected areas [...] We now challenge others - governments, funders, communities and NGOs - to join this rising tide and support these islands as they strive to protect the natural resources on which they depend." In announcing the pledge by Conservation International, President Russell Mittermeier also stated: "We are delighted by this commitment made by the governments of this region, which is part of the globally very important Polynesia-Micronesia biodiversity hotspot."

Vice President Killion alluded to the need for additional support and partnership when he remarked at the launching of the Micronesian Challenge: "This evening I delightfully join my colleagues from the Micronesian region, particularly President Remengesau, [...] in reaffirming our commitment to the goals and objectives set forth in the Micronesian Challenge initiative. In reaffirming our collective commitment, we acknowledge the critical importance of the donor community and like-minded countries as partners in contributing to the success of the initiative. Therefore, we welcome and appreciate any support that can be extended to us so that, in the true spirit of partnership, we can move the Micronesian Challenge forward."