United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development


Hon. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi
Prime Minister of the Independent State of Samoa
at Plenary session of the Ocean Conference
Our Ocean, Our Future - Partnering for the Implementation of
Sustainable Development Goal 14
6 June 2017, UN Headquarters,
Distinguished delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the oceans domain, and over
generations, our people have created an intimate relationship and a unique
dependency on the ocean for our sustainable development, food security,
social structures, livelihoods and tenure systems as well as traditional
systems of stewardship governing its use. For us, the ocean is both a
shared resource and a source of isolation. True, the ocean separates our
islands but we also acknowledge that the ocean brings unity in a diverse
and dynamically evolving world. It provides us with both opportunities and
challenges, and is probably the one natural asset that all our islands have
in common, and in abundant supply.
For our resource-constrained islands, the possible presence of living and
non-living resources in the ocean seabed beyond the high seas, signals an
exciting prospect in terms of expanded resource base, where none existed
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Yet against these opportunities, there are also some threats. The health of
the ocean is increasingly compromised by pressures, including overfishing,
climate change; both slow onset and long term, ocean acidification, habitat
degradation due largely to coastal development and over exploitation of
resources and ad hoc development.
It was against this backdrop of mounting challenges and a sense of
pessimism given the fragmentation of discussions on ocean issues in the
United Nations that Pacific Small Island Developing States championed
"Ocean" to be a stand-alone goal in the new set of Sustainable
Development Goals. The realization of this goal provided the motivation
behind the push to hold the Ocean Conference this year to give SDG 14 a
clear head-start in its overall implementation. As well Oceans has a
significant place in the SAMOA Pathway and is an integral part of the
Pacific Framework for Regionalism.
For Pacific islands, the new vision of sustainability includes conservation,
sustainable management, balanced harnessing, and equitable share of
economic returns from the utilization of marine and ocean resources.
And while everyone is quick to direct our attention to prioritize
conservation above all else, which we have been doing voluntarily over the
years, and will continue to do so unprompted; from our islands
perspective, we also want to enjoy a greater and fairer share of the
benefits derived from our ocean resources. After all, owners of other
natural resources are doing exactly the same. Most are extracting the
maximum benefit and influence possible from such natural resources
provided this is done sustainably and effective management is in place.
Our message is simple. Our vulnerability due to current capacity and
accessibility constraints, and perhaps lack of scientific knowledge of the
issues at stake, should not be seen as the opportunity to harness our
ocean resources optimally or a convenient distraction to deprive our people
from enjoying their rightful share of those benefits.
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The Sustainable Development Goal 14 on the oceans provides an
integrated framework within which our islands can seek to try and balance
the economic benefits to be realized from our ocean, seas and coasts, with
the management and conservation of the fragile ecosystems that they
Indeed, within the framework of the Third International Conference of
Small Island Developing States - the SAMOA Pathway called for ambitious
and urgent action on climate change, and stressed the need to protect
biodiversity through efforts aimed at conservation and sustainable use of
our oceans and seas, and the harnessing of ocean-based natural
An integrated and coherent approach to the management and
development of our 'ocean-space' to assist us generate multi-sector
economic benefits from our oceans will also serve as protection in our
efforts aimed at mitigation and adaptation.
Last year, we, the Pacific Leaders issued the Pohnpei Ocean Statement
titled "A course to Sustainability" which underscored the need for
meaningful implementation of SDG14 commitments, in particular, genuine
and durable "partnerships for action". The Pohnpei Statement stressed the
need for increased scientific knowledge and research capacities, improved
technology transfer and strengthened partnerships to enhance the
sustainability of our oceans. Apart from Pacific SIDS dependence on the
ocean, we are also vulnerable to any changes in the ocean - whether that
is raising level, acidity or the status of its resources.
If one takes into account the role of the ocean in mitigation of greenhouse-
gas emissions, by extension, the large ocean-based Pacific countries
are able to do their share of implementation of the Paris Agreement
through ocean-based actions, such as implementing "Blue carbon" policies,
reducing CO2 emissions from maritime transport, developing ocean-based
renewable energy etc.
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For adaptation, using an 'integrated ecosystem-based approach to
resilience and adaptation" is a main focus for ocean/climate change,
especially regarding green nfrastructurel being able to provide natural
system protection for defense against sea level rise, saltwater intrusion,
storms, and flooding; as well as establish and effectively manage coherent
networks of marine protected areas.
Mr. President,
Samoa has submitted 12 Voluntary Commitments under the SDG 14.
These include Samoa's Community-based Fisheries Management
Programme which aims to ensure the long term sustainability of coastal
fisheries resources for food security and livelihoods of coastal village
communities through the empowerment of communities. This is
undertaken through a community-based approach where villages work in
partnership with the government in managing their coastal fisheries
resources by identification or marking of a "no take zone" within the fishery
management area and the development and approval of fisheries by law to
give recognition to village fisheries committees to carry out surveillance
and enforcement of their fisheries management areas.
Another voluntary commitment involves the rehabilitation and protection of
mangrove ecosystems for Climate change adaptation, livelihoods and
biodiversity as some mangroves are threatened by overharvesting, removal
in favors of other developments, pollution, use as wastelands, natural
phenomena and other activities.
In terms of solid waste management, Samoa's Waste Segregation,
Storage and Disposal at Source initiative, hopefully will serve as a
model for other Pacific Island Countries to adapt and utilize in order to
tackle their respective solid waste management issues. Japan has
supported the commissioning of semi-aerobic engineered landfills designed
with the 'Fukuoka Method'. Government in close coordination with the
private sector and communities have conducted segregation and storage of
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generated recyclable waste materials, cans and plastic bottles at source for
recycling and recovery purposes.
While such an initiative has limited coverage; we wanted a more
systematic approach in order to realize greater economic and
environmental benefits from our waste programs. For waste to become a
resource, it requires a sustainable financing mechanism such as public
private partnerships to manage all the stages of the waste life cycle. We
acknowledge the support of the Parley Air partnership recently endorsed,
which addresses ocean and marine plastic pollution
The fourth and perhaps a somewhat unique Voluntary commitment is
called the "Sa Moana Folauga" or "Ocean Voyage".
This is a commitment to build capacity and awareness of environment and
natural resource management and to revive our voyaging heritage in
communities in Samoa. The focus is to enhance awareness, to ensure
communities become better ocean stewards through establishing protected
areas and sustainable use of marine resources as well as switching to
renewable energy alternatives to reduce carbon emissions.
This is an inaugural journey promoting identified conservation and heritage
messages for the protection of our country's fauna and flora. Like many
other Pacific island countries, nature is a central feature in Samoan culture
and heritage. The international and regional community recognizes the
importance of empowering local communities as the true stewards of
nature and are meaningfully and actively engaged in initiatives and
programs to prevent the demise in the state of our natural resources.
Fittingly, in an article in one of our newspapers titled "Women Ocean
Leaders of Samoa" to commemorate this week's Ocean Conference, it
shared the story of Captain Fealofani of our traditional double-hull
voyaging canoe, the Gaualofa and how the crew is working in partnership
with government ministries to implement awareness raising grassroots
programmes in Samoa. The goal is to "promote the revival of Samoan
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cultural traditions related to ocean sailing and navigation and the wise
stewardship of the Pacific, encouraging conservation, protection,
awareness, and preservation of the Pacific Ocean and island
envi ron ments".
Of greater and special significance is the fact that the Captain of our
traditional double-hull canoe is indeed a woman.
This is a strong endorsement of our Samoan women's capacity and sheer
determination to push the boundaries for gender equality. Captain
Fealofani is quoted to have said "the ocean needs us women to stand up
for her, to speak up for her, to cause our men and other women to take
better care of our ocean, to look after the ocean better"
That is our challenge and should be our global and collective goal as well.
Thank you.
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