Government officials from Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu can now better protect the environment and natural resources of their countries, after attending the environmental compliance and enforcement training courses held earlier this month. The two training courses targeted the Pacific Island Countries and were implemented in conjunction with IUCN, BIOPAMA (Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management Programme) and ACFEC (Australian Centre for Environmental Compliance).
Many Pacific Island countries have made great efforts to introduce policies and legislation relating to environmental and natural resource management. The training course was developed to help increase compliance and enforcement with the policies and legislation, which is a major challenge for many countries. Two trainings were held, in Honiara, Solomon Islands (6-11 October 2014) and respectively Suva, Fiji (13-18 October 2014).
43 Pacific Islands’ government representatives benefited from the two training courses. They are responsible for a wide-range of issues such as habitat and coastal protection, fisheries management, wildlife poaching, forestry, biodiversity conservation, and customary governance. Community members of the Anarvon Community Marine Conservation Area and academics were also present.
The course included practical training such as how to undertake investigations, and also identified ways to link complex legislation with customary law. During the course in Honiara, the role of customary law in environmental management was addressed by customary law expert Mr Jacob Kinai. In Suva, this was addressed by customary law expert Mr Timoci Tamotu. The participants practiced using regulatory tools to protect sacred sites and ensure that developments benefit the traditional landowners and local communities.
“The role of the participants in the civil service underpinned the focus of the course to provide skills in understanding and applying regulatory tools, not only prosecution. In many cases it is very important to prevent environmental damage or address environmental damage early through the use of monitoring programs or statutory tools,” said Mr Roger Ilitch, trainer of the course and CEO of Australian Centre for Environmental Compliance.
“Strengthening the capacity for environmental compliance and enforcement has been identified as a priority regional training need to support biodiversity conservation and protected area management. We will be looking very closely at the means for establishing a networking platform for regional environmental regulators to ensure skills and interest can continue to be developed beyond the training courses. The opportunity for people with regulatory responsibilities from different countries to share their experiences was an informative and invaluable side-benefit to the courses,” said Mr Tony O’Keeffe, Protected Areas Coordinator at IUCN Oceania and BIOPAMA coordinator for the Pacific.
The courses concluded with ceremonies to award certificates to the participants. The participants in Honiara were given a powerful address by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Ronald Talasasa, in which reminded the participants of the importance of their duty in protecting the environment for the benefit of current and future generations.
Feedback from the participants highlighted how useful the training was, particularly the practical aspects of the course. The feedback recognized that this type of course was one of the most effective ways to improve compliance and enforcement of environmental regulations.
“Sustainable outcomes to the training courses could be achieved by creating a regional network of environmental regulators, which would be an excellent platform for sharing information, supporting coherence and promote best practice in environmental enforcement. The membership of participants to this network would be a welcomed extension to the course,” said Ms Patricia Parkinson, the Course Coordinator and a member of IUCN World Commission for Environmental Law.
The course was funded by the Biodiversity and Protected Areas Management (BIOPAMA) programme, which is funded by the European Union's 10th European Development Fund. The BIOPAMA programme is jointly implemented by IUCN, the European Commisison’s Joint Research Centre and the multi-donor ABS Capacity Development Initiative managed by GIZ.