Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
I’m delighted to be given the opportunity to share Fiji’s experience on the formulation of its Green Growth Framework – the first of its kind among the island nations of the Pacific.
As you all know, the term ‘Green Growth’ has been adopted globally to describe a path of economic growth which uses natural resources in a sustainable manner.
But it has particular resonance in the Asia Pacific region where we know that development has far too often come at the cost of environmental degradation.
The Pacific Small Island Developing States are especially vulnerable in this regard. We need to grow our economies in a sustainable manner without jeopardising our pristine environment and the futures of Pacific Islanders to come.
In Fiji, we recognise that much of what has been done in the past is unsustainable, in some cases seriously so. In far too many instances, our resources have been exploited without regard for the need to nurture them carefully so they continue to provide the prosperity on which we all depend, now and into the future.
My own Government recognised that we needed to forge a new development model – one that is more holistic, integrated, inclusive and above all sustainable. We needed a new approach that links economic growth and environmental protection. To build a green economy in which the driver of growth is more intelligent, more effective and has the common interests of all citizens in mind.
In June 2014, we held our first national Green Growth Summit in Fiji. And in opening that gathering, I said we needed to be a lot smarter in the way we exploit our resources – whether it is our fish at sea or our forests on land.
So that we can extract the maximum income from them for our development needs but still protect them so we can continue living off them.
What emerged from that Summit and was later endorsed by my Cabinet was Fiji’s first home grown Green Growth Framework — a master plan, if you like — to build a more sustainable economic model and have that at the very core of our national development.
That Framework is now in place and is central to everything that we do. Sustainability is now the criteria against which every national development project is measured.
Put simply, if a project or initiative is not sustainable and jeopardises our natural resources in any way, it will not proceed. Because as I have repeatedly stated, our resources are not for us to squander in the present for short-term economic gain.
We are merely holding them in trust for future generations of Fijians and we owe it to them to leave them with the same resources that they can eventually also exploit in a sustainable manner.
It is no exaggeration to say this is a sacred trust which must not be broken.
There are of course many factors beyond our control, the biggest of which is the failure of the industrialised nations to curb their carbon emissions and give Pacific Islanders a fighting chance against the rising sea levels caused by those emissions.
I will be saying a lot more about this issue later in the week. But Fiji is at the forefront of the efforts of Pacific Island nations to get the global community to finally take this issue seriously and we will be leading the charge at the World Climate Summit in Paris in six month’s time.
Today I want to concentrate on those measures that we do have control over. And that is the responsible use of our natural resources, whether on land or at sea.
The challenge we face from climate change was a central theme at the inaugural Pacific Islands Development Forum meeting in August 2013. At that Summit, representatives from the public sector, private sector and civil society agreed that while we could do little more than plead for global action on climate change, we could at least build a degree of resilience among island nations.
It was therefore agreed that the Pacific needs a distinctive sustainable development model which we called ‘Green Growth in Blue Economies’. It recognised that our current economic growth model in Pacific Island countries is flawed.
We all agreed at that gathering to do more than just discuss these challenges but to actually implement a plan of action. And so it was that my own Government saw fit to formulate a Green Growth Framework to guide our future national development in Fiji.
None of this was done in isolation. We took into account Fiji’s existing international commitments, such as those under the Barbados Plan of Action and the Mauritius Strategy to harmonise our domestic approach with overall global objectives.
But we realised above all that we needed to formulate a uniquely Fijian plan that specifically addressed our own challenges rather than adopt some generic international framework.
We also realised at a Government level that we could do little working in isolation. We needed to build a cohesive and inclusive partnership with all Fijians and work together to identify our common development challenges and develop a consensus on sustainability.
So we brought together all of the stakeholders in our economy to a gathering in Suva in June last year to consider a draft Green Growth Framework that we had formulated and carve out a way forward together.
We had a number of guiding principles:
*The need to reduce carbon footprints at all levels
*Improve resource productivity, including doing more with less.
*To develop a new integrated approach to national development, with all stakeholders collectively working together for the common good. Because no-one can operate in isolation and tackling our challenges and developing effective strategies requires harmony and synergy.
*We needed to strengthen public education of responsible stewardship of our environment – to make people more aware of their personal responsibility to care for their surroundings.
*We needed to adopt more comprehensive risk management practices.
*We needed to audit both past and planned developments and link economic progress to better environmental outcomes.
*We needed to enhance structural reforms to encourage fair competition and efficiency.
*And we needed to provide incentives for investment to support the efficient use of natural resources.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I cannot stress enough the need to take all of our people with us on the Green Growth journey. Governments cannot work in isolation. Individual Ministries cannot work in isolation.
Indeed we found that Government Ministries not communicating with each other on development objectives was one of our biggest problems.
Without an integrated approach across the whole of government and the whole of society, effective Green Growth outcomes are difficult if not impossible. And so we need partnerships to deliver our development agenda – partnerships with the private sector and civil society groups, individual communities and indeed individual citizens.
At our national Green Growth Framework Summit, representatives from across society – joined by multilateral organisations and our development partners – considered a number of hotspots that require attention and these were prioritised into ten basic areas.
Building resilience to climate change and disasters; Waste management; Sustainable island and ocean resources; Inclusive social development; Food security; Freshwater resources and sanitation management;
Energy security; Sustainable transportation; Technology and innovation; and the “greening” of tourism and manufacturing industries – essentially the development of sustainable activities in both these major national endeavours.
The Green Growth Framework that eventually emerged carries the theme: “restoring the balance in development that is sustainable for our future” – to keep Fiji relatively pristine and live up to our global image that we must work harder to maintain.
Working together, we need to manage these hotspots. And that requires a partnership between all stakeholders in our society to ensure that our development priorities are rebalanced to meet our social and environmental objectives.
Of course, it also requires political will from Government to see these reforms through and to place them at the centre of our national life.
I’m pleased to say that my Government has demonstrated that political will. The Framework was endorsed by Cabinet in July 2014. And that Framework will be a mainstay of a new five-year development plan – together with a 20-year plan – that my Government is in the process of formulating to take Fiji forward.
We are also engaging with our development partners such as the Global Green Growth Institute and the Asian Development Bank to support this process.
I want to place on record my Government’s appreciation for the support provided by the ADB and the UNESCAP of the formulation of our Green Growth Framework. It is a model that is not only appropriate to Fiji but the other Pacific Small Island Developing States and indeed many other developing countries.
But let me close by stressing one very important factor. Our Green Growth Framework is a work in progress – an evolving policy. We have started the journey but we are by no means near its end.
One of the biggest challenges we found was that the data that we tried to use to decide our priorities was routinely either inconsistent or out of date. Put simply. We often had no benchmarks from which to work.
We needed more information on which to base effective decision-making. So we have also embarked on strengthening our Bureau of Statistics and the other mechanisms at our disposal to give us the information we need to formulate sustainable development policies.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The path that Fiji has taken is a path that the rest of the Pacific can emulate. One might say it is the path the rest of the Pacific has to take to ensure the sustainable development of its resources and in some instances, its very survival. And Fiji stands ready to assist its neighbors to achieve some of the same gains we have made.
Thank you for the opportunity to address you and I wish you all the very best in these deliberations.
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.