Remarks by UNDP Country Director, Bakhodir Burkhanov, at the National Consultation Workshop on Development Minerals

Aug 10, 2016

A warm welcome and bula to the Hon. Mereseini Vuniwaqa, Minister for Lands and Mineral Resources, Fiji; Mr. Christoph Wagner, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to the Pacific; Government and civil society representatives; and other partners.

I extend my gratitude to the Government of Fiji, in particular the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources, the European Union and the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, for their support in co-hosting this National Consultation Workshop on Development Minerals in Fiji. It is a great pleasure for me to be here today.

Ladies and gentlemen:

A major milestone that we have collectively reached is the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals by world leaders last September. While building on the foundation laid by the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs were designed to complete the unfinished business of the MDGs and to ensure that no one is left behind from important developmental benefits.

The SDGs – also referred to as Agenda 2030 – encourage all of us to re-think our assumptions about development. The SDG framework is highly inter-connected as a testament to the fact that development is inherently complex and can no longer be seen in terms of isolated sectors such as health, agriculture or industries. Progress or lack thereof in one area influences others in substantial ways.

In that context, many people are often surprised to learn that the majority of mineral commodities mined globally are not in fact metals. Industrial minerals (like gypsum and salt), construction materials (like gravel, sand and limestone), dimension stones (such as marble and granite), and semi-precious stones form the bulk of commodities mined worldwide. These so called ‘neglected development minerals’ have an important role to play in sustainable development, as highlighted by SDG 9, which aims to “Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation.” 

In Fiji, for example, severe weather events, such as this year’s devastating Cyclone Winston, demonstrate the strong link between the availability of construction and building materials, and human development.

Ladies and gentlemen:

The ACP Group of States, the EU and UNDP are working together on a three-year, €13.1 million capacity building initiative, called the ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme, which aims to improve the management of Neglected Development Minerals. UNDP has had a long-standing relationship with the European Union that has resulted in many successful collaborative efforts, and we are delighted to be working for the first time with the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States. 

‘Neglected Development Minerals’ have sometimes been referred to as ‘low-value minerals’ but with closer links to local economies and significant job creating potential, they can, if well managed, generate high value for development. From toothpaste to paints, to soap and plates, development minerals are intrinsic to everyday life.

Here in Fiji, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources is spearheading this process with support from UNDP. Today’s national consultation workshop follows on from a regional dialogue held here in Suva with our Pacific Island neighbours in December 2015.

The ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme complements UNDP’s ongoing effort towards catalysing a resilient, inclusive and sustainable extractive sector. 

In December 2012, UNDP developed a Strategy for Supporting Sustainable and Equitable Management of the Extractive Industries. UNDP’s mission is to ensure that natural wealth translates into real improvement in people’s lives. By launching this corporate strategy, UNDP has become a strong ally to global efforts in tackling the massive sustainable development challenges associated with the sector.

Colleagues and friends:

Let me conclude by wishing you a successful consultation workshop. We are at the beginning of an important journey, and it will be crucial to have strong engagement, inputs and coordination of sectors and institutions to deliver on the ambition of this initiative.

I look forward to the Roadmap that you will collectively create to guide a more inclusive, sustainable and transformative mining and quarrying sector in Fiji.

Vinaka and a productive day to you all!

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