Remarks by UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director, Bakhodir Burkhanov at the Fiji Ridge to Reef Project Launch

Oct 4, 2016

Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Government, Housing and Environment 

National Government Representatives of Fiji and the Pacific

Colleagues from the Global Environmental Facility 

Civil society organisations, development partners

Distinguished guests

Ladies and gentlemen:

Good evening and warm greetings to you all!

Firstly, I would like to warmly congratulate the Government of Fiji for reaching this milestone of launching the Fiji Ridge-to-Reef Project as part of the GEF 5 STAR (Systematic Transparent Allocation of Resources) allocation.

As we launch this project, I would like to reiterate the commitment of the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, covering Fiji as well as 9 other Pacific Island Countries out of our offices in Suva, to support the Government of Fiji in implementing this R2R project through its designated Executing Agency – the Department of Environment within the Ministry of Local Government, Housing and Environment.

I wish to also kindly acknowledge the financial support provided by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) towards the Ridge-to-Reef programmes, not only in Fiji but in other Pacific nations. The Fiji project is one of 13 national R2R projects funded by the GEF so far.

The project is also linked to the Regional Programme focusing on the Pacific Islands Ridge-to-Reef national priorities, which is executed by the Geoscience Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). The national R2R projects, such as the one in Fiji, will be implemented in close coordination with this Regional Programme. I am pleased to note that the inception workshop of the Regional Programme takes place in Nadi next week.

The concept of ridge-to-reef brings together water, land, forest, biodiversity and coastal resource management aspects in a whole-of-the-ecosystem approach. All of these aspects are inter-connected: for example, land use directly affects the health of the coral reef. Such integrated approach has shown its contributions not only to conservation, but also to poverty reduction, sustainable livelihoods and climate resilience.

Within this broad conceptual framework, the Fiji R2R project’s objective is to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services; sequester carbon; improve climate resilience and sustain livelihoods through a ridge-to-reef management of priority water catchments on the two main islands of Fiji. The project will run for four years (starting in 2016) with GEF budget of USD 7.39 million and substantial co-financing (USD 30.24 million) from the Government of Fiji, private sector, UNDP and conservation NGOs.

The selected priority catchments are Ba River, Tuva River, Waidina River and Rewa Delta on Viti Levu, and Labasa River, Vunivia River and Tunuloa district on Vanua Levu. These catchments encompass a diverse and geographically dispersed areas with markedly different ecosystems, and scales and intensity of land use and degradation. As such, they present different challenges and opportunities, but also an ideal suite of learning environments for biodiversity conservation (Component 1), forest carbon stock protection and increase (Component 2), and integrated natural resources management (Component 3).

To deliver on such a project, coordination within and across sectors and institutions, and partnerships among national and local actors will be critical. These partnerships will allow for coverage of various sectors and themes in a manner that enables Government agencies, civil society and private sector partners to support and build on each other’s work, while effective collaboration at all levels will ensure geographic spread of activities and mutual learning and support among localities and communities. I am pleased to note, in this context, that the selection of implementing partners has been undertaken through a broad consultative process, with substantial inputs from Government and NGO sectors.

Ladies and gentlemen:

In conclusion, I wish to congratulate the Fiji Government once again on the launch of this important national initiative, and re-emphasize UNDP’s continued support as we work together to deliver the dividends of conservation and integrated natural resource management to communities in this country.

I also take this opportunity of wishing the organisers and participants of the GEF Expanded Constituency Workshop a fruitful week of deliberations here in Fiji.

Vinaka vaka levu!

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