Noumea, New Caledonia – As millions across Europe celebrate Europe Day today, the people of the Pacific have good reason to join in.
For the past decade, the European Union (EU) has been one of the main drivers of sustainable development in the Pacific, funding a number of critical projects implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and other organisations.
With EU funding totalling approximately 37 million Euros in 2012, SPC is implementing development projects in Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
These projects cover many sectors as follows:
Through EU funding, SPC’s Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees has been working with international research partners to grow plants such as taro and cassava that are adapted to climate change, pests and diseases and market needs.
Two EU-funded trade projects implemented by SPC work directly with grassroots farmers, tree growers and export enterprises to strengthen the export capacity of Pacific countries.
It is well documented that rapid growth in fishing has led to a reduction of the region’s large tuna stocks, while coastal fisheries resources are also coming under increasing pressure to provide food security and income for growing populations.
Through an EU-funded fisheries project, SPC provides scientific support for fisheries management and decision-making, with the emphasis on building the skills and understanding of regional fisheries staff.
A second fisheries project addresses two of the key concerns of regional leaders about tuna fisheries: the need to secure more economic benefits from a resource which is mainly harvested by foreign vessels for processing in Asia, and the fear that a lot of fish is being caught illegally.
The project is helping develop local tuna industries, creating employment and export earnings, while improving the deterrence of illegal fishing.
It is implemented by the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA) as the lead agency working together with SPC.
To help the region reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, an EU-funded project is working on renewable energy and energy efficiency in Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau.
The project aims to reduce average monthly electricity consumption in urban households by at least 10%, provide over 12,000 people with first time access to electricity and assist 21 health centres and 32 schools to gain access to basic electricity.
Information and communication technology (ICT) has been recognised as a key tool for development in the Pacific. Through an EU-funded project, SPC is working with 12 Pacific parliaments to improve ICT access for the poor.
Two EU-funded projects are helping Pacific Island countries develop governance structures that ensure that water management is inclusive and takes into account the needs of all users.
The EU is also improving access to safe drinking water by funding the installation of water catchments in vulnerable countries like Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Tonga.
[A young girl sits in front of her family’s EU-funded rainwater tank in Tuvalu]
Three EU-funded disaster reduction projects aim to reduce the vulnerability of Pacific Island countries to natural disasters and increase regional capacity to deal with them.
Thanks to EU funding, SPC, in partnership with governments, is undertaking activities such as developing national action plans, increasing regional collaboration and installing early warning systems.
Deep sea minerals
The EU is also helping the Pacific expand its economic revenue base by facilitating the development of a viable and sustainable minerals industry.
SPC, with EU funding, is helping strengthen the system of governance and capacity of Pacific countries in the management of deep sea minerals.
As part of the EU’s Global Climate Change Alliance programme, SPC is supporting nine Pacific small Island states in their efforts to tackle the adverse effects of climate change.
In addition, the project helps countries access new sources of climate change finance.
SPC is a key partner with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in implementing an EU-funded regional project on human rights that assists Pacific Island countries to comply with their international commitments.
In Solomon Islands, an EU-funded project works to improve the lives of women by addressing discrimination through training and research.
SPC is also helping several Pacific nations develop their cultural sectors through an EU-funded project that works on cultural policy, the preservation of national heritage sites and the promotion of creative industries.
The theme of this year’s Europe Day, ‘Growing Stronger Together’, aptly describes the principle underpinning the EU’s support to the Pacific Islands region as demonstrated in the range of initiatives it supports in the region.
For more information on the Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s activities, visit www.spc.int.
SPC works in the following sectors: agriculture, aquaculture, culture, education, energy, fisheries, forestry, gender, ICT, human rights, media, public health, statistics and demography, transport, youth, and cross-cutting areas including food security and climate change.
SPC member countries and territories: American Samoa, Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, France, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, United States of America, Vanuatu, Wallis and Futuna.