1. Regional Network
For the Pacific regional contribution to the 2010 – 2011 Ethics and Responsibility programme we are drawing from our Across Oceania network. This network for Responsibility has been generated over the past eight or nine years with links with partners in small Islands states and the larger countries of the southern part of the ‘Water Continent’ including Australia, Papua New Guinea and Aotearoa-New Zealand.
Responsibilities which we focus on are cultural and environmental interests with special interest in water ecosystems. The vast Pacific Ocean covers more than one third of the earth so water is deeply embedded in our cultures, histories, and horizons. Nowadays, the oceans are increasingly regarded as the last frontier of undiscovered and unexploited resources, and we see the tentacles of strategies to achieve influence reaching into the region from Pacific Rim countries China and the US, and from further afield such as the European Union .
Relationships with Pacific Partners…
To build relationships with partners in the region we have attended forums and meetings in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa, Vanuatu, Hawaii and Australia. We mention a Solidarity Economy meeting in the Philippines since this is also in the ‘Water Continent. The Pacific Roundtable was one of our early points of reference as this is a regular regional meeting of conservation organizations. Another was with the Local Management of Marine Areas network, also a Pacific wide initiative for sustainable management of coastal and fisheries resources.
As we have attended to environmental and governance issues in our region we join with others in appreciating the importance of decision-making and policy that links sectors, such as non-government, government and private sectors, and that links economic, cultural, social and environmental interests.
Environmental Responsibility in our Context
This kind of approach is well documented as the basis for strong sustainability and is often referred to as integrated management and governance. Achieving such integration is challenging where existing systems are built on these different spheres as separated.
The Pacific region still has significant indigenous populations and cultures with cultural diversity reflected in the language complexity. There are 1400 distinct languages spoken in the Pacific ‘basin’ (Pacific Islands with Australia and New Zealand), with 250 aboriginal languages in Australia and 750 in Papua New Guinea. A phrase which is often used to express the world views of these cultures is a ‘woven universe’. This suggests the integrated nature of the living world, and of the interdependence of humans with nature.
Indigenous cultures, although diverse themselves, uphold ‘obligation’ as a value with an intergenerational requirement to safeguard land and water and resources for future generations. This is closely akin to the concept of responsibility as referring to both accountability and responsive. We therefore consider the Pacific region to have much to bring to the global quest for solutions to the climate crisis.
Regional Forums, Assemblies, Studies…
We ourselves hosted a symposium in Samoa where we brought together people from the countries mentioned above to consider possibilities for integrated approaches to governance. In January 2011 we joined with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to host an assembly in Aotearoa New Zealand, and were able to bring partners from Pacific countries. Our study of water issues in the region gives us knowledge of more possibilities for implementing integrated practices. There is a report of this study on our website www.response.org.nz.