A High Level Roundtable on Development, Society and Environment, opened yesterday in Honiara, Solomon Islands,
Represented were members of the government, the private sector and civil society present to discuss important development issues with the hope of agreeing on a development model that incorporates the needs of society and the environment and also considers the long-term needs of the country.
The Dialogue was officially opened by the Honorable Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo.
Prime Minister Lilo indicated that the challenges being faced by Solomon Islands are huge, a result of small populations geographically dispersed over a large ocean. Thus the responsibility for these needs to be shouldered jointly by government, the private sector and civil society in a concerted effort.
He said that the lack of policies in the past has resulted in the resource extractive industry having a free rein at the detriment of the environment and society as a whole. Therefore there needs to be a sustainable approach for the management of Solomon Islands’ fisheries, mining and forestry sectors.
Prime Minister Lilo said that this necessitates a serious dialogue on the issues – a dialogue among Solomon Islanders to agree on a better model for development.
Prime Minister Lilo’s speech was followed by an intervention by Mr Taholo Kami, Regional Director of IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Oceania Office.
Mr Kami referred to the unique natural resources of Solomon Islands and the threats posed by logging, overfishing, mining and development of this unique environment and suggested the need for extraordinary measures as we recognise that the ordinary ones are failing us.
He said that “sustainable development is about changing mindsets and required a rethinking of development models to bring people into a new long-term partnership.” He suggested that the dialogue needs to identify key changes or consider and discuss new mechanisms that will ensure that in a commodity dependent economy, extraction carries on but with it the country also gets big environment wins and big social benefits.
The Monday morning session focussed on the state of development in Solomon Islands with the Governor of the Central Bank providing an overview of the state of the economy. Also speaking at this session was Dr Philip Tagini who explored the opportunities open to the Solomon Islands to rethink its development model and Mr Peter Forau, the Director General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), presented the MSG’s perspective of a Green Growth agenda.
The afternoon session will focus on the mining sector. Mr Poul Engberg-Pedersen, the Deputy Director General of IUCN, will be the keynote speaker for this session and will explore the possibilities of building a partnership between mining and environment interests for achieving the country’s development goals.
The session will also include contributions by the mining sector, including from Mr Rence Sore, Permanent Secretary of Mines, Energy and Rural Electrification and from the Gold Ridge and Sumitomo Mines, as well as inputs from the landowners and the Attorney General.
Commenting on the Dialogue, the statement from the Prime Minister’s Office described it as being critical to an ongoing process aimed at helping to shape Solomon Islands’ current and future development agenda.
“The dialogue is also timely as the country is at the crossroads of a fundamental shift from logging to mining and other revenue growth industries as the country’s main revenue stream, given the environmental challenges posed by both industries to the country’s future livelihood, and in the face of climate change challenges confronting Solomon Islands and the region, ” the statement said.
The statement added that the Dialogue also fits in well with the government’s own ongoing discussions on formulating and designing steps and measures aimed at guiding the implementation of its important socio-economic policies and programs.
The three day dialogue, ending on 6 March, is the Solomon Islands Government’s initiative to find an effective way to achieve a more inclusive model of development – a development model that benefits all the people of Solomon Islands.
The Dialogue on Development, Society and Environment is being supported by IUCN and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
Source: Press Release, International Union for Conservation of Nature