About 30 people, representing 10 Pacific Island Countries (PICs) and regional organisations, are currently attending a meeting to discuss a Pacific Regional Policy Framework that will facilitate PICs' access to support under REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) funding possibilities.

This support will enable them to better manage their forest and tree resources.

The meeting's discussions are focusing on a first draft of the Policy Framework, which was developed after initial national consultations held earlier this year in Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu.

In opening the three-day meeting at the Novotel Hotel in Lami, Fiji, Inoke Ratukalou, Acting Director of SPCs Land Resources Division, said that this consultation is directly responding to the 2009 Heads of Forestry Meeting recommendation for SPC to support the formulation of a regional policy framework for REDD+.

'I am fully aware of the complexity of REDD+ and also the various concerns that countries raised when we held the initial national consultations,' he said.

'We have tried to take all these concerns on board when putting together the first draft,' he added.

He urged all participants to provide frank, objective and honest views about the draft framework so that we are able to arrive at a document that truly reflects the wishes of the countries such that it is going to adequately support all the countries in accessing benefits under the REDD+.

'We are hopeful that, together, we will effectively improve the document after the end of this meeting, and before it is passed on to the drafting committee to complete the formulation process,' Ratukalou said.

The drafting committee will work on the document, and a final draft is expected to be submitted to the meetings of the Heads of Agriculture and Forests and the Ministers of Agriculture and Forests in September this year for their deliberation and endorsement.

The process to develop the Pacific Regional Policy Framework for REDD+ is funded by Germany's International Climate Initiative through the SPC-GIZ 'Climate Protection through Forest Conservation in Pacific Island Countries' Project.

The project's Programme Director and Senior Adviser, Karl P. Kirsch said, the Regional Policy Framework should not only give orientation to the national REDD Programmes of larger forested PICs, but also identify support to the management of tree resources in smaller island states.

The consultation concludes on Thursday 26 April with a field visit to the REDD+ pilot site in Nakavu. (Central Viti Levu) in Fiji.