International Program: Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands
Sue Higginson and International Programs Coordinator, BJ Kim, just returned from a productive visit to PNG, where we currently have two funded programs:
Supporting the Centre for Environmental Law and Community Rights (CELCOR) at a Board, management and operational level to gain traction in relation to forestry litigation; and supporting the formation of the PNG Environmental Law Association (PELA).
We cannot overstate the value of being in country with overseas partners, and we were able to make substantial progress on this trip: assisting PELA to submit a funding proposal, supporting CELCOR lawyers in relation to two key forestry cases, meeting with their promising new Principal Solicitor and Board, and, significantly, identifying an experienced PNG lawyer to work with on local cases.
One of the most encouraging aspects of this trip was hearing CELCOR’s new Chair Murray Maroroa’s enlightened vision for the organisation. Starting out as a Kiap in 1970, Murray worked his way through government ranks and was the Provincial Administrator of Oro Province from 1995-2000. Murray has extensive governance experience and a balanced approach to environmental issues. CELCOR’s future looks promising under his stewardship.
On a trip to Solomon Islands in July, we were delighted to discover EDO NSW’s vital role in Solomon Islands’ declaration of its first ever protected area – the Arnavon Islands – in May 2017.
The Arnavon community has worked to protect its marine areas since 1995, and has made great strides in reviving the population of Hawksbill sea turtles. Community members told us they had used our Protected Areas Toolkit to prepare the application for their Islands to be declared a protected area.
We developed the Toolkit in 2014 with one of our key partner organisations – the Public Solicitors Office’s Landowners Advocacy and Legal Support Unit (LALSU). One of our Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID), Adam Beeson, steered the project during his placement at LALSU.
Staff at the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management & Meteorology also told us that, in approving the Arnavon Community Marine Conservation Area, they had used processes developed in 2014 with the support of another of our AVID volunteers, Elizabeth Cotterell.
The use of our practical resources to achieve such an important declaration of environmental protection confirms the value of the strategic approach of our International Program across the Pacific. We focus on helping our partners achieve specific objectives, such as the declaration of protected areas, and building the capacity of both civil society and government around these identified objectives.
This outcome is the result of more than 20 years’ work by our partners in the Solomon Islands: improving laws, garnering political support and, importantly, helping local communities see the value in, and support, the declaration. It is a significant milestone in the community’s efforts to protect the unique and biodiverse environment of the Arnavon Islands.