On #WorldOceanDay 2021, people everywhere celebrate and take action to protect this shared resource. Emma Locker, 2020 #NewColomboPlan scholar spoke to us about her experiences with Pacific communities and sustainable Ocean management.
In 2017, I spent six months living and working in Fiji whilst taking a gap year. Fiji’s impact on me was so profound that I have visited several times since and chose it as my New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholarship host location, to return and study politics at the University of the South Pacific.
For me, the Pacific region resembles a classroom made up of diverse island nations carrying immense value. A place so rich with knowledge, we could all benefit from visiting. These island nations, home to the custodians of the world’s largest and most abundant ocean, contain the nexus of rich cultural diversity, ancient wisdom, and leading innovative ideas for sustainable development and climate change resilience.
In an era of complex security challenges, including, but not limited to, climate change and the over exploitation and depletion of marine resources, there is a demand for elevated regional collaboration between Australia and Pacific Island States. Accordingly, on World Oceans Day, I take time to highlight the paramount importance of fostering people-to-people links within the Pacific. These links have the power to enhance and establish earnest connections which effect real and positive sustainable development within the region.
The NCP Scholarship is a mode through which regional connections may humbly be advanced. As a law and politics student hoping to work in Australian foreign affairs, I intend on using my scholarship program to develop an enhanced understanding of the region from a ‘Pacific perspective’. For instance, despite being a region of great cultural, linguistic, racial, and geographic diversity, the ocean has remained a common factor in fundamentally shaping and sustaining the coastal communities of the Pacific Islands. Therefore, despite differences, concerns over climate change and the state of the ocean are shared by all members of the region and require joint political action.
I see the NCP program as a valuable opportunity for young Australians to contextualise contemporary challenges within the Pacific. Through studying and undertaking internships in the region, there is scope to engage in transparent dialogue through which we can learn about the Pacific region from the perspective of Pacific Islanders themselves; thereby fostering understanding of respective values and concerns. Against that background, there is a solid foundation to move forward to facilitate proactive and sustained engagement with Pacific Island States to address core regional challenges.
On World Oceans Day, I take time to recognise the deteriorating condition of the ocean as a pressing regional issue. The island nations of the Pacific depend on a healthy ocean for their sustenance and livelihoods. With climate change and the effects of issues like pollution and the exploitation of marine resources, urgent action is required to ensure effective ocean management. Regional collaboration must fully and effectively realise the lived experiences, insights, and expertise of all people across the Pacific to ensure outcomes that promote a healthy and abundant ocean.