Newsletter October 2021

Blue economy for climate, people and planet

Papua New Guinea is classified as one of seventeen “megadiverse” countries in the world and its marine ecosystems are of international significance.

New Investment in Papua New Guinea’s coral reefs and blue economy

The Global Fund for Coral Reefs has announced critical investment in Papua New Guinea to promote marine conservation and stimulate growth of this country’s new 'blue economy'.

Launched as part of a $125 million investment for coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the newly approved Joint Programme led by the United Nations Development Programme in Papua New Guinea will establish a Blue Economy Enterprise Incubation Facility. This will provide starting capital and technical assistance for local reef-positive enterprise development with an emphasis on women-led initiatives.

Papua New Guinea is classified as one of seventeen “megadiverse” countries in the world and its marine ecosystems are of international significance. Its coral reefs are part of the Coral Triangle – the area with the highest levels of marine biodiversity in the world. Despite its extraordinary natural heritage, most of Papua New Guinea’s highly biodiverse marine and coastal ecosystems are not well protected or resourced. This leaves sustainable livelihoods opportunities linked to the marine environment under-explored.

Corals of Milne Bay. Photo: Migration Media

The Blue Economy model aims to improve human wellbeing and social equity with coastal states encouraging inclusive participation of all social groups and sectors. This will protect, support and develop among other things, traditional culture, carbon sequestration, and coastal resilience to help mitigate the effects of climate change.

The new Joint Programme ‘Gutpla solwara, gutpla bisnis’ (Good oceans, good business) between UNDP and the UN Capital Development Fund will support local blue enterprises, leverage local skills and ultimately unlock private capital from domestic and international sources by demonstrating the viability of reef-first enterprise models. The project will initially focus on Kimbe Bay, West New Britain and Milne Bay, Louisiade Archipelago. Both sites are high in biodiversity and encompass significant areas of coral reef.

Coral reef, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Job Opu/ CEPA

The Blue Economy supports all Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG14 ‘life below water’, to sustainably manage, protect and preserve our oceans for the sake of present and future generations.

“Papua New Guinea’s abundant ocean resources contain significant potential to catalyse new sustainable economic opportunities for nearly ten percent of the population that live within one kilometre of the sea. The UN Joint Programme will help to stimulate the growth of Papua New Guinea’s new blue economy while contributing significantly to the conservation of valuable marine environments and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.” said Mr. Dirk Wagener, Resident Coordinator ai, United Nations in Papua New Guinea.

The Global Fund for Coral Reefs is a blended finance instrument to mobilise action and resources to protect and restore coral reef ecosystems. It provides grant funding and private capital to support sustainable interventions to save coral reefs and the communities that rely on them. This investment is the first in Papua New Guinea by the GFCR and will leverage additional partners and funding for the preservation of Papua New Guinea’s marine environment - a major achievement for coral and climate resilience.

Itamarina Island. Photo: Migration Media

#DearWorldLeaders: Voices of PNG @ #COP26

Video messages to world leaders on climate change from the people of Papua New Guinea

Dear World Leaders: Papua New Guinea will attend #COP26 with messages for climate action. West Irai Island. Photo: Migration Media

Papua New Guinea is a leading voice of Rainforest Nations. It stewards an abundance of terrestrial and marine biodiversity and a rich cultural heritage. One of the first countries in the world to lodge its national determined contributions under the 2015 Paris Agreement, Papua New Guinea will attend #COP26 with a message for world leaders to commit to urgent climate action.

Due to the COVID-19 emergency in Papua New Guinea, Prime Minister James Marape will be represented at the 26th Convention of Parties (COP26), in Glascow, by the Minister for Environment, Conservation and Climate Change, the Hon. Wera Mori. The Minister will reiterate to world leaders at COP26, the Prime MInister's commitment to conservation and climate sustainability he so passionately delivered at the recent UN General Assembly, in New York.

“It is time the big carbon emitters of planet earth own up and apologise to the small islands states and all other victims of climate change,” said Mr Marape in his address. "Papua New Guinea is committed to conserving our tropical forests and rich biodiversity, but we want to see industrialised nations take bold action."

On the first day of the COP26 Leaders Summit, Minister Mori as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy remarked that Papua New Guinea, like many small island developing states in the Pacific, and the world over, "suffer the consequences of industrial catastrophes, that we are not responsible for".

In the Autonomous Region of Bougainville, authorities are very aware of the implications of climate change in the region. The Autonomous Bougainville Government say that mitigating climate risk is "priority number one."

"We are addressing issues of resettlement, food security, we also have water stress on the atolls, and coastal erosion on both islands of Buka and Bougainville," says climate and environment expert, Mr Stanley Azagun.

Carteret Islanders, in Bougainville for food supplies. Photo: Clive Hawigen l UNDP Papua new Guinea.

"Climate change is real ... and is affecting men and women," says Catherine Boera, of Lutheran Development Services. Her work in the islands of Morobe Province involves community awareness on how to adapt to and survive the growing climate emergency. "There's a shortage of food," she explains. "Pests and disease affect food crops, it's becoming an issue now."

As an "island lady," this message from Sakingo Joshua of Aromot Island, explains how difficult it is for islander people to access fresh water during times of prolonged drought. Often, they will journey across the sea.

"When the sea is calm, I paddle to the mainland. It is difficult when the winds pick up, and it's high tide. When it rains, we collect the water, if not, we wait for the strong winds to subside."

"Rainwater is collected for drinking, and cooking only. Drinking water is very important to us - we have to look after it."

"Gwala is our tradition ... to manage and protect our natural resources," explains John Aini, from Ailan Awareness. "Times are getting difficult now with population increase, climate change, sea level rise."

He says the Gwala is trying to bring back traditional experiences, the bountifulness, and the beauty of the past. He explains the village of Ailan benefits by this revival of cultural lore with an increase of fish to feed their families.

John Aini does believe in science, but in his remote island village reviving strong traditions and community care for the marine environment have also been important to combat the impacts of climate change.

"Science alone does not realise management. There should be a mix of what we are doing... and together things will work".


The world is facing dual nature and climate crises... Without nature, it will be impossible to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement, nor reach the Global Goals.

Life under water. Photo: Migration Media

Over half of the world’s economy is dependent on nature and its services. With efforts led by the United Nations, movement is now underway to prevent a collapse of our natural world.

In October 2021, delegates from across the world gathered in person and virtually at the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) COP-15 in China. It saw the adoption of the Kunming Declaration, where parties committed to negotiate an effective post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework due to be adopted when the meeting resumes from 25 April to 8 May 2022.

“The draft text of the framework includes proposals to protect 30 per cent of the Earth’s land and sea, and increase financial resources for nature to at least $200 billion per year,” writes the United Nations Development Programme's Head of Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Midori Paxton.

Several countries made new pledges during COP-15. The European Union announced that it would double external funding for biodiversity. China pledged $233 million towards the new Kunming Biodiversity Fund to protect biodiversity in developing countries. And Japan extended its Japan Biodiversity Fund by approximately $17 million.

During a high-level address aired during CBD COP15, UNDP's Administrator Steiner acknowledged the new levels of financial and technical support that the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility will provide to Member States as the post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework takes shape.

The ongoing negotiations for the 8th Replenishment of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have included a promising discussion on the need for a significant increase in biodiversity financing for the next funding cycle (2022-2026) to help countries respond to the ambition of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework. The GEF-8 Programming Directions strategy outline an ambitious plan to help countries meet the new biodiversity targets.

In recognition of the urgency of this moment, and to prepare for that investment, the GEF in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Environment Programme will provide immediate financial and technical support to developing country governments.

Support by the Global Environment Facility is designed to help accelerate implementation of the new framework once it is formally agreed in 2022. Read our joint statement: Fast-tracking Action in support of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

People of Morokea protect future of biodiversity

In West New Britain, an island province of Papua New Guinea, a local community-based organisation is stepping up to protect nature as monoculture expansion and logging activities threaten biodiversity.

Wildlife and bird species move further up Whiteman Range as a result of habitat destruction. Photo: Ted Mamu/ UNDP Papua New Guinea

Lake Umboli is a traditional and customary icon to the people of Morokea, and the surrounding village of Ruango. The lake is located within the Whiteman Range, a mountainous region in West New Britain province, south of Kimbe, covering an area of 175,703 ha and rich in biodiversity.

An initiative of the Pa’Ubol Koverng Conservation Alliance based in Morokea Village, the Lake Umboli Biodiversity Conservation Project is working on measures to address threats to local biodiversity, in partnership with West New Britain Community Development Forum (a local non-government organization specialising in project management at the community level).

Biodiversity at the Lake Umboli conservation site is under threat at an alarming rate as it shares a border with logging activities. On one side are mere memories of pristine forest, and on the other side standing tall are majestic trees of the remaining forest.

The surrounding lake area is important habitat for multiple local species within the conservation buffer zone. Most notable are the keystone tree species of ficus, artocarpus and canarium inducum that perform important ecosystem services and supply shelter and breeding habitat for bats, birds, and cassowaries. Intact forest promotes natural regeneration to encompass critical environmental values.

Ms Theodora Maea, the project lead of the Lake Umboli Biodiversity Conservation Project, explains that in recent years logging has damaged the surrounding forested area, and it is only a matter of time before oil palm development in the province also reaches this region.

'Only a matter of time before oil palm development in the province also reaches this region' - Theodora Maea

“Lake Umboli is under threat of encroachment, and has been earmarked by government to be a potential site for protection. The project has now conducted a rapid assessment of identified biodiversity significant areas,” said Ms Maea.

“We have also trained locals, with the view of putting in place a regular monitoring system and management measures. Another objective of the project is to develop the local management plan."

Ms Maea explained that many wildlife and bird species had moved further up the Whiteman Range - away from the conservation site as a result of the habitat destruction in the bordering forest.

Palm Cockatoo. Photo: Ted Mamu/ UNDP Papua New Guinea

Dedication and commitment from the local community, and key stakeholders in biodiversity conservation, is propelling the project to ensure that this important site is protected for future generations.

The vital rapid assessment to document the biodiversity values of the Lake Umboli Project site was enabled by the Global Environment Fund (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP).

The GEF Small Grants Programme supports local communities, community-based organizations and non-government organizations in providing financial and technical support to projects and initiatives that conserve and restore the environment, while enhancing people's well-being and livelihoods.

Lake Umboli Biodiversity Conservation Project conducted rapid assessments of identified significant areas.

Conflict-Sensitive Reporting in Bougainville

Journalism as a fourth pillar of democracy has an important role to play in education and awareness of nation-building.

A socially responsible media can play a decisive role in educating the public. Photo: UNDP

A socially responsible, values-laden, enlightened, and fearless media can play a decisive role in educating the public and uplifting the spirit of a nation.

Journalists in the forefront of news reporting must be well vested with accurate information. The United Nations Development Programme, together with the National Coordination Office of Bougainville Affairs, gathered journalists together in Port Moresby for a two-day training workshop on ‘Conflict Sensitive Journalism and News Reporting’.

The workshop focused on increasing awareness among journalists on the post-referendum process. This includes the on-going joint consultation processes between the Autonomous Bougainville Government and the Government of Papua New Guinea. This effort initiative aims to ensure journalists are well informed on the latest developments on Bougainville and can contribute towards accurate and sensible news reporting.

“The United Nations Development Programme is very pleased to support this workshop alongside both governments. It has been facilitated by the National Coordination Office of Bougainville Affairs. The training focuses on the Bougainville post-referendum process, however lessons and principles learnt will be applicable in other aspects of this work,” said Ms. Julie Bukikun, UNDP Assistant Resident Representative.

Julie Bukikun at workshop.

The workshop enabled journalists to familiarize themselves with the principles of conflict sensitive reporting - and how these principles can be integrated in their daily work.

COVID Response Boosted by Donation of Ambulances

New ambulances donated through the United Nations-India Partnership Fund, procured by UNDP in support of COVID response for national health.

New ambulances donated through United Nations-India Partnership Fund. Photo: Clive Hawigen/ UNDP Papua New Guinea

As the number of COVID-19 infections soars in Papua New Guinea, emergency response services have been stretched to their limits. This situation is made worse by low COVID-19 vaccination rates, of which Papua New Guinea now has among the lowest in the world.

This initiative will support efforts to address the unprecedented pressure the latest COVID-19 surge has placed on Papua New Guinea’s health system.

On presenting the initial four ambulances to the Government of Papua New Guinea, UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Dirk Wagener said the health system is overwhelmed by this latest COVID-19 surge.

"Community transmission is widespread. These ambulances will help to address some of the pressure but are only one part of what needs to be a multifaceted response. We must lift vaccination rates and raise community awareness as an absolute priority.”

The United Nations Development Programme is delivering this work with the support of the United Nations-India Partnership Fund. The first four of 10 ambulances were handed over in October, with two ambulances assigned to St. John Ambulance Service immediately. This will boost capacities to cope with the current surge. The Minister for Health, the Hon. Jelta Wong, acting Indian High Commissioner Mr. R.S. Virdi, and the Chief Executive Officer of St John Ambulance, Mr. Matt Cannon were present during the handover.

“This invaluable support from UNDP and partners will provide urgent strengthening to emergency response in Port Moresby, and Provinces, at this critical time of national need,” said Minister for Health, the Hon. Jelta Wong.

This follows the refurbishment of five ambulances under this partnership to improve operability of current emergency health services. An additional six new ambulances are expected to arrive in Papua New Guinea in the coming weeks.

The United Nations has played a critical and wide-ranging role in supporting Papua New Guinea’s national COVID-19 response efforts. UNDP has featured strongly through efforts to support the Government with critical humanitarian coordination through the National Coordination Centre, procurement of 30 ventilators, and in delivering Papua New Guinea’s first national socio-economic impact assessment on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ambulances will be distributed across the country to bolster rural and remote health services, utilized by various essential health providers, including St John Ambulance.

What Sets Her Soul on Fire? #Youth4Climate

"Young people’s voices were heard by global leaders" - Vinzealhar Nen, Youth Climate Activist

“The Youth4Climate summit provided young delegates from 193 countries the unprecedented opportunity to put forward ideas and proposals on some of the most pressing issues on the climate agenda” – Vinzealhar Nen

A strong advocate for the environment and climate change action, Ms. Vinzealhar Nen is a passionate member of the UNDP in Papua New Guinea Country Office.

Vinzealhar’s interest and passion for environmental and climate issues started at age nine with a lifelong interest in science.

“I did commence my tertiary studies majoring in biomedical engineering, however, due to family issues, I had to put that on hold and return home to Papua New Guinea to join the workforce,” said Ms. Nen.

She soon found pathways to participate in major events that inspired her to start a successful tree planting campaign. In her own words, the campaign took a life of its own in 12 provinces across the country and driven by close to 1000 young people.

Venzealhar is also the country lead for the Sustainable Ocean Alliance hub in Papua New Guinea, driving community and youth engagement to help address climate and environmental challenges.

Her concern for the environment, climate change, and global issues has opened amazing opportunities to represent Papua New Guinea at high-level forums around the world.

“It is what sets my soul on fire,” she explains.

In September 2021, Vinzealhar was invited to attend the Youth4Climate Summit in Milan, Italy, joining 400 youth delegates from 193 UN member state countries at the event. The young delegates were engaged for the summit by their passion through art, music, sport, textile design, food, and agriculture to address climate change.

“It was an honour to represent Papua New Guinea. The trip to Italy was an eye opener. A country full of history and in a way, we made history too. Young people’s voices were heard by global leaders,” she said.

“The Youth4Climate summit did provide a voice to young delegates from the Pacific region. We were joined by Fiji, Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia. Other Pacific Islanders were unable to join due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, but we were able to put forward ideas and concrete proposals on behalf of our region.”

“The main themes discussed were Youth Driving Ambition, Sustainable Recovery, Non-state Actors Engagement, and a Climate Conscious Society. We also raised the potential of supporting eco-tourism projects and to basically prioritize the island communities as well as the countries in the global south - who are in the line of fire when it comes to the climate crisis,” said Vinzealhar.

“Climate Islands” - Podcast Episode #3

"Climate Islands" - a podcast on climate change by UNDP Papua New Guinea

In UNDP’s new Podcast: “Climate Islands” - Episode #3 – Youth4Climate - Vinzealhar Nen shares her local and global experiences of raising awareness about environmental challenges and impacts of climate change in Papua New Guinea - and the urgency for youth involvement in climate action.

The podcast also discusses her recent journey to the #Youth4Climate Summit, in Milan, as a youth delegate for the Pacific region ahead of a gathering of world leaders at COP26.


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