From the 24 to 27th September, the first Forest Ministerial Talanoa, facilitated and supported by Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF), Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and IUCN Oceania Regional Office convened in Nadi, Fiji was attended by the Ministers of Forests from Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu with senior forest representatives from Papua New Guinea, Tonga and New Caledonia.
The cultural milieu of a talanoa provided a safe space and an opportunity for leaders to develop a mutual understanding of the true state of forests in the region, identify areas of concern with the current global and regional policies and forests instruments, priority threats and challenges to the forestry sector and most importantly to discuss solutions for future forest strategies and partnerships at the national and regional levels.
The meeting noted that forest cover for Pacific Island countries range from 0% to 90% with more than half of the Pacific Island countries having more than 50% forest cover and notably a large percentage of forests now comprising of secondary forest have lost a significant level of biodiversity. Reduced biodiversity has resulted in diminished resilience to cope with; climate change, invasive species, pests and diseases, disasters and the growing demand for fresh clean drinking water.
Establishing the definition of ‘forests’ in the Pacific context consequently included natural forests, forest plantations, mangroves and trees was another issue of discussion. The presence of trees and absence of other predominant land uses determine ‘forests’ with purposes of production, protection, multiple-use or conservation. Most importantly, its role in the ecosystem of providing food security and water was acknowledged as the lungs of the plant.
Forest Ministers also acknowledged that the Pacific forestry sector seriously faced developmental challenges such as a growing population and threats posed by climate change, illegal logging, deforestation, degradation, out-dated legislation, lack of capacity and political will.
Through the talanoa, Ministers consensually agreed to focus on the opportunities for sustainable management of forests in the Pacific and the urgent need to protect and preserve, as much of the Pacific’s natural forests, especially in high biodiversity areas through forest landscape restoration efforts in order to reforest and restore degraded forests and as part of future disaster risk reduction plans.
In particular, the Ministers called for:
· A regional forestry framework that recognizes the diversity of needs across the Pacific countries and one that accounted for REDD+ and other forest services with six clear elements of: finance, capacity-building, knowledge, skills and technology development and transfer, transparency of action and support and clear goals on forest landscape restoration.
· A Pacific Pledge for Forest Reforestation for countries to commit to forest landscape restoration targets in line with national priorities which are also aligned to regional and international targets such as Aichi Target 14 and the Bonn Challenge.
· National forest inventories to be conducted, with a widened scope of assessments beyond timber volume to also cover ecosystems services, biodiversity and soils carbon, non-timber forests products with a region-harmonised methodology adaptable to different geographical locations and size of countries in the region.
· Durable and sustainable resource mobilisation and partnerships through funding mechanisms and actions to increase funding opportunities for forests related projects in the region including internal and national funding instruments.
The talanoa ended with the Ministers calling on regional technical agencies such as the IUCN, SPC, GIZ, PIDF and others to work towards the outcomes of the meeting and to provide an update to the Ministers at the upcoming Heads of Forestry Service Meeting in early 2016. The Ministers also welcomed the proposal to annually convene the Forest Ministerial Talanoa to provide progress updates and strengthen partnerships.
 Such as coconuts, breadfruits, pandanus and other fruit trees.