Glispa looks to EU islands to fulfil founders' dream


10-June-2013

Ambassador Jumeau (left) with MEPS and EU officials during his European visit

Glispa was born out of a call by the leaders of Seychelles and Palau, Presidents James Michel and Tommy Remengesau respectively, at the 2005 Mauritius conference on small island developing states (Sids) for island nations and communities and countries which have islands to come together to help each other solve island conservation and sustainability challenges.

Sids have since been joined in the partnership by non-independent islands and island initiatives such as the British Virgin Islands and the Hawaii Green Growth Initiative as well as friends from the global non-governmental organisation community and various United Nations agencies and bodies which deal with island and ocean issues.

Seychelles' ambassador for climate change and Sids issues Ronny Jumeau, who is President Michel's representative on, and chair of the Glispa steering committee, and partnership coordinator Kate Brown last month spent a week in Brussels, Belgium, further engaging with Europe's overseas island territories through the European commission and parliament.

The Ambassador joined the Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for Europe's overseas Pacific territories Maurice Ponga of New Caledonia, in co-chairing a round table on the challenges the EU islands face and how a partnership such as Glispa could help.

Seychelles' Brussels-based Ambassador to the EU Vivianne Fock-Tave, the chair of Europe's Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA), several MEPs, senior officials from the European commission's various directorates and representatives of the IUCN-World Conservation Union (International Union for Conservation of Nature) took part in the round table at the European parliament in Brussels.

Ambassador Jumeau explained it was an opportune time for Glispa to strengthen its relationship with Europe's overseas islands given the fast-growing emphasis on oceans and marine and coastal biodiversity and ecosystem services following last year's Rio+20 conference, and in the lead-up to the next global conference on Sids in Samoa next year. 2014 is also the international year of small island developing states.

"Glispa is placing island biodiversity, sustainable livelihoods and oceans at the centre of the sustainable development debate," Mr Jumeau said.  "Conversations on these issues should not be carried out separately."

Urging islands to work together regardless of their political status, Ambassador Jumeau stressed that "now is the time for islands across the globe to step up and step forward on common issues to ensure that island and marine and coastal biodiversity, and the future regime that is being discussed for the oceans, remain an integral part of the debate on sustainable development post-2015."

Mr Jumeau and Ms Brown, accompanied by Carole Martinez, IUCN's project coordinator for Europe's Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories and a member of the Glispa steering committee who helped organise the visit, also had separate meetings with the European Union's commissioner for environment Janez Potocnik and top officials of other EU directorates over several days.

Ambassador Jumeau pointed out to the MEPs and EU officials he met that through their exclusive economic zones, the Sids, whose exclusive economic zones make them large ocean states, and the EU's overseas island territories are together responsible for the stewardship of a vast proportion of the world's oceans and seas.

These exclusive economic zones together made up a far bigger carbon sink than all of Earth's forests put together, absorbing much more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than trees ever could, he said.

More sustainably managed they could thus have a huge effect in tackling climate change while at the same time strengthening food security and social welfare, providing jobs and economic wealth, and more effectively protecting island, coastal and marine biodiversity.

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