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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

1 September 2002

Australia Supports Pacific Island Neighbours

Special recognition of Pacific Island countries is a major achievement of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), Australia's Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Dr David Kemp, said today.

Detailing a $7.2 million package of partnership initiatives with our Pacific neighbours, Dr Kemp congratulated the countries on their success in raising awareness of their particular reliance on oceans for sustainable development, and their vulnerability to natural disasters.

"Australia is the largest donor to the independent Pacific Island states and throughout the WSSD process we have strongly promoted their special circumstances," Dr Kemp said. "We are particularly pleased that one of the early outcomes of the Summit has been to reach formal agreement on actions to assist small island developing states in the plan of implementation in areas including oceans, health, water, energy, tourism and related environmental vulnerability.

"This is a significant outcome, especially as Africa is the only other region to have been given special international recognition at the Summit.

"Australia has committed $A4 million for a Pacific Island adaptation and vulnerability initiative to help Pacific Island countries adapt to the future impact of extreme weather and other events. We have also set aside $A2.2 million to help improve their weather forecasting and climate prediction services.

"In the area of health, the potential impact of HIV/AIDS on Asian and Pacific island countries is huge. We are pleased to provide over $A1 million - part of our $A200 million commitment to address the epidemic in the region - to establish the Asia Pacific Leadership Forum for HIV/AIDS and Development. The Forum will provide important political leadership to fight this epidemic.

"Oceans are life to Pacific Island countries and Australia's oceans partnerships are designed to improve the way we manage the oceans for all. They will help address regional capacity for coral reef and oceans management and further our collective efforts to tackle the very serious problem of illegal fishing.

"These are issues of vital concern to the livelihood of the Pacific, which is home to some of the world's great coral reef and ocean ecosystems. Our global leadership to manage the unique biodiversity of deep oceans will also benefit a region that contains many of the world's seamounts - areas rich in marine biodiversity, much of it found only in the Pacific.

"As the first country to develop an integrated oceans policy, we are also delighted with Pacific Island countries' efforts to develop their own regional oceans policy and are looking forward to sharing our experience and expertise with our island neighbours through another of our ocean partnerships."

Dr Kemp congratulated the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific on the partnerships they had initiated and said Australia looked forward to exploring them further.

Media contacts:
Dr Peter Poggioli: (Johannesburg) +61412 970 063
Devena Wahlstrom (Canberra) (02) 6277 7640 or 0412 257 334

Commonwealth of Australia