Identifying and Mitigating Long-term Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster: Building the Case for Continued International Cooperation

 

The Round Table Discussion was co-organized by Permanent Mission of Belarus to the United Nations, Project Chernobyl, and Russian American Foundation. It brought together representatives from different countries, international organizations and scientists to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the International Chernobyl Disaster Remembrance Day. Its main purpose was to showcase the post-Chernobyl experience and discuss its implication for continued international cooperation on other technological threats.

Country and international organization leaders expressed their appreciation of the global collaboration efforts to identify and mitigate Chernobyl’s consequences. Representatives from Belarus, the Russian Federation, UN DESA and Kazakhstan especially thanked UNDP for its leadership, and scientists as well as the WHO for their quantitative studies on medical consequences in the affected region. Participants of the Round Table Discussion including the representatives from Belarus, the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, WHO, IAEA, the United States, and Chernobyl Children International also shared the important contribution of their countries and organizations.

The invited scientist Valentina Drozd from Project Chernobyl turned the attention to the greater challenge now: helping to solve the puzzle of a virtual epidemic of thyroid cancer around the world. Her research identified this phenomenon in Belarus and other countries including the United States. Mary H. Ward found that contamination of drinking water with nitrates caused by agricultural fertilizers, animal, and human waste was one of the leading factors for the dramatic rise in the radiation-induced thyroid cancer in Belarus. At the same time, Yuri E. Nikiforov also suggested genetics mechanisms of post-Chernobyl cancer.

Throughout the meeting, participants emphasized that the terrible suffering experienced by millions after Chernobyl can be alleviated in part through the efforts of the international community to advance medical and scientific knowledge, which will benefit untold millions around the world.

Meeting: Round Table Discussion “Identifying and Mitigating Long-term Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster: Building the Case for Continued International Cooperation”
Date/Location: Wednesday, April 26, 2017; 15:00-18:00; Conference Room 8, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY
Speakers:
Dmitry Mironchik, Head of Department of Information, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belarus;
Sergey Kononuchenko, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations;
Lenni Montiel, Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, UNDESA;
Rusian Bultrikov, Deputy Permanent Representative, Minister-Counsellor of the Permanent Mission of Kazakhstan to the United Nations;
Dr. Nata Menabde, Executive Director, Office at the United Nations, WHO;
Valentina Drozd, MD, PhD, Head of International Department of “Project Chernobyl”;
Xolisa Mabhongo, Representative of the IAEA Director General, Director of the IAEA Office in New York;
Matthew Dolbow, Counsellor for Economic and Social Affairs, United States Mission to the United Nations;
Mary H. Ward, Ph.D., Senior Investigator, National Cancer Institute Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Occupational and Environmental (Rockville, USA);
Kathleen Ryan, Chairperson of US Board, Chernobyl Children International;
Yuri E. Nikiforov, MD, PhD, Professor of Pathology; Vice Chair of the Department of Pathology; Director, Division of Molecular & Genomic Pathology (Pittsburgh, USA)
Written By: WIT Representative Jadice Lau

Committee of Experts on Public Administration Sixteenth Session

The sixteenth session of the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) aims at exploring public administration solutions to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Divided into two parts, the meeting first discussed ideal institutional arrangements for the SDGs, then reviewed the latest implementation progress.

First, expert panelists Allan Rosenbaum, Jan Ziekow, Rowena Bethel and Pontso Sekatle agreed on several features which governments should adopt in their institutional arrangements. They include integrated policies, effective budget planning, and strong capacity of local governments, etc. They also recognized that among all goals and targets trade-offs are inevitable. A multi-stakeholder approach that characterizes synergies and arbitration is thus vital so that “all groups are given the opportunities to make their case”.
Representatives from regional organizations and countries then shared their experiences in implementing the SDGs. Marion Barthélemy urged the governments worldwide to further strengthen their legislative framework and civic engagement. Tishka Francis stressed the importance of partnerships to Small Island Developing States due to their vulnerability to climate change and external economic shock. Luis Alberto dos Santos presented Brazil’s achievements and challenges in realizing the SDGs. Obstacles such as lack of governance and financial crises were highlighted. Rolf Alter also reported on OECD’s actions taken to achieve the SDGs.
When the floor was open for the interactive dialogue, Margaret Saner, Vice Chair at UN CEPA from the UK, expressed her regret that the UK government does not seem to have the political will to drive progress. Hezu Ma, Member of CEPA from China, conversely, said China had “played a leading role” among developing nations and would continue to join the international community to help achieve the SDGs.
The central message from the first day of the CEPA sixteenth session is unambiguous: there is much more yet to be done.

Meeting: Committee of Experts on Public Administration Sixteenth Session
Date/Location: Monday, April 24, 2017; 10:00-18:00; Conference Room 1, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY
Speakers:
Marion Barthélemy, Director of the Division for Public Administration and Development Management (DPADM), United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs;
Allan Rosenbaum, Director of the Institute for Public Management and Community Service and Professor of Public Administration at Florida International University (FIU), Miami, Florida;
Jan Ziekow, Director of German Research Institute for Public Administration;
Rowena Bethel, Director and Chief Executive Officer of National Insurance Board of the Bahamas, Member of United Nations Committee of Experts on Public Administration;
Pontso Sekatle, Minister of the Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs of the Government of Lesotho, Member of United Nations Committee of Experts on Public Administration;
Tishka Francis, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Bahamas to the United Nations;
Luis Alberto dos Santos, Legislative Consultant in Public Administration, Federal Senate of Brazil;
Rolf Alter, Director of Public Governance and Territorial Development Directorate, OECD
Written By: WIT Representative Jadice Lau

 

 

 

 

Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature to Commemorate International Earth Day.

 

Earth Day

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The meeting commemorates the International Mother Earth Day. With a focus on Earth jurisprudence, the meeting is separated into two parts. The first part addresses how Earth jurisprudence is currently being applied across different disciplines. The second part examines how Earth jurisprudence and Rights of Nature can forge a thriving relationship between humans and the Earth.

In the first panel discussion, Chandhra Roy-Henriksen urged governments to include the indigenous peoples in the on-going dialogue. Liz Hosken agreed by sharing her experiences in working with indigenous peoples in Africa and Amazon since 2004. She encouraged governments to revive indigenous traditions and adapt them to the modern world. Klaus Bosselmann focused on the role of nation-states. In order to gain legitimacy, he prompted them to draw the examples of Germany and New Zealand, and act as “trustees of the natural environment”. Peter G. Brown and Linda Sheehan both condemned the current economic models as “absurd” and unsustainable. Instead of measuring GDP, they suggested taking the energy flow into consideration.

In the second panel discussion, Jean-Paul Mertinez encouraged the arts and media industry to transmit more Earth-central world views nationally and internationally. Germana de Oliveira Moraes discussed how harmony with nature is a precondition for all the 17 SDGs. Pallav Das referred to a recent court ruling from India. As innovative as the decision may seem, he argued that it could be counterproductive due to the difficulty of defining the rivers’ rights and responsibilities.
Throughout the meeting, a common theme that was re-emphasized is that human beings are not superior but depend on nature. The challenge is, however, how to get all the Member States involved.

Meeting: Interactive Dialogue of the General Assembly on Harmony with Nature in Commemoration of International Mother Earth Day

Date/Location: Friday, April 21, 2017; 10:00-18:00; Trusteeship Council, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY
Speakers:
Chandhra Roy-Henriksen, Chief of the Secretariat of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues;
Liz Hosken, Director, The Gaia Foundation, South Africa;
Klaus Bosselmann, Professor of Law and Founding Director of the New Zealand Center for Environmental Law, University of Auckland; Chair, IUCN World Commission on Environmental Law Ethics Specialist Group;
Peter G. Brown, Director, Economics for the Anthropocene Project, McGill University, Canada;
Linda Sheehan, Executive Director of Planet Pledge, USA;
Jean-Paul Mertinez, Producer I Studio Director, Illumina Studios & Media Ltd., UK;
Germana de Oliveira Moraes, Professor of Constitutional Law in the Federal University of Ceará and Federal Judge in Ceará, Brazil; Co-founder of Pachamama Nation (Violeta Molina);
Pallav Das, Co-founder of Kalpavriksh Environmental Action Group, India; Environment and Communications Consultant
Written By: WIT Representative Jadice Lau

Promoting Well-being in the Twenty-first Century: Psychological Contributions for Social, Economic and Environmental Challenges

mental health

UN SDGs

The meeting celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Psychology Day at the United Nations. Continuing the success of including the target of promoting mental health and well-being in the 2030 Agenda that outlines the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, the organizer Psychology Day invited speakers who are mainly psychologists to discuss the relationship between mental well-being and other SDGs at three levels: environmental, economic, and social.

At the environmental level, Minu Hemmati reviewed the literature on the impact of environmental challenges on well-being. For example, climate change can increase people’s exposure to mental health consequences induced by disasters. Extreme heat is also correlated with the higher likelihood of mental illness. She then proposed employing psychological techniques such as group learning process to mediate the impact during policy-making and negotiation processes.

At the economic level, Ann Masten highlighted the concept of resilience, defined as “the capacity of a system to adapt successfully to challenges that threaten its life, function or development”. She explained that resilience can be enhanced in various settings such as families, schools, and communities via parenting, teaching and support, and healthcare services. She thus advocated investing in healthy lives and well-being, as it is crucial to building enduring resilience for societies.

At the social level, Doug Oman and Gustavo Gonzalez-Canali offered insights about two respective aspects: religion and gender. Oman suggested that “common ground strategy” usually employed by psychologists is the key that enables them to proactively support patients with spiritual perspectives in addition to professional expertise. Gonzalez-Canali, on the other hand, emphasized that women’s sexual and reproductive rights must be respected to promote development at all levels.

Overall, the meeting seems to suggest that mental health and well-being can be a cause instead of just the effect of environmental, economic, and social development, or degradation.

Meeting: Event on “Promoting Well-being in the Twenty-first Century: Psychological Contributions for Social, Economic and Environmental Challenges” (co-organized by the Permanent Missions of El Salvador and Palau)
Date/Location: Thursday, April 20, 2017; 15:00-18:00; Conference Room 4, United Nations Headquarters, New York, NY
Speakers: Minu Hemmati, Ann Masten, Doug Oman, Gustavo Gonzalez-Canali
Written By: WIT Representative Jadice Lau

DPI/NGO 2017 Youth Orientation Programme

The 2017 DPI/NGO Youth Orientation Programme focused on introducing new DPI/NGO youth representatives to the United Nations and outlining the specific responsibilities of a youth representative. Jeffrey Brez began the session by highlighting the importance of youth to the UN. Through youth groups, the UN is able to gain specific knowledge, learn different advocacy skills and gain outreach on social media. Brez concluded by noting that youth groups need to put “boots to words,” the idea that words are meaningless if action is not taken.

youths

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Next, Amanda Goodson highlighted AIESEC’s work with youth globally. As a partner of the UN, AIESEC launched a Youth for Global Goals initiative to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The initiative consists of three phases: Awareness, Understanding, and Action. In 2016, 12 million youth were aware of the SDGs. Out of the 12 million youth, 56,000 physically engaged in AIESEC’s forum, which helps youth understand SDGs, particularly the goals that are most relevant to them and their communities, and 2.5 million people engaged in the forum virtually. After selecting their target goals, participants take action. In 2016, 32,000 volunteers were mobilized to take action on their target goals. With 10 partners, AIESEC has 4,500 registered projects in over 120 countries. The year when the AIESEC forum took place, AIESEC distributed a youth speaks survey. According to the survey results, 68% of the respondents believe the world will be a better place by 2030. 55% of respondents were also not aware of the SDGs. However, Goodson noted that this 55 % were able to learn about the SDGs over the course of the survey.

Meeting: DPI/NGO 2017 Youth Orientation Programme

Date/Location: Friday, 10 March 2017; 11:30 to 1:00; UN Headquarters, Conference Room 1

Speakers: Juan Pablo Celis, Youth Representative to UNA-NY; Jeffrey Brez, Chief of NGO Relations and Advocacy Section of the UN DPI; Saskia Schellekens, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth at the UN; Elizabeth Niland, Social Affairs Officer-UN Programme on Youth; Christopher Dekki, United Nations representative for the International Movement of Catholic Students; Amanda Goodson, Vice President of Partnerships at AIESEC; Rena Zhu, Youth Representative to the American Association of University Women (AAUW)

Written By: Na-Yeon Park, WIT Representative

The Fight against Impunity for Atrocities: Bringing Da’esh to Justice

 

 

 

The crucial nature of holding the members of Da’esh accountable for their crimes, for victims to attain justice, was explored at today’s high-level meeting. A call to action was evident to collect and preserve evidence of their atrocities.

Simon Adams expressed how in 2005 all the states within United Nations made a commitment toward their responsibility to protect vulnerable populations from mass atrocity crimes. Matthew Rycroft conveyed that thousands of corpses, each a victim of Da’esh, were found last week in a sinkhole near Mosul, Iraq.

Mr. Mohamed Ali Alhakim disclosed how Da’esh used to cover forty percent of Iraqi territory, but as a result of the progress of the military and coalition partners, it now covers very few kilometers. He conveyed how 5,000 lawsuits have been filed against members of Da’esh in Iraq.

sdgs_poster_new1Mr. Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve described how the primary victims of Da’esh include the Yazidi people, Christians, and other minorities.

Mr. Michael Douglas Grant brought into conversation how members of the LGBTI community are targeted by Da’esh. In addition, he described a new initiative that has allowed over 400 Yazidi victims into Canada. Likewise, Mr. Juergen Schutz introduced into the discussion a residence program that has allowed over 1,100 Yazidis into Germany.

Ms. Nadia Murad gave a testimony regarding her experience as a Yazidi Genocide survivor. She implored the Iraqi government and the United Nations to establish an investigation to prosecute ISIS under international law. She conveyed how she had spoken at the United Nations fifteen months before, yet not one ISIS militant had faced charges under an international investigation. Ms. Amal Clooney, the legal representative of Ms. Murad, asked that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadion of Iraq sends a letter to the Security Council to have an investigation a behalf of all victims.

Meeting: High-level event on “The Fight against Impunity for Atrocities: Bringing Da’esh to Justice” (co-organized by the Permanent Missions of Belgium, Canada, Germany, Iraq and the United Kingdom and the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect)

Date/ Location: Thursday, March 9, 2017; 15:00-17:00; Trusteeship Council Chamber

Speakers: Simon Adams, Executive Director of Global Center of Responsibility to Protect; Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom; H.E. Mr. Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, Permanent Representative of Belgium; H.E. Mr. Michael Douglas Grant, Deputy Permanent Representative of Canada; H.E. Mr. Mohamed Ali Alhakim, Permanent Representative of Iraq; H.E. Mr. Matthew Rycroft, Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom; H.E. Mr. Juergen Schutz, Permanent Representative of German; H.E. Ms. Zainab Hawa Bangura, Special Representative of the Secretary General for Sexual Violence in Conflict; Ms. Nadia Murad, Yazidi Genocide Survivor, Human Rights Activist and UNODC Goodwill Ambassador for Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking; Ms. Amal Clooney, Barrister at Doughty Street Chambers and Legal Representative for Nadia Murad and Other Yazidi survivors

Written By: WIT Representative Donna Sunny

The Transatlantic Slave Trade

The impact the transatlantic slave had on the world’s history reveals the importance of the contributions of each individual involved in it. As Professor Abena Busia noted, when people think of the slave trade, the stress is on the word “slave,” not on the word “trade,” and looking at it with the focus on trade in a historical and contemporary context reveals its significance and present effects.

In the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade, before being slaves, each individual was part of a family, played a role to contribute to their family, and led normal lives. Although we learn of the harsh conditions slaves went through while traveling to the Americas and other territories, the slaves flourished in Latin America early on. With a robust African population, Africans in Spain that traveled early to Latin America were essential in the destruction of regimes and construction of lands. In the 1500’s Africans helping conquer lands were free to work, entrusted with arms, and helped build forts and buildings. African conquistadors were even given gold and entrusted to be translators, but the wealth and status they acquired was soon lost as white settlers seized the lands. With white settlers wanting to take over land and not wanting to perform the functions needed to do so, they turned the Africans into slaves for free labor.

slave_trade_map_large

Picture from: http://www.un.org

 

Although the slaves endured much, their trauma created significant socioeconomic contributions. Their work created wealth for families, increased trade of goods through their labor, and developed economic enterprises. Their political activism of resistance to slavery was and continues to be one of the biggest impacts the slaves left for people of African descent. Their experiences have passed on essential values that continue to impact the world today.

Meeting: The Transatlantic Slave Trade and the Socio-Economic Contributions of People of African Descent

Date/Location: Thursday, March 30, 2017; 11:00 to 12:45; Economic and Social Council Chamber

Speakers: Hawa Diallo, Public Information Officer, NGO Relations, Advocacy and Special Events, Department of Public Information; Abena P.A. Busia, Professor, Rutgers University; Ben Vinson III, Dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, George Washington University; Verene A. Shepherd, Professor, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus; Joseph E. Inikori, Professor, University of Rochester; Cy Richardson, Senior Vice President for Economics and Housing Programs, National Urban League;

Written By: Leticia Murillo, WIT Representative

The Impacts of Climate Change on the Ocean

Goal-14

In partnership with the Permanent Mission of Monaco, the Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea and the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the UN Correspondents Association convened a meeting on the growing impacts of climate change on the ocean. Dan Laffoley began the session by explaining the causes, scales, effects, and consequences of ocean warming. Warming causes the expansion of seawater and the melting of glaciers and ice sheets. It can also impact the weather, such as the increasing frequency and intensity of hurricanes, and hurricanes occurring in areas where they do not frequently occur. Warming can cause a catalog of changes: impacts on breeding successes, seasonality shifts leading to mismatches in prey and predator occurrences, and shifts in fishing grounds of target species. Laffoley concluded by emphasizing the urgent need for a concerted joined-up global policy action for ocean protection and to achieve rapid and substantial cuts in GHGs.

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Immediately following, Lisa Levin highlighted that rising CO2 levels have created a deadly quartet of stressors: ocean deoxygenation, acidification, global warming and rising sea levels. Ocean deoxygenation can lead to reduced bioturbation, rapid diversity shifts, colonization, and altered carbon processing. Ocean acidification affects calcifying organisms in the shallow parts of the ocean. Levin further explains that global warming in the deep ocean can cause species invasion and a loss of food supply to the deep sea. The areas of greatest warming are also subject to the most intense trawling. Rising sea levels in urban settings create wetland loss, which affects water quality, fisheries, migratory bird support, and shoreline protection. Levin concluded that communities need to raise awareness and improve climate literacy, develop policies to protect ecosystem services of high seas commons altered by climate change and obtain sustained financing in order to support ocean-related activities.

Meeting: The Impacts of Climate Change on the Ocean

Date/Location: Friday, 24 February 2017; 10:00 to 12:30; UN Headquarters, United Nations Correspondent Association (Conference Room S-310)

Speakers: Isabelle Picco, Monaco’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Dan Laffoley, Senior Advisor on Marine Science and Conservation at IUCN; Lisa A. Levin, Director of the Center for Marine Biodiversity and Conservation and Distinguished Professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Written By: Na-Yeon Park, WIT Representative

 

War is sweet to those who never experienced it

Representatives gathered to speak of the importance of art, music, and peace museums in international peace. Jeff Brez began the discussion by asking that we leave no one behind, regardless of group, country, and status. Such has been the recurring status in all peace talks for sustainable development goals and Agenda 2030. Nitza Escalera continued his line of thought, explaining how arts play an important role in everyone’s life and how it allows individuals to commit themselves to peace.

 

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Picture:  http://jonmill.deviantart.com/art/Earth-Art-World-Peace-555149330

 

Joyce Aspel argued the importance of introducing peace museums and creating cultures of peace. She stated the red poppy demonstrates remembrance, as they were the first wildflowers to grow on the battlefield after WWI in Belgium. White poppies, on the other hand, are used in war museums for peace as well but are less well known. Aspel claims peace museums are vital to promoting nonviolent interactions among different cultural groups. By promoting understanding, peace, cultures, and movements for social justice, sustainable goals will be able to be set into place. The social justice, education, and reduction of discrimination allow for locations such as the Hague Peace Palace to let apeople from all parts of the world to try to reduce arms.

 

 

Furthermore, representatives such as Michael Dinwiddie promoted the importance of children in learning the history of nonviolence. By pointing to antiwar and non-nationalistic goals, music allows for people to promote social justice while emphasizing the global picture of peace. Songs such as “Things ain’t the same anymore” were promoted by Duke Ellington in his tours, where in spite of politicians, the arts come to the rescue. Lea Giddins spoke about “pasos,” the spanish word meaning ‘steps’ and ‘passage,’ to show the movement towards a goal of empowerment of peacebuilders through education.

Meeting: Briefing entitled “Creating Cultures of Peace: Art, Music and Peace Museums” (organized by the NGO Relations, Advocacy and Special Events Section, Outreach Division, Department of Public Information (DPI))

Date/Location: Thursday, February 23rd, 2017; 11:00-12:45; Trusteeship Council Chamber

Speakers: Jeff Brez Chief, NGO Relations, Advocacy and Special Events, Department of Public Information; Nitza Escalera Founder, PASOS Peace Museum Project; Joyce Apsel International Network of Museums for Peace NGO Representative to the United Nations Department of Public Information; Michael Dinwiddie Board Chair, Duke Ellington International Study Society; Lea Giddins Board Member, Art for Peace Projects; Lily Gray Liaison Officer, UNESCO New York Office; Hajime Kishimori Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations; Mercedes Ellington President, Duke Ellington Center of the Arts

Written By: WIT Representative Janet Lee

The State of Global Fish Stocks and Opportunities for Sustainable Fishery Development

 

The current status of global stocks and the opportunities evident for sustainable development were discussed at the side event entitled “The State of Global Fish Stocks and Opportunities for Sustainable Fishery Development”. The fundamental nature of having a comprehensive understanding of the state of the world’s fisheries was conveyed ardently. To augment trade opportunities, food security, the livelihood of the general public, and to indulge SDGs surrounding goal fourteen, status assessments of fisheries were depicted as essential.

In particular, the lives of people living in developing nations and small island developing states (SIDs) were discussed. These individuals often have the most dependence on fisheries for financial support.

In addition, the event discussed the issues surrounding a statistic by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations. The statistic explained that from 1974 to 2013 the percentage of biologically sustainable world marine fish stocks decreased from ninety percent to sixty-nine percent.

Furthermore, the issue of overfishing was conveyed. This can decrease food production and biodiversity, and can also hinder the manner in which the ecosystem functions. The side event explored the nature of capture production and promoted a call to action to decrease the gap in understanding in order to allow for more effective management of fisheries.

In order to potentially increase annual fishery production to 16.5 million tons, the rebuilding of overfished stocks was seen as a viable option. This was considered as an effective way to not only promote a healthier ecosystem, but also to allow for increased resilience to acidification of oceans and climate change.

Meeting: Conference Room 12, Side Event on “The State of Global Fish Stocks and Opportunities for Sustainable Fishery Development”

Date/ Location: Thursday, February 16, 2017; 13:15-14:30; Conference Room 12, UN Conference Building  

Speakers: Kim Friedman, FAO; Tim Adams, Forum Fisheries Agency, Solomon Islands; Ms. Cristelle Pratt, Deputy Secretary General, Strategic Partnerships & Coordination Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Fiji

Written By: WIT Representative Donna Sunny