International Women's Day 2022 — SPC's Ridge to Reef Champion

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Dr. Fononga Vainga Mangisi-Mafileo, Pacific Community, Communications and Knowledge Management Advisor, Ridge to Reef, Geoscience, Energy and Maritime (GEM) Division.

International Women’s Day—March 8—is a time to reflect and celebrate the significant progress women have made, and has been made for women, and to provide a global call to action for accelerating gender parity.  

The Pacific region is 2% land mass and 98% water. And the Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest ocean basin on Earth. We are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. We’re facing devastating impacts, in intensity and frequency. Overpopulation, pollution, and overuse of natural resources – including, overfishing and intensive and unplanned land/marine and water use, and unsustainable development, degrades our island ecosystems. Understanding the linkages between land, forests, water, coasts to the ocean, within broader social and economic system, is critical. Acknowledging gender roles and contributions within these dynamics are intrinsic to this understanding, and how best we can move forward, together. 

The Ridge to Reef (R2R) or Land to Sea concept provides a whole-of-island, integrated framework to primarily guide the holistic and sustainable management and governance of natural resources – from the highlands to the high seas. And mainstreaming gender is essential to ensure that women and men can influence, participate, and benefit, equally and equitably, from development efforts. Operating across 14 Pacific Island countries, the R2R programme has contributed to developing a gender mainstreaming strategy, strengthening statistics – greater sex disaggregation, and gender sensitizing our publications. This is a start, and much needs to be done to build on these and other efforts. 

Critically, we recognize that inclusive and participatory decision-making and the prioritization of evidence-based policy and actions among multi-countries with diverse stakeholders and interest groups, particularly where resources are scarce, is challenging. We also recognise the potential barriers and costs to women’s full participation in this process, which is a key part of our work and advocacy. Increasingly, there is an awareness and need to design integrated strategies and management interventions for sustainable development that provides multiple benefits, supporting both people and nature.  

For the last 7 years at SPC, as Pacific R2R Programme Knowledge Management and Communications Advisor, I have been able to work across sectors and multiple disciplines, with local communities to members of cabinet to break down silos and biases by brokering knowledge, facilitating dialogue, and building consensus around the interface between science, social, policy and legal dimensions of R2R. A key outcome from these efforts has been the draft concept for an integrated programmatic initiative Highlands to Highseas: Integrated (Nexus) Resource Management and Governance for Climate Resilience and Sustainable Development of Small Islands and Large Ocean States (SILOS). At its core, integration and harmonization for transformational change and sustainable development.  

It is one thing to understand the concept of R2R and integration for sustainable development, and it is another to organize and mobilize to achieve those outcomes in a way that aligns with what stakeholders’ value. Focusing on big-picture goals, effectively championing R2R meant educating and promoting R2R innovation, engaging and rallying stakeholders, and driving change for meaningful and sustainable outcomes. Knowledge management, communications and advocacy has been instrumental, cutting across all areas of programme activity – research, planning, practice, and learning. And to realize this, strategic partnership and collaboration has been second nature. 

In my personal experience, effectively organizing and mobilizing for inclusive and participatory decision-making means: 

  • Getting the right resources to the right people at the right time to take the right action; and 
  • Fostering trusted networks, connecting people and organizations for momentum.

To date, R2R has created new and integrated spaces, co-designed innovative tools, and co-developed new knowledge in conservation and sustainable use of natural resources supporting food, nutritional and water security, improved livelihoods, public health, and well-being. And ultimately, strengthening cohesion, cooperation, coordination, and collaboration in the region, and inter-regionally for sustainable futures, and a thriving people and planet. And there is still much we can do to advance this, together. 

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