PACE-Net Second Stakeholder Conference (March 2012)

by Prof Ian White, Fenner School of Environment and Society, CMBE, ANU.

PACE-Net is a three-year coordination action, supported by the Seventh Framework Program for Research and Technological Development of the European Commission. The main goal of PACE-Net is to strengthen bi-regional sustainable dialogue on Science and Technology between Europe and the Pacific. The ANU, UPNG and USP are partners in the PACE-Net Consortium.

The first PACE-Net Key Stakeholder Conference in Brisbane in July 2011 had identified Health Priorities in the Pacific in relation to climate change and emerging diseases as a key research area. The second PACE-Net Key Stakeholder Conference, on Strengthening Pacific-European Collaboration in Research, Development, and Innovation was held in Brussels from 20 – 23 March 2012. The conference included:

  1. Presentations of funding opportunities for networking with the Pacific;
  2. Thematic workshops on climate change in relation to research, development & innovation policies in the Pacific in the areas of Water, Agriculture/Forestry, Natural Hazards, Fisheries, and also Mid-Term Research, Development and Innovation Policies; and
  3. A high level policy dialogue to discuss priority research, development, and innovation, issues identified in the workshops and possible interactions with European funding organizations.

The second Conference attracted increased representation from Pacific regional organisations including SPC, SPC-SOPAC, SPREP, USP, as well as IRD, IFREMER, UNESCO Small Islands and Indigenous Knowledge Division, UPNG, ANU, the European Commission, a range of European Universities and Organisations and country representatives and missions to the EU including Tuvalu, Australia and New Zealand. Pacific participants were drawn from Kiribati, Tuvalu, Samoa, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, New Caledonia, New Zealand and Australia.

The facilitated thematic workshops were a real success and allowed the views and priorities of Pacific Island Countries to be clearly heard. One of the issues raised at the high level dialog was that unlike the Amazonian rain forests, the Pacific is almost below the radar in Europe. A major challenge thrown out to the Conference was to increase European awareness of urgency of the global issues faced in the Pacific. Two other difficulties raised were the absence of Regional Science and Technology Policy in the Pacific and the mismatch of scale between very large European research projects and research in Pacific Island Countries.

These are issues which will need to be addressed before the third PACE-Net Stakeholder Conference to be held in at USP in Suva, Fiji on 11-15 March 2013. For this Conference the policy briefs from the thematic workshops will need to be refined and the aims of PACE-Net and the third Conference more clearly specified in order to persuade Pacific Island Countries of its relevance.

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