Blue Guardians to help Pacific nations

The World Bank, Clinton Foundation, SIDS (Small Islands Developing States) BIG Nature Conservancy and Conservation International are among a group of leading global organisations supporting Blue Guardians to financially assist island nations across the globe set up plans to protect and conserve foreshores and marine areas.

Lelei LelauluSamoan-born and New Zealand-raised Lelei Lelaulu, who has featured in SPASIFIK magazine and now lives in the United States, has decades of experience in the NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) sector and facilitated the initiative. .

“Island states are sick and tired of people coming in and telling them what they should do,” says Lelei, who recently caught up with publisher Innes Logan while visiting friends and family in Auckland.

“Those who live there on a permanent basis will have more idea as to what’s needed to become sustainable. The Blue Guardians was set up last September to enable the islands to determine what they need and find the experts to help design the strategic plans needed, with the Blue Guardians assisting in providing the technical expertise.”

Lelei was approached to represent the World Bank in the initiative to help conceptualise how they should be involved. Once the programme is ready to start, funding from $US600 million to $1billion will be sought to pay for it.

“The $US100 million for getting it off the ground won’t go far with 50 island states involved. It really needs a billion to be effective,” he says.

“This is going to happen using a variety of instruments. The World Bank set up some blue carbon funds for the bank. But the big thing is that the markets in London and Wall St are saying the islands states have so much debt can’t even borrow more money. The idea is to buy the debt of island states and restructure it, use funds to develop it and arrange the government debt at much reduced payment rates through refinancing.

Six governments are represented at an ambassadorial level with Samoa the only one from the Pacific. The other nations are Seychelles and Mauritius (Indian Ocean), St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Dominican Republic (Atlantic Ocean). Lelei says the initiative is vital for many reasons.

“The Clinton Foundation are big on climate and its effects on islands,” he says.

Photo courtesy of Clinton Global Initiative


“A lot of money goes to developing countries in Africa and Asia. Island nations, because they’re so small, don’t have the diplomatic clout or resources they need. In the sustainable development goals we had to fight really hard to include oceans. When most people hear conservation, they think forests. Most people in the world live on continents and few speak for the ocean. But that’s the biggest carbon sequester on the planet, providing 16% of the world’s protein through fishing. It cleans the air and waters in the world, it’s represented in the global forums such as the United Nations, but who’s going to listen to them?

“People suddenly realise that oceans really need protecting and the guardians of the ocean are islanders, hence the term Blue Guardians.”