Knut Ostby: Address at the Pacific Symposium on Managing Extractive Industries in Pacific Islands States to Improve Human Development

18 Mar 2013

Honorable Inia Seruiratu, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests; Minister for Provincial Development and National Disaster Management, Republic of Fiji,

Honorable Samuela Matua, Minister for Local Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment, Republic of Fiji,

His Excellency, President John Momis, Autonomous Region of Bougainville,

Honorable Byron Chan, Minister of Mining, The Independent State of Papua New Guinea,

Honorable Connelly Sandakabatu, Minister for Development Planning & Aid Coordination, Solomon Islands,

Honorable Rick Nelson Houenipwela, Minister of Finance, Solomon Islands,

Excellency, Nivio Leite Magalhaes, Executive Chief of Cabinet, Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Environment, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

Senior government officials from Fiji, Cook Islands, Republic of Indonesia, Republic of Nauru, The Independent State of Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, Kingdom of Tonga, Republic of Vanuatu, high commissioners, diplomatic missions representatives,  non-government agencies and think tanks from Pacific countries, representatives from extractive industry firms operating in the Pacific, international and  regional organizations, distinguished guest speakers and resource people, development partners and donors, representatives of the various UN Agencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It gives me great pleasure and honor to welcome you all here today for the inaugural Pacific Symposium on Managing Extractive Industries in Pacific Island States to Improve Human Development.

I am honored to sit here on the panel for this inaugural session together with the Honorable Inia Seruiratu, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forests; Minister for Provincial Development and National Disaster Management and Nicholas Rosellini, UNDP Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Regional Director, for Asia and the Pacific.

Today’s event is a demonstration of the rising importance of the issue of managing extractive industries. Today’s event is also an important tool to advance the discussion and actions to improve governance and foster human development.

In a number of Pacific Islands Countries, the extraction of natural resources like oil, gas and minerals has led to a significant increase in revenue. And expectations for future developments in this area are very high, including for seabed mining. For governments, this presents the opportunity to diversify economies, invest in infrastructure and institutions, and ensure quality public services needed to enhance human development and accelerate the achievement of MDGs.

But, the extraction of natural resources and practices, if not managed properly, can also be associated with the so called “resource curse”. In countries and areas where this has not gone so well, we have seen economic decline, environmental degradation, political instability, exploding inequalities and domestic conflict. A key question is how peoples and Governments of the Pacific will make the crucial choices that have to be made along the way: When and how to allow extraction of non-renewable resources; how to manage the income flow; and how to regulate the industry, just to mention some.

UNDP has been supporting countries around the world in the management of oil, gas and mineral resources. Through these efforts UNDP has seen the use of natural resources translated into important human benefits. But we have also seen that this only happens where effective policies, accountability frameworks and governance systems are in place.

As an increasing number of Pacific Islands countries look to tap newly discovered natural resources, it is particularly important to get this right, to advance sustainable human development and stability in the Pacific.

In October 2011, an international conference on Avoiding the Resource Curse: Managing Extractive Industries for Human Development was held in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia co-hosted by UNDP and the Government of Mongolia. After this conference, several Pacific Island governments expressed interest in a follow up event for Pacific countries.  In response, UNDP has organized this follow up symposium so that some of the issues raised at the international conference could be discussed in more detail - and within the context of the challenges that face Pacific small islands states.

We feel strongly that the discussions that will take place here are timely and needed. While the global extractive industries progress on many fronts, it is important that extraction of minerals in the Pacific takes into account the special opportunities and vulnerabilities that exist in small island states. Experiences and technologies from other parts of the world are welcome and will help us move forward, but unless these are adjusted to Pacific and local realities, they risk in some cases to do harm rather than good.

The overall goal of the symposium is to assist Pacific Island Countries to make informed policy choices that foster human development. While the subject of extractive industries has many aspects, we feel that the human development angle will assist us to address these questions from a point of view that benefits and protects people from all walks of life throughout the countries who engage in mineral extraction; whether these people are directly involved in the industry or not. The symposium affords an opportunity for various key stakeholders to be engaged in focused discussions that enhances the understanding of the different ways that governments and other stakeholders can:

  1. Manage revenues from natural resource initiatives.
  2. Manage land use issues in relation to extractive industries in order to minimize conflict.
  3. Strengthen the transparent and accountable management of natural resource extraction initiatives.
  4. Develop policies and mechanisms that can assist the government in assessing, regulating and enforcing environmentally sound approaches.
  5. Maximize development outcomes at the community level.
  6. Negotiate effective agreements and policy options to reduce asymmetries in negotiations.

Over the course of three days, representatives of national governments, extractive industry firms, international and regional organizations, academies, development partners and donors will have the opportunity to participate in a series of panel presentation, case studies, problem solving discussions and question and answer sessions. The symposium also provides an opportunity to have frank and robust conversations about challenges and opportunities. Representatives will have the opportunity to hear the experiences of other countries around the world as well as the Pacific region.

The expected outcomes of this symposium are:

  1. An outcome statement will be adopted by the participants which summarizes the content of the discussions, outline a possible regional and/or sub-regional approach to managing extractive industries per the key objectives and detail recommendations for follow up activities at the regional and national levels.
  2. The identification of priority needs and capacity gaps where UNDP in partnership with other international and regional organizations could provide programming support that is gender and conflict sensitive.

To conclude, ladies and gentlemen, this conference is only a first step but it is an important one. It is important because it can contribute to setting a clear direction about priorities and actions. It can also help map out threats and opportunities that faces countries and local communities as mineral exploration and extraction takes place. We hope to address how different stakeholders can work together to address the multi-dimensional challenges and opportunities of extractive industries in the Pacific.

I hope that the discussion you have over the next three days will contribute to moving this agenda forward. UNDP looks forward to supporting your national efforts to this end. In doing so, we hope to spur inclusive growth and advance sustainable human development.

Thank you.