Regional cohort visits JCU Campus, Townsville, Australia (2018)
The World Environment Day 2022 global campaign #OnlyOneEarth calls for transformative changes to policies and choices to enable cleaner, greener, and sustainable living in harmony with nature. It focuses on the need to live sustainably in harmony with nature, and our possibilities for shifting to a greener lifestyle through both policies and individual choices. “Only One Earth” was the motto for the 1972 Stockholm Conference. 50 years on, the motto is as pertinent as ever – this planet is our only home, and we have a responsibility to safeguard it.
The Pacific region is 2% land mass and 98% water, and the Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest ocean basin on Earth. So for small island and large ocean states it is critical to understand the linkages between land, forests, water, coasts and to the oceans for sustainable development.
Pacific Islands face devastating impacts of climate change (in intensity and frequency) including increasing droughts and water scarcity, coastal flooding and erosion, changes in rainfall that affect ecosystems and food production, and adverse impacts to human health.
Overpopulation, pollution, and overuse of natural resources – including, overfishing and intensive and unplanned land and water use, and unsustainable development are also degrading island ecosystems.
Characterised by limited human capital, Pacific Island countries are among the top 20 most at-risk countries, including Vanuatu and Tonga, which are ranked first and third respectively by the World Risk Index 2019. Narrow-based economies with high vulnerability to external shocks affecting economic growth, degree of economic and social volatility, with large distances from major markets
To commemorate WED 2022, the Pacific R2R Programme recognises the intrinsic value of connecting people to nature, and the role humanity plays in safeguarding our finite resources. And this year, over a dozen Pacific Island environmental practitioners and policy makers from 12 countries graduated in Ridge to Reef Sustainable Development from Australia’s James Cook University.
As part of the Global Environment Facility-funded Pacific Ridge to Reef Programme coordinated by the Pacific Community (SPC), the innovative post-graduate program in Integrated Water and Coastal Management aimed to strengthen local capacity and establish a cadre of island-based managers and technicians.
The investment and commitment to the program aimed to enhance integrated whole-of-system governance and management capacity in Pacific Island Countries, underpinning effective action for sustainable environmental, social, and economic resilience.
The custom designed course was developed specifically for the R2R programme to improve governance, facilitate cooperation, and enable positive contribution to some of the world's most pressing environmental challenges and leading international debates through its application to the implementation of national projects, and local to global dialogue.
The graduation ceremony for JCU College of Science and Engineering took place at the Townsville Convention Centre in Queensland, Australia on March 24.
About the Graduate Program:
The GEF Pacific Ridge to Reef (R2R) Programme was developed to guide the strategic investment of GEF grant and national funding in actions aimed at achieving the sustainable development of Pacific Small Island Developing States (Pacific SIDS) within a truly integrated environmental and natural resource management framework. The Programme aimed to deliver tangible and quantifiable global environmental benefits by focusing on cross-cutting approaches to water, land and coastal management complementing the GEF focal areas of Biodiversity Conservation; Land Degradation; Sustainable Forest Management, International Waters; and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation.
Critical to the longer-term sustainable development of Pacific SIDS is Human capacity development. The Pacific R2R regional project executed by the Pacific Community (SPC), component 2, builds on the success of the Post Graduate Certificate (PGC) training course in Integrated Water Resource Management implemented in 2010-12 and targeted Project Managers and other stakeholders involved in the GEF Pacific IWRM Project. The training course had an initial enrolment of 22, of which 18 students completed. This resulted in a cadre of Pacific Islands-based Water Resource Managers with internationally recognised qualifications in IWRM. . Several of the participants in this training course went on to complete Master’s degrees.
In 2017, the Pacific Community (SPC) R2R programme partnered with James Cook University to deliver the Graduate Program in Ridge to Reef Sustainable Development. The R2R graduate programme provided educational pathways from 2 years for the graduate certificate to an additional 2 years for the graduate diploma.
In 2020, 33 Pacific Island environmental practitioners and government officials from 12 countries received graduate certificates in Ridge to Reef Sustainable Development from James Cook University.
R2R participating countries that were able to enrol in the program included: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
Course description for Ridge to Reef Sustainable Development
The Pacific Islands are diverse in size, geography, climate, and people, requiring a diverse suite of competencies to implement Ridge to Reef, with all participants requiring:
- Personal Professional Skills including project management and leadership;
- Integrated Biophysical Expertise including broad-based understanding of ecosystems, their components, and their functioning as interconnected units;
- Good Governance Competence including expertise in strategic planning, policy development, governance, and management; and
- Appropriate tools to support these Ridge to Reef tools.
In addressing the key competency needs, the program builds on participants’ existing knowledge, ensure their research and assessment are specific to their Pacific Island country’s environmental and conservation sector while creating a community of practice nationally and regionally.
The certificate units were designed to ensure that all participants develop a sound skills base across project management, integrated biophysical expertise, Good Governance, with tools needed to integrate and operationalise the ecosystems dynamics and governance learning.
The Diploma is divided in to two streams: management and technical. It will focus more on detail, developing competencies to bring participants up to the level of proficient professionals.
- The management stream will include a greater emphasis on policy making and developing appropriate management actions.
- The technical stream focuses on collecting valid data and information of different types in the field and apply a wide range of management interventions and solutions.
To develop appropriate analytical and interpretive skills, both units will include detailed coverage of quantitative aspects where appropriate, including developing an understanding of theory and how to apply it to actual Ridge to Reef scenarios.