Background and Objective

Background and Objective

200 nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zones, etc. are stipulated by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, etc. Under this ocean area management system, the island countries have the right to develop and use natural resources within their Exclusive Economic Zones designated based on the location of the islands. Furthermore, the countries are obliged to protect and conserve the marine environment including biological resources in their EEZs. Especially, there are many island countries in the Pacific Ocean, where vast Exclusive Economic Zones belong. This means that the island countries in the Pacific Ocean play an extremely important role from the standpoint of the management of the ocean.

These days, most of the island countries are faced with various issues. For instance, environmental issues of the island countries are closely linked with high population density along the coast and land use issues such as misuse of and contract work along the waterfront. Such environmental issues are also related to community issues such as waste and sewage management. Furthermore, as described above, the island countries have challenges of appropriately managing their surrounding ocean area such as EEZs determined by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as well as obligations to protect and conserve the marine environment. In addition, global climate change and local climate variability raise sea level, resulting in damage to land area, such as flood/water emersion, salt damage to the crops as well as the risk of submerging the island itself. Elevation of sea surface temperature is damaging the coral reef.

Some of the above mentioned issues such as climate change include ones that are difficult to be solved only by island countries. Thus, it is imperative to seek for solutions formulated through international cooperation. Japan, which owns about 7,000 islands, is also an island country and is faced with similar issues in the remote small islands. Therefore, Japan needs to share the awareness of the issues and knowledge and explore the future responses in collaboration with the other island countries.

Under these circumstances, the OPRI carried out the first phase of the "Investigative Study Concerning Conservation and Management of Islands and Their Surrounding Ocean Area" from FY 2009 to 2011. Then we developed policy proposals based on the following 3 perspectives: "Conservation and Management of Islands," "Management of Surrounding Ocean Areas of Islands" and "Responses to Climate Change and Climate Variability." They were reviewed at the "International Seminar on Islands and Oceans" hosted by OPRI, and compiled as the joint policy proposal "For The Better Conservation and Management of Islands and Their Surrounding Ocean Areas" (hereinafter referred to as the "International Joint Policy Proposal") with the Australian National Centre for Ocean Resource & Security (ANCORS). The Ocean Policy Research Foundation (current OPRI), an NGO that is given a special consultative status by the UN Economic and Social Council, submitted the International Joint Policy Proposal to the Rio+20 Office in October 2011, at the "United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development" (Rio+20) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in June 2012 during the process of developing the sustainable development action plan for the next 10 years. Furthermore, the policy proposal concerning "Conservation and Management of Islands and Their Surrounding Ocean Area" developed for Japan (hereinafter referred to as the "Domestic Policy Proposal") was published in spring 2012 targeting the government officials and general public.

Afterwards at Rio+20, a direction for the international community to attain sustainable development was incorporated into its outcome document "The Future We Want." In the chapter describing the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), it was agreed that the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States would be held in 2014. Furthermore, in Japan, the new Basic Plan on Ocean Policy was approved in the Cabinet on April 26, 2013. The plan states that "Japan should promote coordination and cooperation with Pacific island countries and other countries towards the solution of issues common to islands of Japan, such as conservation and management of islands, management of the surrounding ocean areas, management of fishery resources and response to climate change" as part of international cooperation regarding the ocean.

On this basis, we will cooperate with Pacific island countries and other surrounding countries, to further embody policies toward sustainable development of islands and their surrounding ocean areas based on the International Joint Policy Proposal, Domestic Policy Proposal, outcome document of Rio+20, etc in this project. We will also make efforts to input the contents of the policies to the future international conferences.