Griffith University and the Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat are breaking new ground with the signing of an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 30 January 2014 at Griffith’s Nathan Campus to consolidate a framework for long-term collaboration and partnership between the organisations around climate change.
The purpose of the MoU is to provide clear direction to the agreed activities and to strengthen regional collaboration, including the importance of fostering partnerships between Griffith University and the MSG Secretariat. Professor Brendan Mackey, Director, Griffith Climate Change Response Program (GCCRP), has initiated this collaboration as part of the program’s strategic engagement in Asia-Pacific.
MSG countries have large youth populations which are actively looking for education opportunities. Climate change is a cross-cutting issue and Professor Brendan Mackey has actively sought the support and involvement of other schools and elements at Griffith in developing the proposal. This includes the Business School, the Law School, and the Asia-Pacific related study groups and centres among others.
The MSG has its Secretariat in Port Vila, Vanuatu. The Secretariat acts as a coordinating body for the regional level commitments made by the MSG countries in several issues such as regional security, environment and climate change, economics and trade, youth, sports and development. MSG is emerging as one of the leading regional organisations due to their large Melanesian populations and influence in the region and has not traditionally engaged with universities external to the MSG countries.
The MoU will facilitate cultural interchange, cooperative research and other forms of collaboration consistent with Griffith University’s core commitment of contributing to a robust, equitable and environmentally sustainable society, and the Mission of MSG. The MSG believes that the Melanesian region within the Pacific can be a region of solidarity and cooperation in accordance with shared national interest, with the objective of strengthening wider institutions of regional and international cooperation.
The priority areas in the MOU include climate change adaptation and mitigation research; support for international climate negotiations and related capacity building, including advice and research regarding different mechanisms of regional significance; traditional knowledge and culture in the context of community-based approaches; knowledge-sharing mechanisms relating to MSG climate change activities; and climate change related public policy and governance.
The Director General of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, Mr Peter Forau, said the MoU was a welcome development in the relationship between the institutions. Mr Forau also recognised Griffith University’s broad ranging expertise in the area of climate change and environment, and said he was looking forward for a close collaboration and partnership. The Director General also emphasised the important role that the Melanesian Spearhead Group plays in the region and how collaborations would strengthen its expertise and capacity.
Vice Chancellor and President of Griffith University, Professor Ian O’Connor, concluded that the partnership was very welcomed by the university and he also looked forward for a fruitful collaboration. Professor O’Connor also remarked that Griffith University’s first Vice Chancellor had already recognised the importance of the Pacific as a core focus for the University and was pleased to see this focus being expanded through partnerships with important regional organisations.
Representing the MSG Secretariat were Director General, Mr Peter Forau, and Environment and Climate Change Analyst, Mr Stanley Wapot.
Griffith University with its long-standing commitment to effective interdisciplinary collaboration, long and distinguished record in environmental sciences, together with its leadership role in the field of climate change adaptation and mitigation research, can assist MSG in accessing relevant expertise including bringing disciplines together as needed to address key issues, contributing to research and development projects, policy formulation, and capacity building initiatives.
The Melanesian Spearhead Group Secretariat is an intergovernmental organisation comprised of the governments of the five MSG countries (Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and New Caledonia). The MSG Leaders endorsed an Environment and Climate Change Declaration in January 2012. The Leader’s Declaration on Environment and Climate Change provides a comprehensive approach to tackle fundamental issues in the region, including terrestrial and marine biodiversity, blue carbon, and green growth.