Traditional Fijian voyaging Canoe to Sail to the Congress

Suva, Fiji. 3 July, 2014 (IUCN) – A memorandum of understanding signed between IUCN Oceania and the Uto Ni Yalo Trust sets the course for the Uto Ni Yalo to sail to Sydney for the IUCN World Parks Congress 2014.

This significant voyage will convey regional messages about the critical need to respect and protect important natural places, and continues the Pacific Voyage: ‘one Pacific voice’ campaign, originally initiated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

The IUCN World Parks Congress is a landmark global forum about protected areas held once every ten years. It is the decade’s most important forum about communicating inspiring solutions on ways that protected areas can contribute to addressing some of the world’s most pressing global challenges. It will bring together around 3,000 people from over 160 countries, and reach out globally to look at proven approaches for protected areas governance and management. The Congress will inspire people from all sectors to build a deeper connection to nature, and will help to shape and guide innovative solutions for people and protected areas for the next decade and beyond.

The people of the Pacific Islands have a unique perspective to bring to the Congress, reflecting the distinctive nature of the region and its importance to the planet. The Pacific contains big ocean states but small island communities. These communities are guided by ancient traditional knowledge that provides the cultural tools to be resilient in the face of the impact of climate change. It is important that the value of the region’s oceans, and the need to protect these large ocean spaces in the context of climate change, is recognized.

The arrival of the Uto Ni Yalo into Sydney Harbour will be an exciting and visible way to portray the essential messages from the Pacific Islands. The ‘one Pacific voice’ will provide important and unified statements from the entire Pacific Islands region about its beliefs, commitments and ways to secure a sustainable future for its oceans, islands, people and heritage. It will demonstrate that traditional and indigenous approaches and knowledge can combine with thoughtful modern ideas to help solve the complex problems facing the globe.

The memorandum of understanding signed between IUCN Oceania and the Uto Ni Yalo Trust establishes a close working relationship between the organizations that are planning the voyage.

“Pacific Islanders have an intimate connection with their seas and land and continue to find respectful and resourceful ways to sustain the natural places that they directly rely on for their livelihood and future. The rest of the world is also increasingly dependent on the natural bounty of the region and Pacific peoples want others to understand the importance of treating these natural resources very wisely. These, and other important messages, will be skillfully conveyed to the world aboard the voyaging canoes – it’s a beautiful and fitting way of drawing attention to the way the Pacific region values its important natural places and aspires to manage them” said Tony O’Keeffe, Protected Areas Coordinator, BIOPAMA Programme, at IUCN Oceania.

“This partnership with IUCN is part of our commitment to embracing the legacy left to us by our ancestors. We will peacefully and positively advocate for a healthy ocean and for the livelihoods of Pacific communities. We will convey Fiji and the Pacific’s message to the world on the protection of the environment and mitigation on the rising sea levels, and our stand on pollution and global warming. We call on the people of Fiji to join us in this voyage.” said Ratu Manoa Rasigatale, President of the Uto Ni Yalo Trust.

The Uto Ni Yalo will set sail from Fiji in mid-September, travelling via Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the east coast of Australia, before sailing into Sydney Harbour for the opening of the Congress on 12 November 2014. Planning is underway to invite voyaging canoes from Cook Islands, Samoa and New Zealand to join the voyage to Sydney, and that similar MoUs will be signed with their voyaging societies during the Sustainable Sea Transport Talanoa being held in Suva, Fiji on 14 to 18 July.

For more information contact Tony O’Keeffe, Protected Areas Coordinator, BIOPAMA Programme, at IUCN Oceania, tony.okeeffe@iucn.org, or James S. Bhagwan (Rev.), Uto Ni Yalo Trust, padrejames@gmail.com.

For more information or to set up interviews, please contact

Heath Synnott, Communications Officer, IUCN Oceania Regional Office
Ph: +679 3319084, m: +679 9434820, e: heath.synnott@iucn.org.

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