Distinguished Guests,
GEF National Focal Points
Key Stakeholders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bula Vinaka and welcome to Fiji.
It is my honour and pleasure to welcome you all today to the second Pacific Global Environment Facility Expanded Constituency Workshop (GEF ECW) for 2019.
Fiji is delighted to be hosting this 4 day event that has provided an opportunity for us all to come together and discuss procedures, policies and strategies that will enable us to implement projects with speed and efficiency.  
For Fiji, the GEF partnership has made demonstrable contributions to delivering environmental benefits in accordance with its mandate as a unique financial mechanism. This is in spite of the growing environmental threats that continue to grow – driven by human activities and lifestyle choices – resulting in pollution, biodiversity loss, degradation of land and water, fragmentation of ecosystems, and climate change. Fiji has striven to manage common pool resources and improve governance fighting challenges that include quicker onset of environmental degradation.
Fiji is proud to partner with GEF – the largest funder, achieving global environmental benefits with a global partnership among 183 countries, international institutions, non-governmental organisations and the private sector 
This support from GEF has included investment in the establishment of Biodiversity Conservation, support for forest restoration, sustainable land management, integrated water resource management, safe disposal of hazardous chemicals and climate change mitigation.
It’s common knowledge that our Pacific Island nations being large ocean states are vulnerable to the threats of climate change, environmental degradation and the need to act and protect is extremely urgent. The support and commitment of GEF in the protection of our environment therefore has assisted and continues to assist the pacific and other regions tackle these environment problems to achieve formidable results.
I understand that this GEF Expanded Constituency Workshop (ECWs) would assist our National Focal Points, Conventional Focal Points and other key stakeholders, to take an integrated approach in tackling these issues. It is also an opportunity for other GEF partners, especially GEF Implementing Agencies, to discuss new policies and procedures and share experiences from GEF projects and their integration within national policy frameworks.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank GEF on delivering resources towards the protection and enhancement of Fiji’s environment.
I understand as part of the GEF knowledge and learning day yesterday, you have had the opportunity to visit Natutu and Votua villages in Ba, the project sites for the Fiji Ridge to Reef STAR project. The Ministry of Waterways and Environment has engaged with these two villages through this Program.
The Fiji R2R project’s objective is to preserve biodiversity, ecosystem services, sequester carbon, improve climate resilience and sustain livelihoods through a ridge-to-reef management of priority water catchments. There are 6 catchments that come under this program. Some of the activities have included catchmanet management planning, Marine Protected Areas, planting of vetiver grass to stabilise river banks from erosion, planting of trees to restore degraded forest areas, sequestering carbon, marine resource inventory survey, collection of scientific data for better management of our freshwater species, mangrove nurseries, community capacity building and financial mechanisms to ensure economic equity within communities.
I am informed that Fiji has progressed relatively quicker in the last 2 business quarters. There have been additional efforts that have been put in place to ensure timely implementation of all project activities and the completion within timelines.
I encourage everyone present here today to continue working towards a stronger collaboration, forging partnerships to address the environmental challenges we face nationally, regionally and globally. I am glad that this GEF ECW has provided that platform.
The Fiji Government would like to thank the GEF Secretariat for organising this important event for Fiji and the region.
Let us treat this unique financial mechanism as a special privilege using this as platform to exert action where there is inaction, give voice to the voiceless, to fill the burning gaps that still scar our environments.
Let us all work together and ensure a well preserved environment for us and our future generations to come.