Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands

Coastal region and small island papers 15


A sail canoe of the Maskelyne Islands, 
Southern Malekula returning from the 
mainland gardens.


In 1995 the intersectoral platform for Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and in Small Islands (CSI) was created within the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) with the express mandate to follow up issues concerning sustainable living and development in small island countries such as Vanuatu. Traditional marine management regimes are of particular importance in this area and recent attention at the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 has focused renewed interest on the interrelationships between biological and cultural diversity. In addition, a full and comprehensive review of the Small Island Developing States’ Programme of Action, adopted in Barbados in 1994, is being carried out under the aegis of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. This will lead to an international meeting in Mauritius in January 2005 and to refocussing of further implementation. Consequently it is especially timely that reports such as the current volume can be highlighted to contribute to this process and draw attention to the critical importance of traditional knowledge and resource management at the community level. As the Programme of Action noted in Paragraph 43:

‘The nature of traditional, often communal land and marine resource ownership in many island countries requires community support for the conservation effort. Without that local support and commitment and the opportunity to integrate sustainable income generation into the conservation effort, even the most highly studied and well planned conservation area will not be sustainable.’

Indigenous knowledge, also referred to as traditional knowledge, has emerged as a priority concern on the international environment and development agenda. Work in this domain has nonetheless been ongoing for several decades. Already in the 1970s and 80s, traditional marine resource management systems in the Pacific Basin were under investigation through UNESCO’s Coastal Marine Programme. In fact, Bob Johannes, one of the authors of the current report, was a major contributor to this effort and, in collaboration with Ken Ruddle, edited two benchmark publications, ‘The Traditional Knowledge and Management of Coastal Systems in Asia and the Pacific’ (1985) and ‘Traditional Marine Resource Management in the Pacific Basin’ (1990); both volumes were published by UNESCO.

The cross-cutting Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) project, launched in 2002, explores the synergies and linkages that exist between cultural and biological diversities. It recognizes the diverse sets of knowledge and representations of nature anchored in cultures around the world, and affords them a central role in shaping biodiversity conservation priorities and processes. The aims of the LINKS project are twofold: to strengthen local community control over processes of ecological, social and cultural change, and to revitalize traditional knowledge transmission within local communities.

Many people have contributed to this publication. Sincere thanks for the support from all the people at the Department of Fisheries, in particular Moses Amos, Director of Fisheries, William Naviti, Senior Resource Manager, Graham Nimoho, the Principal Fisheries Extension Officer, and Felix Ngyuen and John Mahit from the Research Section. Thanks also to the Environment Unit and to Wan Smolbag, and especially to the Vanua-tai resource monitors who have taken up their management roles in rural communities with such enthusiasm. Special thanks also to all the committed people of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, including the network of fieldworkers who work tirelessly to support the value and transmission of traditional knowledge in Vanuatu. And many thanks to linguist Catriona Hyslop for translating the Executive Summary into Bislama. Finally, a heartfelt thanks to all the Chiefs of the villages visited and to other informants who took time to contribute to this survey, particularly the cheerful Karl Plelo in Central Malekula and Dick Dickenson of the Cultural Centre who helped greatly in southern Malekula.

Dirk Troost – Chief CSI
Douglas Nakashima – Team Leader LINKS
Derek Elias – Editor



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