In contrast to traditional approaches in capacity building that rely mostly on theoretical training in pest risk analysis, the Pacific Plant Biosecurity Partnership builds on the experiences and success from the Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership (AAPBP) and uses participatory methods. These include unique market access simulations applying plant biosecurity principles and negotiation skills critical to achieving market access in horticultural commodities and plant products as well as technical training, and advocacy, promotion and communication of plant biosecurity. The aim of the program is to develop a strong network of plant biosecurity professionals and agencies in the region, among Pacific countries, Australia and New Zealand.
In preparation for the program, a number of in country consultations and regional workshops were held to better define the capacity-building needs of Pacific island partners and thus lay the foundation for timely and cost-effective program development. The objectives being:
To define the operating environment of the program (identify stakeholders, other investors in this space, related initiatives);
To identify the capacity-building needs and priorities of Pacific partners; and
To identify potential Australian and international partners for placements and other capacity building in accordance with the identified priorities.
A key activity in addressing these objectives was the June 2018 Planning Workshop. The results demonstrated varying levels of scientific/technical and operational capability in the region, similar variability of overarching institutional, policy and regulatory support and limited linkages to the private sector.
Analysis from activities prior to, and during the workshop identified 57 specific pest and diseases as either current threats or risks and 77% of pests and diseases showed commonality within the region. Other key issues raised included lack of appropriate infrastructure and equipment, outdated policy, legislation and regulations, concerns about lack of shared surveillance information, limited emergency response capabilities and market access barriers due to inadequate treatment facilities. Given a major goal of the program is to build a sustainable and regional network of biosecurity change agents, participants also discussed how the Fellows could make a positive difference in the region.
More specific outcomes from the June 2018 Planning Workshop and other consultation activities can be seen in the following sections. The following are the summarised core messages:
It is important to understand how different the needs of each country are, especially the needs of smaller economies (e.g. Tuvalu and Kiribati) in comparison to larger economies (e.g. Fiji and PNG). None-the-less, there were a clear set of common regional needs identified related to technical capacity and institutional and financial sustainability;
As a point of difference with the African program and due to the lower numbers of national biosecurity officers, Pacific biosecurity capacity needs tend to be more operational and generalist, rather than focused on specific technical skills. This finding will guide the identification of Fellow placements (considering specialist vs generalist positions) in Australia and New Zealand during program design.
There is a need for a network of change agents in the regional to enable and inform the influencers/politicians to address core constraints of funding, capacity and legislation which impact on biosecurity performance;
Building long-term capacity sustainably will follow once there's a foundation of organisational capacity in the region. This program should sustain and further build the capacity of biosecurity professionals by providing ongoing support and motivation through linking of alumni in a peer-network of Pacific biosecurity professionals, beyond the life of the program.
There was unanimous support from workshop attendees to commence with the capacity building program, accounting for country specific key issues and building on existing knowledge, networks and systems. Fellows will be selected from Pacific nations and will spend approximately 3 weeks placed with Australian biosecurity agencies and 2 weeks in market access simulations and communications training, followed by regional workshops.
Through completing the preparatory activities the project team concluded that there exists a great need for capacity building in plant biosecurity for target PICs as tourism and trade increase and the impacts of climate change and threats of transboundary pests escalate. An innovative approach through experiential learning and training in both technical and professional skills and the development and strengthening of a peer network is anticipated to provide effective and lasting development. Benefits will be felt directly by Pacific NPPOs, the private sector and supply chain actors and consequently by Pacific communities and Australian and New Zealand trade partners, however, this will take time.
Research and consultations undertaken throughout the design phase revealed key areas of weakness and opportunity in target PICs biosecurity capabilities but also donor programming and the circumstances and context from which these weaknesses and opportunities arise. Findings pointed to the need for greater communication and collaboration between development partners and programming and the importance of a strong organisational foundation for capacity building to have the greatest impact.
The design phase drew together a multidisciplinary collection of stakeholders across the entire biosecurity spectrum from target PICs, regional representatives, Australia and New Zealand, together to plan the most effective approaches to capacity building to meet the specific needs of each country. These activities mark the start of forming a strong, coordinated and capable network of plant biosecurity professionals which will in turn support economic development through improved supply chains and trade pathways; and food security through the safeguard of biodiversity and agricultural production in the Pacific. However, it must be stressed that a sustainable network over the longer term will only be achieved through mutual cooperation of NPPO’s and other development partners.