Next steps in the Bismarck Sea

The Building Capacity for Sustainable and Responsible Development in the Bismarck Sea program advances current Seascapes thinking in the CTI by focussing on decision-makers and their decision-making. By applying Ridge to Reef systems-thinking, adaptation pathways, and capacity-building processes to enable evidence-based decision-making, we suggest that the objective of Seascapes can be reached. In parallel, this approach can contribute to the achievement of the SDGs in ENB and WNB.

However, this is our first iteration of the approach, and the evaluation indicates that many improvements could be made. At the closing stakeholder workshops a range of next steps were suggested to maintain momentum within ENB and WNB, and to scale out the approach to other Bismarck Sea Provinces:

  • Further training in the processes and tools for national and provincial decision-makers
  • Application of the tools and processes in ‘demonstration site’ LLGs in ENB and WNB
  • Transferral of the values database and ELVIS to the PNG National Oceans Office
  • Collation, storage and communication of information in ENB and WNB
  • Championing of the process by ENB and WNB Governors to neighbouring provinces

Our program has only carried out one learning loop in 2015-2017, and focussed on ENB and WNB. Ideally this process should be repeated in ENB and WNB as part of 5-year statutory development planning cycles at the provincial, District and LLG levels. In doing so, the repeated learning loops and resulting actions will form adaptation pathways which will keep the ‘adaptive space’ open to achieve the SDGs.

Ongoing learning loops form adaptation pathways which keep the ‘adaptive space’ open to reach the SDGs.

Some of the steps (e.g. Step 1 Understand decision-making, Step 4 Pilot planning) could be selectively applied to other large scale development decisions as they arise, such as new seabed mining proposals. Many of the tools (e.g. population and climate projections, implementation pathways) can be applied ‘off the shelf’ to any planning problem. Any future evolution of the approach in the Bismarck Sea should be formally evaluated in order to learn lessons which can be shared with CTI partners.

Recommendations for other Seascapes

The Bismarck Sea may differ from other Seascapes in the CTI. It is not a trans-national marine area, and is possibly less complex than other examples. Also, many of the development issues are land-based or coastal, whereas challenges in other Seascapes may be off-shore. However, we argue that the complexity of the coastal development issues in ENB and WNB provide a useful test-bed for integrated, multi-stakeholder planning which should be appropriate for other contexts.

We suggest that the principles of Ridge to Reef systems-thinking, adaptation pathways, and capacity-building processes to enable evidence-based decision-making are relevant to any context. In addition, the integration of the SDGs into our approach creates synergies with broader sustainable development planning that will become important in all CTI partner countries. Therefore we invite other Seascapes to test this approach, so that CTI partners can collectively learn and improve Seascapes practice across the Coral Triangle region.