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OC24 Conference

Roundtable Discussion Session – Environmental Crimes and its Impact to the Indigenous populations – Cases of Fiji, PNG and Vanuatu

This session will be a discussion between indigenous environmental human rights defenders from three Pacific Islands countries (Fiji, PNG and Vanuatu) and focus on the challenges in combating environmental crimes from the community perspective. Each of the speakers will focus on a different aspect of environmental crimes; black sand off-shore mining in Fiji; illegal logging in PNG and overfishing and implementation of communal bans on fishing as a means to regenerate their lagoon in Vanuatu.


Dr. Natasha Khan – Coordinator, Leadership, Governance & Human Rights programme at the University of the South Pacific (USP). Natasha is an academic and in collaboration with UN PRAC established a new 200 level course on Corruption and Anti-Corruption in the Pacific Island Countries for her undergraduate students since 2022. She is also the current Chair of the Pacific Human Rights Defenders Network (PHRDN) and finds a lot of synergies between corruption and abuse of human rights defenders, particularly environmental HRDs.

Speaker 1: Tevita Naikasowalu (Fiji)

Tevita is an indigenous human rights defender and will speak on The Ba Ironsands Project, which is an offshore black sand mining project near the mouth of the Ba River in Fiji. The project is run by Australian company Amex Resources Limited, which is owned by a Chinese company, Waratah International. A Special Mining Lease was granted in 2012 and will expire in 2033. The indigenous population living in villages near the project have reported several environmental impacts of this project.

Speaker 2: Eugene Mondu (PNG)

Eugene is an indigenous environmental HRDs that works as the Forest Restoration Project Director in Wewak, East Sepik of PNG. He will share the challenges in the reforestation of degraded customary lands due to logging. He will also focus on how the government uses laws, policies, and programs to facilitate logging in PNG, in many times with a lack of FPIC from the customary land owners.

Marik Waoute Patrick (Vanuatu)

Chief of Solwota (sea) of Erakor Council of Tribal Chiefs 

About This Speaker

Marik Waoute Patrick, was ordered to be the Chief of Solwota (sea) by the Paramount Chief since 2014. Chief Patrick is responsible for looking after the Environment and is the coordinator of the implementation of the Erakor Lagoon Restoration Plan. The Erakor Lagoons Restoration Plan is an indigenous community initiative that was started by the tribal chiefs of Erakor, a village in a rural area close to Port Vila in Vanuatu. This plan was started in 2018 as the indigenous chiefs used their customary power to ban fishing in the lagoon due to overfishing in the past. Some of the causes of overfishing were the extraction and sale of sea cucumbers for export to China. Chief Patrick will share the challenges they encountered in terms of implementing this ban due to clashes between kustom authorities and the formal government, among other issues.