Hosted by the Government of Australia through the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE), the Third Regional Steering Committee (RSC) meeting of the GEF/UNDP/PEMSEA Arafura and Timor Seas Ecosystem Action Phase II (ATSEA-2) took place on 6 and 7 December 2021. Using a hybrid format (both offline and online via Zoom), the event reviewed 2021 target implementation, while also presenting the 2022 Work Plan and budget for regional and national components.

On behalf of the Government of Australia, Ms. Mahani Taylor, Assistant Secretary of International Strategy and Engagement Branch and a Representative of DAWE Australia, expressed her gratitude to the ATSEA-2 Programme team for delivering a number of key project outputs, in spite of challenges posed by the pandemic. Apart from reviewing the project progress and key outputs, she highlighted the importance of the RSC in identifying emerging opportunities and possible areas of synergies and various partnerships, as well as providing guidance to address challenges and ensure the project is progressing according to its objectives and goals.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Sophie Kemkhadze, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP Indonesia underscored the opportunity for members to reflect on ATSEA-2 Programme progress and to agree on the plans and commitments for the coming year. Dr. Kemkhadze also added that the full agenda of the third RSC was actually a reflection of the many works delivered by the ATSEA-2 Programme and thanked the ATSEA-2 team for their hard work in achieving progress via the Programme.

Looking back on the year 2021, the ATSEA-2 Programme has reason to be excited for the New Year. Some of the key decisions taken at the meeting include the approval of the proposed budget revision for 2021 and the proposed 2022 Annual Work Plan and Budget for the regional component; acknowledge the completion of the project’s Theory of Change (TOC); endorsement of the proposed roadmap for completing the Regional Governance Mechanism (RGM); endorsement of the proposed next steps for completing the financial landscape assessment report up to the end of January 2022; and endorsement of the MPA Network Design and draft Regional Plan of Action for the Protection of Marine Turtles by Australia, Papua New Guinea and Timor-Leste. Further discussions will also be conducted in Indonesia to facilitate a more detailed review in early 2022 and endorsement of the documents.

The meeting was attended by a total of 68 representatives from the four member countries – Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste. Representatives from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Country Offices of Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and the UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub also participated on behalf of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the UNDP. Representatives from PEMSEA were present as the executing agency of the Programme’s regional and Papua New Guinea components. Dr. Andrew Chek, who is Director of the Pacific Engagement Section of DAWE Australia; and Dr. Sophie Kemkhadze, Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP Indonesia, served as Meeting Chair and Co-Chair, respectively.