Portraits of Expatriates - Marie Bourrel - "I fell in love with Fiji as soon as I arrived"

Q: Hello, thank you for accepting this meeting. To start, could you please describe briefly your career path?
Legal practitioner specialised in international law of the sea and environmental law, I joined the Pacific Community (SPC) in 2013 as Policy and Legal Adviser of the Economic Development division. Later, I joined the Geoscience division to work in close collaboration with the Pacific Island States members of the SPC, in matters of deep sea minerals exploration and exploitation.

Q: Where were you born? What is special about this place/ region?
I was born in Dakar, Senegal, from where I moved to Djibouti where I lived for several years before going back to France for my studies. To me, living in a multicultural environment is essential especially when you are a child, as this equips you with a range of essential values such as respect for others.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about your firm?
The Pacific Community (SPC) is one of the very first intergovernmental organisation ever created. Established in 1947, after the end of WWII by Australia, France, New Zealand and the United States, its first mission was to contribute to the restoration of Oceania’s stability with actions of coordination in research, economic and social development, improving medical and health infrastructures. It courts 26 members : the four founding states (France, Australia, NZ and the US) and 22 Pacific Island States and Territories, including New Caledonia, Wallis-and-Futuna and French Polynesia.

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From left to right : Paul Lynch, Cook Islands Seabed Minerals Commissioner; Marie Bourrel, Policy and Legal Adviser on the SPC-EU DSM Project; Sai Navoti, legal expert for the International Seabed Authority; Kevin Chand, legal expert

Q: What are your responsibilities in this firm?
I am a Policy and Legal Adviser with a project developed in partnership between the SPC and the EU aiming at providing technical advices (legal, environmental, geological, fiscal, etc.) to Pacific Island States which want to engage with the deep sea minerals industry. It is my responsibility to draw the attention of decision-makers on potential risks and, when exploration and exploitation activities are to be decided, to assist governments in the development of their national policies and legislation. My role is to ensure that local populations are consulted and their concerns taken into consideration, and that national regulatory frameworks contain the necessary measures for the prevention and protection of the marine environment, the rights of local communities, and the equitable sharing of benefits… All on the basis of an inclusive and totally transparent participatory approach.

Q: When did you arrive in Fiji and for how long are you there?

It has been a little more than three years

Q: Why did you decide to come to Fiji?
I came to Fiji to work in development assistance and use my skills and experience to serve the Pacific Island States. Besides, I had never come in the Pacific region so I thought that it would be totally adequate to decide to live within this region in order to really get in touch with the variety of cultures and singularities that make this region so mysterious.

Q: Do you like your host country?
I fell in love with Fiji as soon as I arrived. I have to travel a lot in the region because of my job and even if I am really emotionally attached to other Pacific Island States, I am always happy to “come back home” in Fiji.

Q: What goals you aim to reach before the end of your stay here?
One of my goal was to do the hicking crossing Viti Levu proposed by Talanoa Treks. I have done it a few days ago and I have to say that although it was an athletic challenge (!), it was a true enchantment.

Q: What was your biggest cultural choc when you arrived in Fiji?
Probably because of my personal history, I have to say that I did not really experience a « cultural shock ». However, it is true that that the nature is very powerful in Fiji and its luxuriance and goodness impressed me right away. And yet again, the Fijian people kindness is remarkable. On a dark side, I would say that I am in pain every time I see plastic bags dropped anywhere and which often end up in the ocean. I believe that the use of plastic bags should be definitely banned, especially on all Island States.

Q: Will you come-back to Fiji?
Yes, I would come back to Fiji which is for me a friendly land where I will leave a piece of my heart when leaving.

Q: What advice would you give Fijians in terms of business practice and in order to improve the national economy (tourism, etc.) ?
As an international civil servant, it is hard for me to answer to this question. However, I would say that private sector development is necessary. Therefore, more incentives may be needed to ease the process.

Q: Your favorite place in Fiji?
Impossible to only choose one place. I would say that Kadavu (and the hotel Papageno !) as well as the Yasawas and inner Viti Levu are places with a strong spirituality that changes you….

Q: Your favorite restaurant?
Surf and Turf in Savusavu.

Q: Your favorite beach?
My secret

Q: Your worst memory? / Your best memory?
I have sincerely too many good memories to only choose one of them.

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Q: A word to describe Fijians?
« Indearings ».

Q: One last word in iTaukei/ Fijian?
« Toso Viti ! »

Published on 07/08/2016

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