What roles have you had since joining the team?
Working with COS and the d.school as an Ocean Design Teaching Fellow for the past year has been fun. Learning about design thinking at the d.school, applying those lessons to ocean challenges and teaching a class about it were all challenging but immensely rewarding. My cohort (Erika and Lesley) were amazing and we had quite an adventure navigating ambiguity and life at the d.school.
Upon the completion of my teaching fellowship, I jumped straight into legal reviews and policy analyses of Palau legislation related to their marine protected area as part of COS’ work on Sustainable Ocean Economies. Unlike my teaching fellowship, it was well within my comfort zone. It felt sort of like returning home because that’s what I used to do as a lawyer in Fiji. Palau is seen as a leader in the Pacific on environmental issues, having declared 80% of their Exclusive Economic Zone as a Marine Protected Area.
What types of legal work were you doing in Fiji?
I worked on both reviewing the marine governance systems in Fiji and looking into how customary tenure co-existed with the centralized governance systems introduced by the British. There had been some confusion on property rights and decision making up to that point, so looking at the underlying laws that prescribed rights and protected customary forms of governance was key to better informing locally-managed marine areas and how this fit within Fiji’s centralized governance regime. I also worked with the government and the Packard Foundation, which is how I came to meet a former COS Director and Stanford Law Professor – which is what brought me to apply to the Stanford Law School.
What motivated you to become an Ocean Design Teaching Fellow?
When I saw the opportunity, I realized it was a chance to go back to Stanford and do something innovative, experiential, and creative. I definitely made the right choice.
One of my favorite experiences from the year was collaborating with Eric Hartge, Lesley-Ann Noel and Andrew Hume for the U.N. design thinking workshop in New York City. I had just worked at the UN before returning to Stanford, so returning with my teammates and taking back some of what I had learned felt really rewarding. Given COS’ broadening work in the Pacific, it was also an opportunity to connect with Pacific diplomats who work in the ocean space. A couple of months after the UN event, I also had the opportunity to travel back to Fiji for work and guest lecture in my old mentor’s Ocean Governance class. Both of these opportunities felt like coming full circle because I got to return to my old haunts with a fresh take and perspective.
Did your year as an Ocean Design Teaching Fellow inform the way you’re approaching your current work with COS?
I definitely see the world in a different way. Empathy being the number one tool of designers resonates with me completely. As a lawyer, you sometimes forget how legislation and policies may impact people and how the law is not the most forgiving because it fails to account for the needs of individuals. Legal design was a revelation on this front because as a tool for policymaking it is imbued with empathy and creating policies that are reflective of the needs of the people it is policing.
What motivates you to work on ocean issues? Is there an ocean issue you’re particularly interested in?
Growing up near the ocean and being close to the water was really important. The ocean is easy to fall in love with. One area of real interest is the BBNJ (Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction) Agreement, which is an international treaty currently being negotiated to protect the high seas. One of the reasons why I’m so passionate about this topic is because it helps protect our resources in the Pacific through international law.
Do you have a favorite hobby?
I love tennis. I’ve been to all of the Grand Slams except for the French Open. There are an amazing number of tennis courts around campus. When I lived in New York, in the winter you had to pay $50 to play on the indoor tennis courts for an hour. Here it’s free and accessible.
Do you have any advice for someone interested in pursuing ocean law or policy?
Get a sense of what you want to achieve. Do you want to protect the ocean? How? Think about what you want to do and start working towards it. Build off your passion and pursue those goals.
What are your goals for the next few years?
I hope to continue in the international ocean policy space and working with international policy makers. There is growing momentum around the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal 14 to conserve and sustainably use ocean resources and BBNJ is in the final round of negotiations. The ocean is becoming a central theme in environmental policy and is being recognized as an indispensable resource. It is notable that this year’s Climate COP in Madrid showcases the nexus of ocean and climate. Being from the Pacific, these two topics have always been linked so it’s nice to see a growing appreciation for it. For folks like me who work in the ocean policy space these are exciting times, but a lot of work still needs to be done particularly in implementation and enforcement.
Kevin will teach International Environmental Law and Policy for the International Relations Department in the winter. He’s also continuing his work with design thinking by joining a team of COS researchers and affiliates for a d.school Pop-Out course on illegal fishing and serving as a Design Thinking Fellow at the Stanford Law School Law and Policy Lab.