S.P.R.E.P. celebrates 27th anniversary at Vailima

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P.) has turned twenty seven years old.

On Tuesday, a small celebration at the organisation's Vailima headquarters marked the day of the signing of the treaty for its establishment on 16 June 1993. The event was attended by various guest speakers and S.P.R.E.P. staff taking part in a dialogue, of which the theme was “Our Ocean.”

Some of the speakers included: Australian High Commissioner, Sara Moriarty; Dr. Trevor Matheson, New Zealand High Commissioner; a representative for Tokelau, Taimalie Kele Lui; Programme Manager for U.S. Embassy to Samoa, Benjamin Harding; Aniva Clarke, Youth Environmentalist; and event moderator, Sala Dr. George Carter, Research Fellow in Geopolitics and Regionalism at the Australian National University.

The Director General of S.P.R.E.P., Leota Kosi Latu, spoke about the history of S.P.R.E.P., its growth and expansion since the treaty signing, and how the anniversary celebrations have evolved over the years.

“S.P.R.E.P. was not born in one day,” he said.

While this year’s anniversary celebrations had to be scaled back as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Leota stressed that the event was still an important milestone for S.P.R.E.P.

“I acknowledge the contributions and legacies of previous Director Generals and staff, and the collective guidance of our member countries and partners which have seen us move from strength to strength,” he added.

According to a statement issued by S.P.R.E.P., the intergovernmental regional environment organisation has served the Pacific region for 27 years, and as such, it was a great privilege to have representatives of S.P.R.E.P.’s member countries, partners, and staff, including Youth Environmentalist, Ms. Clarke, present at the intimate event marking the day. 

Leota added that, “we are presently faced with one of the greatest challenges that has faced human kind – COVID-19.”

“It’s important for us to take stock of where we have come from, what we have achieved, and the lessons of our past in order to remain resilient and adaptive of the challenging times ahead.

“We need to navigate carefully with our Members and remain responsive to their needs. The environment must be prominent in our Members’ COVID-19 post-recovery plans to ensure the need to ‘build back better’ is met.” 

Leota acknowledged the support of S.P.R.E.P.’s metropolitan member countries Australia, France, New Zealand, United Kingdom, and United States of America and its many partners, that have made it possible for S.P.R.E.P. to continue to serve its Pacific island members  in the various programmes and thematic areas S.P.R.E.P.’s mandate and vision encompasses.

The past anniversary celebrations have included public activities and events, such as S.P.R.E.P.’s famous ‘open days’ which have seen hundreds of school students from across Samoa visit to its campus headquarters in Vailima for specialised tours. 

The open days, usually hosted once every two years, were an important opportunity for SPREP to encourage and nurture a new generation of environmentalists in the young students who entered, as well as a chance for SPREP to showcase its work across the Pacific.

One of the keynote speakers, Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peseta Noumea Simi acknowledged how far S.P.R.E.P. has come as an organisation, and also touched on the current challenges Samoa, and the Pacific region, is facing.

“As we learn to exist under a new ‘normal’, there is an expectation that S.P.R.E.P., as well as other Pacific regional organisations, will also adjust accordingly,” she said.

Peseta added that there has never been a greater need and better timing than now for more improved levels of cooperation and cohesion in our region’s responses to COVID-19 pandemic and associated socio-economic crises.

“My Government is privileged to have partnered with S.P.R.E.P. on many programmes and projects, and we can be jointly proud of our achievements and success to date. 

“But the work continues, and we must not waiver in our joint efforts and determination. Congratulations again on your 27th anniversary S.P.R.E.P.!”

The dialogue sessions concluded with a special prayer conducted by S.P.R.E.P.’s longest serving staff member, Lupe Silulu, who joined what became S.P.R.E.P. in 1992 as the Registry Clerk, a year before the S.P.R.E.P. Treaty was signed. 

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