Aussie science students visit SPREP
More than 20 students and teachers from the University of Newcastle paid a visit to the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in November in a bid to learn more about the Pacific’s premier regional organisation for the protection of the environment, and the work they to address important issues faced by the Pacific such as sustainability and climate change.
The visit to the SPREP Campus in Vailima was part of a two-week excursion in the country where they also visited various organisations, non-governmental organisations and Government Ministries in Samoa.
SPREP’s Information and Knowledge Manager, Ms Miraneta Williams-Hazelman welcomed and introduced the group to SPREP, giving them a brief overview of the history of the organisation.
“SPREP started off as a project in the 1970s at the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in Noumea, New Caledonia with only one staff member. It then moved to Samoa in 1992 and temporarily located at an old coconut mill site at Vaitele,” Ms Williams-Hazelman said.
“SPREP officially started as an autonomous organisation in 1993 with the signing of the Treaty on the 16 June at Papauta Girls College, Apia Samoa. In the year 2000, SPREP moved to its current location at Vailima on 10 acres of land leased from the Government of Samoa. Next year, 2023 will mark the 30th anniversary of the SPREP Treaty.”
The visitors were hosted at the Pacific Climate Change Centre (PCCC), where presentations were given by selected staff of the Secretariat, specifically from two of its main programmes – Climate Change Resilience and Environmental Monitoring and Governance, as well as SPREP’s Project Coordination Unit and the Information and Knowledge Management team.
Ms Rachel Nunn-Crichton, Technical Adviser for Information, Knowledge Management & Brokerage for the PCCC, provided an overview of the main functions of the Centre, particularly knowledge brokerage and how it supports the dissemination of climate change information to policy makers, decision makers right down to the community level.
“A unique aspect of the PCCC is that the four key functions, Knowledge Brokerage, Applied Research, Capacity Building, and Innovation, are all inter-linked to enhance synergies amongst SPREP member countries,” Ms Nunn-Crichton said.
The EMG programme through its Technical Support Officer, Mr Ivan Diarra gave an insightful presentation on sustainability issues in the Pacific and in the particular the process of environment impact assessment and strategic environment assessment in the Pacific.
“SPREP provides assistance to its member countries in conducting state of environment reporting as well as national environment management strategies to name a few,” said Mr Diarra.
Students were very keen to know more about the work of SPREP’s Project Coordination Unit (PCU) team, particularly in bridging the challenges around access to finance.
The PCU, through its Project Implementation Officer, Ms Vitolina Samu and Ms Salome Tukuafu, Project Development and Implementation Officer, walked the students through the important function of the Project Review and Monitoring Groupand the operational role undertaken by the PCU to ensure that funding, in particular from dedicated sources of climate financing such as the Green Climate Fund, is effectively and efficiently managed.
The presentations were very well received by the students, many of whom are currently undergoing studies in Environment and other related fields at the University. Some of them shared their major takeaways from the visit.
Ms Kelly Meredith, an Environmental Science and Management Student, said, “I learnt the importance of SPREP utilising traditional knowledge in combination with management plans to build resilience against extreme weather events. It is important to the people of the Pacific that this knowledge be integrated into strategies whilst respecting ownership of that knowledge.”
Mr Bailey Myers is an Environmental Engineering and Science student at the University, and also working for GHD, an international environmental and engineering consultancy organisation.
“We learnt a lot about what SPREP does, but also about why they do it. The Pacific Islands have been at the forefront of environmental degradation and suffering due to climate change for centuries, and continue to face this reality, along with other great and complex issues such as plastic pollution, waste management inadequacies and resource exploitation,” he said.
“Healthy and happy livelihoods require that these issues do not continue for the long term, there needs to be sustainable and regenerative action taken to return the environmental equilibriums to what they were so long ago. SPREP has a clear role in this and they must succeed, with the help of other organisations and individuals along the way.
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