S.P.R.E.P. marks 28 years with Open Day

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P) celebrated its 28 years anniversary with an open day on Wednesday.

The open day was held at the S.P.R.E.P headquarters premises at Vailima and was attended by seven schools as well as members of the diplomatic corp.

The theme for the celebration on Wednesday was "we are part of the solution"with the students and teachers from the different schools having the opportunity to learn more about the regional organisation and the work they do in the Pacific Islands.

Topics that were covered at the various booths on the open day include climate change, waste management and pollution control, environmental monitoring and governance, islands and ocean ecosystems as well as careers at S.P.R.E.P.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual booth was created to ensure the participation of S.P.R.E.P. staff located in Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the Republic of the Marshall Islands and a further 50 guests who registered for the virtual event.

While the S.P.R.E.P. treaty was signed in 1993, the origins of regional organisation dates back to the 1970s, when the first meetings were convened to discuss the importance of establishing an environmental arm for the Pacific.

Samoa has been the host of the S.P.R.E.P. since 1992 when it was agreed and this has since grown to a staff of over 100 with workers deployed to and stationed in in Fiji, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

The S.P.R.E.P headquarters in Samoa is the regional host of the Pacific Climate Change Centre, which is a partnership between the Government of Samoa,  the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, and the Government of New Zealand.

The S.P.R.E.P. Director-General, Leota Kosi Latu told the Samoa Observer in an interview on Wednesday that they have an open day every year, but was unable to have one last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leota said that the open da is an opportunity to open up S.P.R.E.P for the community and the young people as they are the future.

He added that it is also an opportunity for the students to see firsthand what S.P.R.E.P is doing in the country and the region.

Asked about the work S.P.R.E.P has done over the past 28 years, Leota stated that people have to first of all understand the nature of the issues that they deal with.

According to him, these are long-term environmental issues and the work that they do does not produce overnight results.

This type of work, he explained takes a long time and patience is needed while highlighting that the environmental challenge that the region now faces is becoming more acute.

He said the problems are not getting less but increasing in terms of intensity.

Leota also revealed that this is his last year at the regional organisation and for him it is an opportunity to try and increase the engagement with the community, adding that they are fortunate to be based in their current location.

He said the virtual booths which were used during the open day has never been done before.

The virtual booths enabled member countries to participate by joining the celebration virtually, which he said is good to try and extend it to other countries in order to have much broader coverage.

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