SPREP Youth Ambassador takes part in Oceania 21 in New Caledonia

27 April 2015, Noumea, New Caledonia - Speaking before schoolchildren, sharing experiences at a community meeting and then presenting amongst scientists and PhD students in New Caledonia has been all in a day's work for Ms. Brianna Fruean, the Youth Ambassador for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) on her first official activity.

SPREP Delegation L-R Nanette Woonton, David Sheppard, Brianna Fruean,
Espen Ronneberg, Mike Donoghue

The Regional Resilience to Climate Change and its Consequences Workshop from 23 – 27 April in New Caledonia has brought together a team from Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Tuamotu French Polynesia to share their experiences in climate change with the communities in Ouvèa, New Caledonia. At 16 years of age, Ms. Fruean as the SPREP Youth Ambassador has also been a part of this team providing a youth perspective in the presentations.

"She has been warmly received at each of her presentations, prompting discussions amongst people in Ouvea as to what they can do to help strengthen our environment, just by sharing her own experiences Ms. Fruean has inspired many others," said Ms. Nanette Woonton the Media and Public Relations Officer of SPREP.

While the workshop closed today with a range of presentations from participants and scientists completing research studies at the Institute of Research Development in Noumea, Ms. Fruean will participate in the Oceania 21 Conference which opens tomorrow in Noumea and ends on Thursday, 30 April.

Held on an annual basis since 2012, Oceania 21 is a summit on sustainable development hosted by the Government of New Caledonia. This year, the theme of the conference bringing together 17 Pacific island countries is the Pathway to the 21st Conference of the Parties to the Climate Convention (COP21) in December this year.

"SPREP will be making several presentations at the Oceania 21, as well as moderate sessions and we're pleased to say that Ms. Fruean will also be making an intervention during a session that focuses on youth as a powerful mobilising force and a source of inspiration in negotiations," said Ms. Woonton.

This year Oceania 21 will be chaired by Hon. Fonotoe Nuafesili Pierre Lauofo, Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, the main objective of the meeting will be to speak with one voice during the COP 21 to be hosted in Paris in December.

The SPREP delegation at Oceania 21 is led by Mr. David Sheppard the Director-General of SPREP and consists of Mr. Mike Donoghue the Threatened and Migratory Species Adviser, Mr. Espen Ronneberg the Climate Change Adviser, Ms. Nanette Woonton the Media and Public Relations Officer and Ms. Brianna Fruean the SPREP Youth Ambassador.

To provide you with a youth perspective, a daily blog by Ms. Brianna Fruean will continue to be shared.

Ms. Brianna Fruean with school students from College Guillaume Douarre

Saturday, 25 April 2015, Blog by Ms. Brianna Fruean, SPREP Youth Ambassador
"On Friday I arrived in beautiful Ouvea, a little island of just over 4000 people, where I was to attend a workshop on Regional resilience to climate change and its consequences. We arrived on island and straight away got into the field exercise part of the workshop, making our way to a school visit which I was making a presentation for. We arrived at a little catholic school sitting right opposite the beautiful turquoise Ouvea waters. The school reminded me of a little version of my own, with boys and girls playing basketball in the hall and two girls sitting underneath a tree braiding each other's hair. Their teachers called them in to class where our presentations and talks would take place. My colleague from Kiribati presented first and she started by asking the students "does anyone here want to be an environmentalist?" and the room went silent and they all turned to look at each other but not a single hand went up. When it got to my time to present I told the students how I got to be the SPREP youth ambassador and why it's so important they look after their paradise and too become strong voices for their islands. I also informed them of the youth platforms Pacific Youth Environment Network and that they can join, and as I waited for the translator to translate my message into French I could see a group of teenage girls in front looking at each other nodding and whispering to each other with such intrigue and I could slowly see the interest scale of the students go up. After my presentation one of their teachers asked them "who wants to do what this young woman does?" I was so nervous that nobody would put their hand up so I looked away but to my surprise all I could hear was "oui, oui, oui" and when I turned around the whole classroom had their hands up. It was so touching to know that within less than an hour a room of students went from not wanting to be an environmentalist (which I think is really just because they didn't think they could be) to being so excited to become one. This school visit has no doubt been the highlight of my trip so far, but I still look forward to Oceania 21 and see if it is able to top my priceless experience with the students of Ouvea." - Brianna Fruean