SPREP Q and A - David Sheppard
March 31, 2023
General News

This year, SPREP is celebrating the 30th anniversary of the signing of the SPREP Treaty, which brought about the establishment of the organisation as a separate, autonomous body, tasked with the protection and conservation of the Pacific environment.

The organisation has seen countless technical experts and passionate environmentalists come through its doors over the past 30 years, from the Pacific region and also from around the world, all have contributed their knowledge and expertise to the building of a resilient Pacific environment in the face of the countless challenges it faces today.

One of these people, was Mr. David Sheppard of Sydney, Australia. Mr. Sheppard has worked in the environment space for more than 40 years and in more than 60 countries around the world. He is recognised as a global expert in a number of areas, including climate change and resilience, protected areas, and ocean and marine conservation and management to name a few.

Mr Sheppard served the organisation as its Director General from 2009 to 2015, where he implemented a far-reaching change programme at SPREP enhancing a sharp, clear focus for the organisation.  Mr Sheppard strived to strengthen SPREP’s role and recognition as one of the leading regional environment organisations in the world.

As the Director General, Mr Sheppard was more or less “returning home to family” as this was his second stint with SPREP, the first being in the early 90’s as the Team Leader of an ADB Project developing National Environment Strategies in a number of Pacific Island countries.

He is currently working as a consultant, based out of his hometown of Sydney, and he reminisces about his time at SPREP in this Q and A.

Q: As a former leader of SPREP, what are some key achievements that you would say you are most proud of from your time as Director General?

A: All of “my achievements” I would say are the achievements of the SPREP team as a whole, rather than my own. I am particularly proud of the following outcomes of the SPREP Team during my time as Director General:

  • Delivering tangible and practical support to Pacific Island Countries in addressing their environmental challenges. I’m proud that the SPREP team more than doubled its financial and technical support to our Pacific Islands during my time as Director General.
  • Having SPREP staff working together as a team with a high level of cooperation within and between the different SPREP divisions. This cooperation and teamwork was greatly assisted  by a number of SPREP “Advances” during my tenure as Director General.
  • Improving the financial and human resource management systems at SPREP to a level which saw SPREP accredited as an Implementation Agency for the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund.
  • Consolidating the role of SPREP as a regional leader in helping our Pacific Islands address climate change, strengthening biodiversity conservation, accelerating efforts to improve waste management and pollution control, and improving environmental governance.
  • Increasing collaboration and partnership between SPREP and its Members, donors, and other Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific agencies.

Q: What advice would you give to young people interested in, or now, working in the environment protection field?

A: First and foremost, to follow your dreams, to identify ways in which you can develop the skills and expertise to make these dreams a reality, to make a difference for a better environment in the Pacific region.

Also, very importantly, look at how you can make a difference for a better environment at the local level, within your village, your community, and within your own life. Collective achievement starts with local action and support.

Q: What is your vision for our Pacific Islands environment?

A: My vision mirrors the vision of SPREP: “A resilient Pacific environment, sustaining our livelihoods and natural heritage in harmony with our cultures.” I couldn’t put it any better than that!

Q: What is your favourite memory of SPREP?

A: There are so many!  These include:  

SPREP Meetings where we could hear back from our Member countries as to their priorities and to align our work in a better way to assist them;

  • Visits to Pacific Island countries to talk with government officials, communities and people from all walks of life as to the environmental challenges they face, and how SPREP could best assist.
  • Staff meetings and Advances where SPREP staff could share their work and personal experiences.
  • SPREP social occasions where we could come together to have fun as a team, including Christmas parties and Bar Nights.

Q: What message do you have for the Secretariat as we celebrate 30 Years of service to our Pacific?

A: Concentrate on Pacific Island countries and their environmental challenges, look for positive and innovative ways for SPREP to assist in meeting these needs, and remain focussed on the areas where SPREP can make a difference. Try not to be all things to all people. And maintain a positive and strong team culture at all times.

Thank you for your time, David and Happy 30th Anniversary SPREP!