21 April 2023, Apia Samoa - As the year-long commemoration of Samoa’s 60th Independence anniversary continues, the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) in Samoa, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), University of the South Pacific (USP) and the Pacific Community (SPC) commended Samoa’s strong leadership in building a resilient and sustainable Blue Pacific continent for our people and communities.
The acknowledgement was offered during a joint celebration hosted by SPREP at its Headquarter at Vailima on Thursday evening, guided by the theme ‘Folau ma le Fa’atuatua – CROP (SPC, SPREP, USP) journey with Samoa.’ The celebration was attended by Samoa’s Prime Minister, Honorable Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Hon. Toeolesulusulu Cedric Schuster, Members of the Diplomatic Corp, Government Officials, partners, guests and staff of SPREP, USP and SPC.
Prime Minister Fiame in her keynote address reflected on Samoa’s journey as an independent nation. She paid tribute to the sacrifices by our forefathers to assure Samoa’s sovereignty, freedom and confidence to achieve the people’s full potential.
“Too often in this day and age, we forget this,” she said.
Hon. Fiame acknowledged the contribution by CROP agencies to the development of Samoa, saying her country’s journey to where it is today would not have been possible without their support.
“I want to underscore the value of the work of all CROP agencies in supporting our respective and collective efforts towards achieving the common goal of sustainable development in our Blue Pacific region,” she said.
“The relationship with SPREP, SPC and USP is one of enduring partnership, trust and commitment, one that has stood the test of time despite the challenges. The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the pervasive impacts of climate change lay bare our vulnerabilities to extraordinary health, social, environmental and economic threats and challenges. These, triggered by necessity a fundamental rearrangement of everyday life as we knew it, we learnt to exist under a new normal and strength our response policies and recovery mechanisms, in parallel with similar adjustments made by SPC, SPREP and USP.”
The Director General of SPREP, Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, the Director General of SPC, Dr. Stuart Minchin (via video link) and the Deputy Vice Chancellor of USP, Dr. Giulio Masasso Paunga, also delivered statements to acknowledge and celebrate Samoa’s leadership and support towards their work in the past, now and looking into the future.
For SPREP, the continuation of Samoa’s 60th Independence celebration coincides with the commemoration of the organisation’s 30th Anniversary since the region’s premier environmental organisation set up office at the old Samoa Copra and Cocoa Boards office at Vaitele, while the nation was recovering from the devastation of Cyclone Ofa in 1990 and Cyclone Valelia in 1991.
Director General Nawadra said: “Samoa has been especially good to SPREP and as the current leader of SPREP I want to acknowledge that on behalf of our members, staff past and present and our partners that share our campus. Vinaka saka vaka levu - Prime Minister.”
SPREP’s mandate covers a wide range of areas including climate change, waste management and pollution control, biodiversity and ecosystem management and environmental monitoring and governance.
“In its 30 years in Samoa, SPREP has contributed to the fabric, economy, capacity and history of Samoa. Samoa through the Ministry of Natural resources and Environment and other associated government ministries and agencies is a regional and global leader for Environment and Sustainable Development,” Mr Nawadra said.
“SPREP works with Samoa in many areas including solid waste disposal, water catchment protection, conservation area management, invasive species control and eradication, environmental monitoring and governance, marine protected areas, pollution control, meteorological assistance, environmental education, environmental information collection and dissemination, communications and media, information technology and just last week exploring the nexus of environment and human rights.”
In addition to Samoa’s 60th anniversary, Director General of SPC, Dr. Stuart Minchin, said the celebration is an opportunity to reflect on the CROP agencies’ journey with Samoa and Pacific nations.
“As regional organisations, it is our mission to find opportunities to improve how we serve our members, and one of those opportunities was the creation of SPREP 30 years ago, a CROP member organisation which I am proud to say was born out of SPC,” he said.
“Last year, SPC celebrated its 75th Anniversary; this year, SPREP celebrates its 30th Anniversary and I understand 2023 marks 55 years since USP began its services to the region. Therefore, in addition to Samoa’s 60th Independence Celebrations, we also take time to pause and reflect on our journeys as CROP agencies, allowing us to acknowledge the journey we have all taken together, the partnerships and friendships we have formed along the way and more importantly a story of regionalism which has built a solid foundation for facilitating sustainability and resilience in our Blue Pacific continent.”
The USP’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Dr. Giulio Masasso Paunga, echoed similar sentiments by SPREP and SPC in commending Samoa’s leadership in building a resilient Blue Pacific continent.
He reminded that the work being done today by CROP agencies, namely USP, SPREP and SPC in Samoa, is building on the foundation laid by leaders of the past. He paid tribute to their work and acknowledged with gratitude their vision and foresight in providing a platform for leaders of today to work towards a resilient and sustainable Blue Pacific continent for our people and communities.
Dr. Paunga reminded that as CROP agencies, while they offer a lot of expertise in their areas of work, they don’t know everything. He reminded that it is wise to seek guidance and advice from leaders and experts in the past, to help them navigate the challenges as they journey towards the future. He also thanked Samoa for hosting USP and the other CROP agencies.
The joint celebration was opened by Reverend Nu’uausala Siaosi Siutaia, of the Apia Protestant Church. The event included the screening of a video and viewing of the photo exhibition highlighting the contribution of SPREP, USP and SPC towards Samoa’s sustainable development in key areas of education, environment, climate change, waste management, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, land management, culture, and public health amongst others.