Honourable Prime Minister
Members of the Diplomatic Community
Ladies and gentlemen
Good evening, Bon Soir, Talofa
Thank you Reverend for your wise words.
I would like to thank the Honourable Prime Minister for honouring us with his presence this evening.
I would like to welcome you all to this Official Opening Ceremony for the 24rd SPREP Meeting.
I am well aware this is a busy time for all of us working in the environmental field and that you are all busy people. Thank you for making the time to attend this very important meeting.
It is pleasing that 24 out of the 26 Members of SPREP are attending this years Meeting.
In total, this SPREP Meeting will welcome around 150 participants, including over 15 partner organisations.
For SPREP this represents a record - congratulations to you all on being part of such a record breaking event.
Our SPREP has been preceded by meetings of the Waigani and Noumea Conventions and todays' Pacific Environment Forum which addressed the important issue of climate change finance.
Our SPREP meeting over the next few days has a busy and ambitious agenda.
This mirrors SPREP's work over the last year – we have been very busy – in fact we have been flat out.
SPREP's work has - at all times - been guided by the principle of increasing practical and tangible support for our Pacific island members of SPREP to better manage and protect their environment.
Over the last year SPREP was independently and comprehensively assessed through the Second Independent Corporate Review.
This review noted that Members view SPREP as delivering tangible and relevant outcomes for Pacific island countries and territories.
It also noted significant improvement in SPREP's governance since the previous review in 2008 and that SPREP is an effective and efficient organisation
The "bottom line" from improved governance is that SPREP is better able to support our Pacific Island members in addressing their pressing environment and sustainable development challenges.
The landmark Small Islands Developing States - SIDS - conference in Samoa last year provided a framework for future action for our region, and for all SIDS, through the SAMOA Pathway.
I noted in my remarks to the SIDS plenary that Samoa did a wonderful job with this conference and that it was one of, if not THE, best international conferences ever held on our planet.
I re-affirm these remarks today.
16 June this year was a special day for SPREP, marking 22 years since the SPREP Agreement came into force in 1993.
We celebrated with an Open Day at SPREP – to showcase our work – which was attended by more than 500 school children from Samoan schools.
I'm proud to note we also welcomed the Manu Samoa team at SPREP and would like to congratulate them on their great win in the World Cup, this morning.
2014 marked a significant milestone with the first ever SPREP programme and project staff appointed outside of SPREP Headquarters, with SPREP staff placed in the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and the Solomon Islands. I note that staff have also been located in Fiji and Vanuatu in 2015.
SPREP has grown since 1993 but so have the environmental challenges facing our region.
Pacific island leaders - through a number of declarations this year - have underlined the extreme vulnerability of our nations to climate change.
These vulnerabilities have come into sharp focus this year as we move towards the United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP 21 - in Paris later this year.
Declarations from leaders have called for the adoption in Paris of a Legally Binding Agreement with the strongest possible emissions reductions targets - to keep global warming to within 1.5 degrees of pre-industrial levels.
SPREP – along with other CROP agencies - will support Pacific countries in Paris.
We have also implemented a number of programmes to assist Pacific countries and territories adapt to climate change.
This spirit of developing "Pacific solutions to Pacific problems" runs through many of the programmes at SPREP.
For example, the The Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change (PACC) Project has delivered practical, tailored, on ground climate adaptation solutions in Pacific countries, in key sectors such as water, food security and coastal zone management.
SPREP's landmark accreditation to the Green Climate Fund and Adaptation Fund over the last year will significantly support Pacific countries to access climate finance and we received a number of practical recommendations from todays Environment Forum on this topic.
The message from SPREP's current Year of Natural Solutions is that ecosystem based approaches can and must be given more priority in our region - both to protect our precious island biodiversity and also as a key front line response to a changing climate and rising sea levels.
For example, protection and better management of coastal mangroves can play a key role in buffering the effects of climate change, as we can see in the coastal villages of Samoa.
SPREP has significantly increased support for Pacific island members over the last year in the management of waste, particularly hazardous waste, biodiversity and environmental monitoring and governance.
Our programmes emphasize that "every action counts".
The take home message for you all in the audience is to think about what you can do to address environmental issues – at work, in your home, in your village, in your community.
Our youth Ambassador, Brianna Fruean has shown the way through supporting recycling programmes and setting up environmental groups for youth in Samoa.
So – please think about what you can do and remember that "every action counts".
SPREP is putting our money where our mouth is.
Some examples of how we are "walking the talk" include applying composting and recycling at our compound, introducing renewable energy through solar panels and aiming to have our meetings, such as this years SPREP Meeting, paper free.
We have a busy week ahead of us with many matters of pressing importance for our region.
We look forward to benefitting from your collective wisdom and guidance as we move forward.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of SPREP staff over the last year.
Many of you have had the opportunity to work directly with our staff members. We look forward to strengthening the bonds of this relationship – both professional and personal - over the coming week and beyond.
I thank and applaud the efforts of SPREP Members to ensure a better Pacific environment is passed on to our children and to future generations.
Thanks are due to our host country.
Samoa is a beautiful country and I hope you will be able to visit some of its sites and attractions. SPREP is indeed fortunate to be so generously and graciously hosted by the Government of Samoa. We deeply appreciate this support and generosity.
Being based in Samoa has also allowed us to work with and learn from the many cutting examples of environmental best practice in Samoa.
I would like to thank the Prime Minister and the Government of Samoa for their continued and strong support for SPREP over many years
As I approach the end of my term as SPREP Director-General, I would like to place on record my appreciation to all members, partners and staff.
It has been an honour and a pleasure to serve Pacific island countries as we all strive – together - for a better environment and for sustainable development.
I look forward to a positive, busy and enjoyable week together.
Thank you, Merci, Fa'afetai Tele Lava and Soifua