Ladies and gentlemen,
I welcome you all to your Third SPREP Executive Board Meeting, held virtually for the second time. In particular, I extend warm greetings and acknowledgement to:
- the incoming Chair for 2022, the Kingdom of Tonga and Troika Members, Tokelau and the Solomon Islands;
- Executive Board Members;
- SPREP members and partner countries and agencies as Observers to this meeting;
- and the Director General of SPREP and Secretariat staff.
Director General - with more than 30 years of experience in the field of environment and sustainable development in our Blue Pacific region and beyond, as well as in international organisations, you are no stranger to the work of SPREP and our regional organisations as well as the development aspirations and priorities of our Member countries. I extend to you again warm congratulations on your appointment as the Director General of our organisation and we look forward to working very closely with you during your tenure.
The social, economic and development costs of the pandemic coupled with the current climate emergency are still being felt acutely by many of our Member countries. I am deeply grateful for the timely responses and assistance provided by SPREP, as well as our regional organisations and development partners, to support our Pacific countries’ efforts in addressing the dual crises of the pandemic and climate change. Despite the limitations and challenges that we have faced, I am very pleased to note that these have not diminished our commitment and obligation to addressing and supporting the needs of our Pacific peoples and region. To further advance our recovery efforts, we need to strengthen our resilience, and by extension, our participation as full partners in the determination of priorities, context and decisions being made for our own future.
The work of SPREP reflects the multi-faceted nature of our Blue Pacific region’s work and priorities. But it also attests to the fact that the complexity and multitude of challenges that we face cannot be addressed by any one organisation or country alone. Your meeting as the Executive Board of our organisation provides you the opportunity to discuss issues that affect sustainable development, resilience and our joint regional efforts and cooperation to protect and conserve the environment. Your dialogue with the Secretariat will help inform and shape our shared priorities and mutual goals, to be met through robust and genuine partnerships.
I wish to recall that our Leaders have reconfirmed that climate change remains the single greatest existential threat facing the Blue Pacific. Leaders have also declared that the Pacific is facing a Climate Emergency that threatens the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of its people and ecosystems, backed by the latest science and the daily lived realities in Pacific communities. Our region’s priorities for COP27 have been considered by Leaders and we look forward to SPREP’s and our CROP agencies’ support for our preparations and strategic engagement at COP27. In acknowledging the third anniversary of the Pacific Climate Change Centre, we look forward to continuing and successful efforts to further enhance our capacities through knowledge, training, networking and research to ensure Pacific-tailored solutions to address our adaptation needs and mitigation priorities.
Our region’s work and leadership on ocean governance must continue unhindered. I commend our Members’ concerted efforts to preserve and protect our greatest natural resource including support for the Pacific Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter and banning the use of single-use plastic bags, plastic and polystyrene packaging. I referred earlier to the daily ‘lived realities in Pacific communities’, and we know that failure to address waste management and pollution will have profound and lasting impacts on the health and well-being of our people.
The 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent endorsed by Forum Leaders in July provides the decisive overarching framework within which all of us should work together to manage our shared challenges, as well as leverage and exploit our strengths and our opportunities to secure our long-term future. A strengthened regional architecture and the successful implementation of the Boe Declaration are essential to the 2050 Strategy, and in this regard I commend the steadfast support and contribution by SPREP to these important work.
We are never alone in our development journey and I wish to acknowledge the support and generosity of our Metropolitan Members and all our development partners. In particular, I wish to thank Australia and New Zealand for their continued direct contribution to the core budget of SPREP through multi-year agreements.
You have a full work programme before you and important decisions to be considered. I wish you success in your deliberations and look forward to your Outcomes. I also look forward to welcoming you back to Apia in the not too distant future. I am pleased to declare your meeting open.