Ni sa Bula! Kashelelie! Malo e lelei!
As we end 2023, I on behalf of my team, want to wish you all a Merry Christmas and thank you for your friendship and support over this year.
2023 marked the 30th anniversary of the signing of the SPREP Treaty – our 30th Birthday. We have jointly celebrated this key milestone with our Members in-country from the Cook Islands to Fiji through to Palau.
What a year it has been with much of our team on the road implementing work throughout our Blue Pacific and beyond in partnership with our Members and partners! Everything achieved for and with our Pacific Islands, has been done together with you all.
Through our joint implementation of the Peoples Strategy, we continue to work with you all towards making SPREP a happy place to work. Gender and social inclusion are key aspects for integration.
I assure you all of our continued commitment from the Senior Leadership Team in making SPREP a Place that we all love to come to work with, and for, our Members in partnership.
We continue with our out-posting with offices now in Fiji, Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu aiming to ensure a presence in some form in most countries. It has been challenging but this is a change that needs to be made as we learn from COVID-19 to meet the changing needs of our Members and find ways to most efficiently deliver our programmes.
Our 31st SPREP Meeting and High-Level Ministerial Talanoa convened at Taumeasina Island Resort in September chaired by Tuvalu with the theme of ‘Sustainable, transformative and resilient for a Blue Pacific’. I have been involved with over 20 SPREP Meetings and this confirmed how we have grown in terms of content, logistics and the sense of ownership and unity of purpose. I know that this view is shared by most of our members and partners and is a sign of where we are at as an organisation and your hard work. We also hosted for the first time a Partners Dialogue and it was a resounding success.
We made key decisions on our governance that will guide the future of the Secretariat and continue to serve the environmental needs of our region. Decisions included support by our Members for the:
- Hosting of Partners Dialogue in conjunction with SPREP Meetings
- Pacific Island Regional Marine Species Programme 2022-2026
- Guiding Framework for Invasive Species Management in the Pacific (2nd Edition)
- implementation of the Pacific Islands Regional Marine Species Programme (PIRMSP) 2022-2026 and the Coral Reef Action Plan 2021-2030
- Reconvening of the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in 2024 and for the establishment of a traditional knowledge working group.
- Sustainability Plan for Capacity Building and the Partnership Frameworks for Knowledge Brokerage, Science to Services and Research and Innovation
- Adoption of technical guidelines developed by the Basel Rotterdam and Stockholm Convention (BRS) on ESM of hazardous waste.
- Development of a regional strategic framework for strengthening the Secretariat’s capacity on Ocean Governance in consultation with Members, and partners including CROP.
- Implementation and Monitoring Plan for the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent
- Report of the Working Group and its prioritisation of recommendations from the Mid-Term Review of the SPREP Strategic Plan 2017 to 2026 and the Independent Corporate Review conducted in 2021
- Continuation of the SPREP Partnership Dialogue as an ongoing forum to be held in the margins of the SPREP Meeting
- Biennial Work Programme and Budget of USD 40,679,684 for 2024 and provisional Work Programme and Budget of USD 30,082,893 for 2025; and
- Fourth Performance Implementation Plan (PIP4) (2024-2025).
The government of New Zealand strengthened the Pacific's environmental resilience, by committing NZD 20.6 Million for the Pacific Regional Invasive Species Management Support Service (PRISMSS) to support the implementation of the Restoring Island Resilience (RIR) Project. PRISMSS, is a regional mechanism that facilitates the scaling up of invasive species management for biodiversity protection in the Pacific in collaboration with leading organisations. It also supports countries and communities with resources to take action against invasive species threats to their island ecosystems and resilience. The funding arrangement was officially signed between SPREP and New Zealand in June 2023. The main aim of the PRISMSS- Restoring Island Resilience project is to improve the livelihoods and climate change resilience of Pacific Island countries and Territories by reducing the impact of invasive species on their natural and agricultural ecosystems.
Funded by the ACP MEA Phase 3 project, a two-day Ad-hoc meeting in June 2023 discussed the recommendations from the review of the Noumea Convention. The 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Noumea Convention with amendments endorsed the recommendations, which helps serve as a roadmap to inform a new direction for the Convention, the Secretariat and Parties as well as elevating the profile and visibility of the Noumea Convention. Having been adopted in 1986 with its two protocols, these legal instruments are still relevant and applicable to the work of the Secretariat as well as national activities to protect, manage and conserve natural environments. The Convention for the Protection of Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific Region (1986) is also known as the SPREP Convention, or Noumea Convention. It is the major multilateral umbrella agreement in the Pacific Region for the protection of natural resources and the environment.
The Pacific Met Desk and the Climate Change Resilience Programme as the Secretariat led the coordination and preparation of the 6th Pacific Meteorological Council Meeting (PMC-6) and the 3rd Pacific Meteorological Ministerial Meeting (PMMM-3) jointly co-hosted with the Government of Fiji, the World Meteorological Organisation and SPREP in August at the Sofitel in Denarau, Fiji. The PMC-6 approved the Weather Ready Pacific governance structure and finance facility, which shall be located at SPREP. It also acknowledged the investment by Australia of AUD30 million and the support of New Zealand. Weather Ready governance structure was endorsed at the Leaders Meeting in Rarotonga and included as one of the Pacific Partnerships for Prosperity. Weather Ready Pacific is the first programmatic undertaking for us and its implementation should strengthen our institutional arrangements and capacity and paves an approach we need to replicate in other areas of our work.
We have signed many MOU in 2023 including with CSIRO at COP28 in Dubai as well as with our CROP peers of SPC, PASO, and SPTO at the recent 52nd Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting hosted in the Cook Islands. The Secretariat also provided support to the Cook Islands Government for the short-term secondment of staff to assist with communications and pavilion support through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, as the lead Cook Islands agency for the Forum Leaders Meeting. Other partners have expressed a desire to have an MOU or to renew engagement with SPREP, which we will continue to work towards in 2024.
This was another pivotal year for amplifying our One Pacific voice across the international multilateral environmental agreement meetings.
I am pleased with the strong team led by the Waste Management and Pollution Control team to Paris and Nairobi for the second and third sessions of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to support Pacific Members. The aim of the INC is to work towards a legally binding instrument on plastic pollution with the ambition to complete the negotiations by the end of 2024. This area of work further amplified by the elevation of the High Ambition Coalition for a Plastics Treaty through the Pacific Partnerships for Prosperity, which was endorsed by our Leaders in November.
At COP28 in Dubai, SPREP led one of its strongest teams through the One CROP mechanism to support our 1000 plus Pacific island delegates with head of delegation representation that ranged from Leaders, Ministerial and diplomatic from the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. Our team did an excellent job providing technical advice and support to Pacific delegations with the negotiations and a platform through the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion to showcase Pacific issues. Despite the difficult physical layout our Pavilion continued to be the best attended prompting visits by many to find out what we are doing different.
All of the work we do across our strategic priorities includes teams of people from our engine rooms, including Communications and Outreach, Finance and Admin, HR, IT, Internal Audit, Knowledge Management, Legal, PCU, Strategic Planning, Sub-regional offices and Executive Support, that ensures our work is implemented on the ground and across the regional and international fora to ensure what we do is strategically planned, coordinated, actioned and reported in a transparent and accountable manner. We have the support of our Member and partners for the need to address our core funding issues to enable us to strengthen our engine room functions. We are exploring ways to address this, that we will present to our Members and partners. We will be forming a new department in the new year that will strengthen and consolidate our strategic planning, engagement and resource mobilisation.
We are enabled to do through the support of members and partners. I wish to especially acknowledge the generous financial assistance of Australia and New Zealand, through their multiyear core budget and project support. I also acknowledge the long term and increasing support from the European Union and Japan.
There are many more successes that I have not mentioned. They all contribute to our service to Members which we aim to improve upon each and every day. At the end of the day our achievements with and for our Pacific Islands are due to our collective support from your SPREP Team - our individuals, our teams and our whole family – SPREP Staff, our SPREP Community, our Members and Partners.
I thank you all for your support across 2023 as we work towards a strengthened resilience for our Pacific Island members and community. This has been a busy year for many of us which we have enjoyed working together with you all for our resilient Pacific.
May you all have a very Merry Christmas with your loved ones and we look forward to working with you all in 2024.
God bless you all.