Submitted by admin on Fri, 09/27/2013 - 02:39
September 27, 2013 by admin
General News
Q and A Feature with SPREP Director-General, Mr. David Sheppard
The 24th Annual Meeting of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme has just ended. It has been a significant year for the organisation, which earlier this year, celebrated the 20th anniversary of the signing of the SPREP Treaty, which established SPREP as an autonomous body from its parent organisation, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

There was a lot to celebrate during this anniversary year, much of it evident at the meeting as SPREP's Director-General shared the growth of the organisation and how far it has come in supporting Pacific countries and territories to address their growing environmental challenges.

SPREP Director-General, Mr. David Sheppard reflects on the meeting.

David Sheppard2
Q. What was a key highlight from this SPREP Meeting?
David Sheppard: It was a very successful meeting. It is pleasing to note that a record 24 out of the 26 Members of SPREP attended this years' SPREP Meeting, including our newest member, the Government of the United Kingdom. We had very good participation: approximately 150 people, a large number of observers and over 20 partner organisations. It was a major meeting for SPREP and a very positive one.
We heard from the Prime Minister of Samoa of the strong support of the Government of Samoa for SPREP and its many activities, including the Pacific Climate Change Centre. We also reported to the meeting on the increase in support for Pacific countries, which has more than doubled over the last 3 years and we noted increasing budget for SPREP overall. SPREP has more than doubled the level of financial and technical advice and support to our Pacific island members over the last few years and we will continue and strengthen this support.

Q. What are some significant outcomes to come from the three day event?
David Sheppard: One key outcome is always the approval of our 2014 Work Programme and Budget from our members. The 2014 Work Programme, based on the Strategic Plan, is quite ambitious
Particularly important to highlight are a number of new work programmes. In particular, we have the Government of Finland supported programme, which will strengthen the capacity of Pacific Meteorological Services; and the Pacific Programme on Climate Resilience, which will enable SPREP to enhance technical support and advice to Pacific countries on climate change. There is also an increase in the work on waste management, which includes work on hazardous waste with support from the European Union, United Nations Environment Programme, Global Environment Facility, and the French Development Agency.

Q. So there is a lot of work ahead for SPREP and member countries and territories to address the growing environmental challenges?
David Sheppard: Yes. A key activity that was agreed at the SPREP Meeting was a major review as we have reached the halfway mark of our Strategic Plan. The review will assess whether the targets in the Plan are still valid or if changes should be made. This review will also assess progress in implementing the Independent Corporate Review carried out five years ago, as well as generally assessing the "organisational health" of SPREP. This could adjust the direction of SPREP, but overall we intend to maintain our positive "onward and upward" momentum and the review will be a key part of that.

Q. Many Pacific Governments have reiterated that the Environment is a key focus of their national sustainable development plans. The Pacific Leaders have endorsed climate change as the greatest challenge for the region and have acknowledged the importance of environmental issues such as invasive species and the management and conservation of the Pacific Ocean. Was this sentiment felt during the SPREP Meeting?
David Sheppard: Yes. The high prominence of issues at this years' SPREP Meeting reflects the fact that the environment cannot be separated from sustainable development and the livelihoods of people in our region. This linkage has underlined the approach of SPREP since our beginning. The Environment is not a narrow sectoral issue - it cuts across all areas and is a key issue for sustainable development and for all countries as they seek to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Fiji DelegateDelegate from Fiji attending the 24th SPREP Meeting 

Q. Were there any gaps identified by SPREP members and how does SPREP plan to address those gaps?
David Sheppard: We received strong support for SPREP to continue our change management process, particularly the increased focus on support to Pacific island members as well as continuing our reforms for corporate governance. It was a positive and constructive SPREP meeting. I can't recall any major disagreements although there were, as in most families, some heated discussions, but they were always in a positive vein. Overall, there was strong support for moving forward with SPREP's activities to more effectively support its members, in response to the many challenges of the environment and sustainable development in our region.
We all want to work together and the take home message at our meeting was for all of us to think about what we can do to address environmental issues at all levels: in our homes, in our village and in our community. Every action counts.

Q. It's a big year for SPREP in 2014. Who will host the next conference and what are the plans for it to all pan out?
David Sheppard: Yes, it is a big year next year. There is the UN Small Island Developing States conference in Samoa at the end of August and beginning of September. The UN Secretary General's High Level Panel on Climate Change will also be held in New York in mid to late September. There is also the annual Pacific Island Forum Leaders' Meeting in Palau. So for SPREP it's a crowded agenda. We're looking at possible dates for the SPREP Meeting to avoid any clash or competition with these other major meetings just mentioned. The SPREP meeting will be held in the Cook Islands next year and it will include a ministerial component.

Q. So all in all, a successful meeting then!
David Sheppard: Yes, I would definitely say so! As I mentioned at the Meeting it is a great pleasure and honour to work with the SPREP staff that are dedicated, professional and hard working. The success of the SPREP Meeting was a tribute and testament to their efforts.

The 24th Annual Meeting of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme was held in Apia, Samoa from 17 to 19 September. It was chaired by the Government of Nauru and brought together 24 of the 26 members of SPREP, including the newest member, the Government of the United Kingdom. Former host and chair of the 2012 Annual SPREP Meeting was New Caledonia.

For more news of the 24th SPREP Meeting please visit www.sprep.org or visit us on Facebook.