‘Folau ma le Fa’atuatua – CROP (SPC, SPREP, USP) journey with Samoa’

Celebrating Samoa’s 60th Independence

Thursday 20th April 2023

5-7pm @ PCCC

Opening Remarks Sefanaia Nawadra


Honorable Fiame Naomi Mata'afa, Prime Minister of Samoa

Reverend Nu'uausala Siaosi Siutaia,

Ministers of the Cabinet,

Distinguished Representatives of SPREP Member Countries,

Representatives of Regional Organisations and Partners,

Heads of Government Ministries,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our event this evening has adopted and adapted Samoa's theme to celebrate 60 Anniversary of Independence and nationhood - 'Folau ma le Fa'atuatua - CROP (SPC, SPREP, USP) Journey with Samoa'

It is also a celebration of SPREP's 30 Anniversary and our journey in Samoa over the 30 years. It is an opportunity for us to acknowledge and celebrate Samoa's leadership and support to SPREP and by extension CROP in the past, now and into the future as we work towards ensuring a resilient and sustainable Blue Pacific continent for our Pacific people and communities.

SPREP's origin goes back to 1969 where at a workshop on conservation held in Noumea, New Caledonia, strong support was voiced for a regional environment conservation organisation for the Pacific.

In 1977 UNEP revived this desire and reiterated its support to this initiative, joined by UNESCAP in 1978. A proposal was tabled at the South Pacific Conference - the annual gathering of representative of all states and territories of the South Pacific Commission - its approval started SPREP in 1978.

A regional Ministerial Conference on the Human Environment in the South Pacific was held in Cook Islands in 1982 to develop an Action Plan for Managing Natural Resources and Environment of the Region.

In 1986, the programme was administered from SPC in their old headquarters in Noumea in US WWII military buildings

Ministerial Intergovernmental Meeting in 1991 accepted an offer from the Government of Samoa to host SPREP's Headquarters in Apia.

At the beginning of 1991, SPREP had only 3 professional officers and 4 support staff, all working out of South Pacific Commission (SPC) office in Noumea.

The relocation from Noumea to Apia was completed 8 months later.

In 1992, SPREP arrived in our new home in Apia, Western Samoa and with 15 professional and 12 support staff - in the wake of cyclones Ofa in 1990 and Valelia in 1991.

There were mixed views in the Secretariat about moving so quickly to Samoa after the two major cyclones. But Vili, to his credit, said - "we move and we move now - we must demonstrate our support and solidarity with Samoa at this difficult time".

SPREP's Office was in the Vaitele industrial zone in the old office for the Samoa Copra and Cocoa Boards. The large building at the back was used for drying copra and still had the drying kilns when SPREP took over. It was opposite Yazaki - at that time the largest private employer in Samoa and in close proximity to the Vailima Brewery.

16 June 1993 was the signing of SPREP Treaty formally establishing SPREP as a fully autonomous intergovernmental body - the Pacific's Regional Environment Organisation and located in Apia, Samoa.

It was signed at a Plenipotentiary Meeting held at the Papauta's Girls School down the road from Vailima. The two cyclones had destroyed many buildings and homes and there were not many places at the time large enough to hold more than 100 people expected to come for the meeting.

In 1996, the Government of Samoa leased to SPREP a prime site of ten acres at Vailima for it Headquarters with the lease being "for as long as SPREP remains in Samoa". The land used to be part of the Vailima Botanical Garden (not brewery) that surrounds the Robert Louis Stevenson museum - the former official residence of Samoa's Head of State.

In the same year, the Government of Samoa also executed a Headquarters Agreement conferring diplomatic privileges and communities befitting an intergovernmental organisation and its operations.

In 2000 with donations from members and donors, a dedicated SPREP headquarters was constructed and we moved into the current SPREP campus.

Samoa's unwavering and generous support for SPREP counties and is best exemplified through an act of generosity where they allowed bilateral grant aid for Samoa from the Government of Japan to be used to build the Pacific Climate Change Centre (PCCC).

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 (MNRE) and other associated government ministries and agencies as a regional and global leader for Environment and Sustainable Development.

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.

It is human capacity that SREP has contributed to and benefitted from Samoa the most. Over the years, the vast majority of our staff are from Samoa. We currently have a full-time staff roster of 131 with 76 or 53% being Samoan. It is truly symbiotic relationship to describe it in environmental terms and one that we pray is a permanent relationship - a covenant that has been forged through shared experiences over the last 30 years.

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.

May God continue to bless and be the foundation for Samoa, God bless SPREP, God bless CROP and God bless our beloved Blue Pacific region and all those who live and work in it.