13th SPREP Meeting Of Officials

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SOUTH PACIFIC REGIONAL ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME (SPREP) Apia, Samoa

Majuro, Marshall Islands July 22-25, 2002

OPENING STATEMENT

By

Tamari‘i Tutangata Director of SPREP

 

Honorable Patrick Mackenzie, Chairperson of the 12th SPREP Meeting and Deputy Secretary of Economic Affairs, Federated States of Micronesia

Honorable Gerald Zackios, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Marshall Islands

Traditional Leaders

Father Richard McAuliff

Honorable Members of the Nitijela

Distinguished Delegates

Mr Alf Simpson, Director of the South Pacific Geoscience Commission and

Representatives of other Agencies within the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific

Representatives of other Partner Agencies

Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Church Leaders and Community Leaders of the Republic of Marshall Islands

The Youth to Youth Group

Ladies and Gentlemen

It is a singular honor for me to join our Chairperson and the Honorable Zackios in extending a welcoming hand to you all to the 13th SPREP Meeting of Officials on behalf of the SPREP Secretariat. It is a real pleasure to see so many familiar faces and I look forward to including amongst the familiar faces in the next day or two those of you who are attending your first SPREP Meeting.

Honorable Minister Zackios, I thank you for honoring us with your presence and for your inspirational Opening Address. I am certain that the Distinguished Delegates will take heart from your reference to our region’s "spirit of cooperation and regional solidarity" and that they will "remain firm and committed to addressing the special needs of island states."

Through you Honorable Minister, I should like to extend our sincere appreciation to His Excellency President Kessai Note, your cabinet colleagues, the organizing committee, Government and people of the Republic of Marshall Islands for accepting the heavy responsibility of hosting this 13th SPREP Meeting. I also extend special thanks to the Honorable Litokwa Tomeing, Speaker of the Nitijela (Parliament) for giving us the honor of being housed within his premises. It is a rare privilege for many of us to be in Majuro and I, for one, have welcomed this opportunity to return and hopefully learn more about living in these emerald isles.

You have probably heard other speakers on other occasion’s use the term "singular honor" in a way that makes you feel that it is nothing more than verbose rhetoric. However, I have used this term on this occasion with every sense of sincerity that I can muster for this is, as you know, the last occasion that I will have the honor of addressing an opening ceremony for a SPREP Meeting in my current capacity.

It is, in fact, one of the more significant tasks of this 13th SM to review the findings of the Selection Advisory Committee and to recommend to the Ministerial Forum to be held on Friday as to the most suitable applicant to succeed me. In finalizing your recommendation, I trust that all SPREP members will recognize the hard work of the Chair and members of the Committee as well as the high caliber of the short-listed applicants. I very much look forward towards doing my part in ensuring a smooth transition to my successor in January next. Let me also take this opportunity to extend my appreciation to the Chairperson of the 12th SPREP, Honorable Patrick Mackenzie for the efficient and unfailingly cheerful manner in which you have carried out your Chairpersonship.

Four weeks ago, I had the good fortune to finally visit the three islands that make up the group of islands known as Tokelau. I was deeply moved by that visit for it left me with feelings that I find difficult to put in words but perhaps feeling ‘honored and humbled’ is a reasonable compromise.

I felt ‘honored’ in that in all three islands, the elected and traditional leaders as well as representatives of the community as a whole received our small delegation. Yet, I also felt ‘humbled’ not only because we were initially welcomed by the eldest of the elders on each island but also because I was reminded of the generally realistic expectations by the people of our islands of those of us who work in ‘their’ regional organization. Clearly, the people of Tokelau expected us to be more readily adaptable to their needs and to be more forthcoming in providing the support they consider necessary for themselves and their limited natural resources.

Distinguished delegates, through all my visits to SPREP members, I have been very well received at all levels but time and government obligations meant that in most visits I have not spent as much time as I would have liked to listen to the wider community. Nevertheless, each one of those visits – whether it was to French Polynesia or Papua New Guinea, Palau or France, Australia or Tuvalu - re-booted my enthusiasm for the responsibilities that you entrusted to me almost six years ago. I thank you all for the honor that you accorded me during those visits and for the insights that you provided me.

There is a chant from the Cook Islands that goes like this:

"Tanumia ra te ‘au ngangare Tupuranga ‘au to te tangata ki te ao natura"

"Plant perfect harmony Harmony that will grow between man and his environment"

Today, perfection is considered to be almost impossible. It is with this in mind that I considered it appropriate to recite this chant for it reminds me that our ancestors did not consider the growing of perfect harmony between them and their environment to be impossible. And if our ancestors could exhort themselves to strive for perfection, how can we, with all the modern technology available to us, strive for less?

Over the last two days, country and other representatives sacrificed their weekend in the interests of striving to perfect the direction of our joint efforts in implementing the provisions of the Apia, Nooea and Waigani Conventions. Such efforts included a call for all the members of this 13th SPREP Meeting to work together in order to render the provisions of the twenty-six year old Apia Convention into ones that are more in perfect harmony with the needs of our region today and the foreseeable future.

Talking about the future, the Honorable Minister Zackios appropriately focused on the World Summit for Sustainable Development to be held in August/September. It was in fact the timing of that Summit coupled with the timing for the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders annual session earlier in August, which led to this 13th SPREP Meeting being held this week SPREP Meetings have usually been held later in the year. However, since it was the SPREP Meeting and Ministerial Forum in 2000, which began the process for our region’s inputs in preparation for the World Summit, it was considered appropriate for this Meeting and the attendant Ministerial Forum to have a final opportunity to provide further guidance to our Leaders when they meet next month. It is for this reason that the WSSD is a major focus for both this Meeting and the Ministerial Forum. Distinguished Delegates, our ministers will be depending on you to assist them in ensuring that the guidance that they provide to our Leaders will contribute towards achieving the harmony that our individual countries require in striving to achieve the goal of sustainable development.

Another major focus for this Meeting is the Secretariat’s proposed Work Program and Budget for 2003 and the indicative budget for 2004 and 2005. While we have drawn on the guidance that you and others from your respective islands have provided to others through past SPREP Meetings and other processes, this meeting provides you with your last opportunity to ensure that the work program that you will decide upon is in perfect harmony with your own requirements. Unlike the last two years in which we sought increases in contributions by members to our budget, we are not seeking any further increases in contributions next year. Rather we seek your support in ensuring that the outstanding contributions to the budget by many of you for this year and previous years are paid as soon as possible. You will see from the documentation, which we have provided that if only we receive all of the outstanding member contributions over the next few months, our financial resources will enable our activities to be more in harmony with your own requirements of us.

Obviously, there are other significant issues for you to address over the next three days that are directly related to the Secretariat’s proposed Work Program. These include nature conservation and the outcomes of the 7th Conference on Nature Conservation held just over a week ago, Action Strategy for Nature Conservation for the five-year period 2003- 2005, a Regional Strategy to Address Marine Pollution from World War II Wrecks, a proposal to declare 2004 as a Pacific Year of Waste and Regional Waste Clean-up, EIA and Integrated Environmental Planning, Trade and Environment, International Waters Program, and a proposal for a Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy.

Given these and other issues that you must consider Distinguished Delegates, it is obvious that you have much work ahead of you over the next three days.

I trust that the decisions that you make will, as in the chant of old, help you and us in the SPREP Secretariat, together with our partner agencies to plant the seeds of harmony that will grow into perfect harmony between us and our environment.

Kia manuia.

 

 

OPENING REMARKS

 

Chairperson of 12th SPREP Meeting

 

Honorable Patrick Mackenzie.

Briefly, I would like to pay my respects to the traditional leaders of this island and its people for allowing us to be here today.

Honorable Ministers, Heads of Delegations, officials and observers to the 13th SPREP Meeting, ladies and gentlemen.

I wish to express special thanks to our hosts the Government of the Republic of Marshall Islands, for the reception, organizing and hospitality that has been offered thus far. I give special recognition to the Honorable Gerald Zackios, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Marshall Islands, who will deliver the keynote address, and thank you sir for the effort of your Government to bring this meeting to reality.

Almost a year ago, when my Government asked me to chair the 12th SPREP Meeting I accepted the offer without hesitation. Little did I know what lay ahead. Soon after arrival in Apia, two days before the SPREP Meeting, I was met at the airport around 3:30 in the morning. On the way to the hotel during the one-hour drive, the briefing began. Later that same day after a few hours of sleep, I was called to come in and continue with the briefing session. You can imagine what kind of shape I was in. But that is only the beginning of what has turned out to be a memorable experience. It has been an honor to serve as the SPREP chair over the last 12 months and I would like to express gratitude to Members for this opportunity.

As part of my role over the last 12 months I also had the privilege to serve as the Chair of the Selection Advisory Committee to recruit the new Director. The deliberations and outcomes will be presented to Members for decision as part of the SPREP Meeting. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those Member countries that made up the panel, namely:

It has been an important year for the Secretariat and Members especially in terms of the lead up to this year’s World Summit for Sustainable Development. The Secretariat has taken the lead role in preparations for the Summit and has worked with the CROP WSSD Working Group to ensure the widest scope of consideration and negotiations to suit the Pacific region in the push for actions for Sustainable Development.

2001 has seen the approval of the 2001-2004 Corporate Plan and a new organizational structure targeting SPREP Member’s needs for increased technical advisory services; integration of the work program; and increases in staff levels was approved as part of the Corporate Plan. The appointment of the new Director will complete the transition of the Secretariat to better serve the delivery of capacity required by Members.

Lastly I would like to acknowledge special recognition to the Director, Mr. Tamari’i Tutangata and his entire staff for the support and assistance they have given me over the last year. On a personal note, Tam, I want to thank you for your friendship and generosity. I appreciate the one on one discussions, including the many lunches and dinners. I came away with a warm feeling each time I visit Apia. Since this is your last meeting as Director I would like to wish you the best in your future endeavors.

Having said those few words, I now declare the 13th SPREP Meeting open.

Thank you very much.

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