Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Closing the Lessons for Future Action Conference

Closing statement by Mr David Sheppard, Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) at the Lessons Learnt for Future Action Climate Change Adaptation Conference, 23 – 26 May, Apia, Samoa

Conference delegates, friends

I’m very pleased to offer some closing remarks to this important and very successful conference.

On Monday, I mentioned that we have gathered the “cream of the cream” in this room in relation to expertise on climate change and disaster risk reduction in small island states. This has been borne out by the quality of presentations and discussions during the week.

Given this wealth of expertise, I also mentioned that SPREP may even try to keep you all here and not let you go back home.

Even if that is not possible – unfortunately and reluctantly - I am sure all of you have been impressed by the great natural beauty of this country, the warmth of its people and the professionalism of approaches to address climate change and other issues.

I think this is best summed up by Janet Larue this morning in discussing one of the conference field trips when she said: “I love Samoa”.

We do too.

I hope many of you are planning a trip back to Samoa – if you do return please consider SPREP as your home away from home – our home is your home – our fale is your fale.

I urged everyone on Monday to be open and generous in sharing our experience and to learn from one another. This objective has been exceeded and I think we have all definitely learnt from each other. Jo mentioned this morning that a particular point from one of the working groups was “a great bit of wisdom”. In fact I think we have heard “many great bits of wisdom” this week and I am sure they will be well captured in the conference report.

This will be a very important and landmark document.

This conference has underlined that there are differences between our regions but there are in fact many more similarities, particularly in terms of the challenges we face and the approaches we are taking. As Leonard Nurse said this morning, “there are many positive things happening in our regions”

From my side I have learned a lot from listening to and talking with colleagues from the Caribbean and Indian Oceans. I will ask SPREP staff to consider how these suggestions and lessons can be best applied in the future development of climate change programmes at SPREP, and in the Pacific region.

Robert asked each of us this morning to consider what we would like as an outcome from this conference.

My answer was - concrete action to ensure this conference is followed up.

We have heard a number of concrete suggestions for follow up from this mornings’ session and a number of practical suggestions are included in the Outcomes Statement from this conference.

Ken Leslie and I will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding today between SPREP and 5 Cs. This is a very important document and a major step towards better information sharing and practical cooperation between the Pacific and the Caribbean.

I am sure this partnership will also provide a useful vehicle for following up many of the key recommendations from this conference. SPREP is really looking forward to working with the 5Cs to implement this MOU and we hope this cooperation can be expanded in the future to include the Indian Ocean region as well.

Ken told me the idea of this conference, bringing together key people from the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Oceans was floated by him about 4 years. It has been great to bring this about and we look forward to the next conference - hopefully we will not have to wait another 4 years and we look forward to meeting in the beautiful Caribbean.

Ken – thank you for your leadership, and perseverance, in bringing this conference from an idea to reality.

This conference has been rich in content. Jo Mummery and her team have provided a masterful summary of key insights which has been well refined by the excellent reports from working groups this morning.

To briefly highlight some key messages I will take from this conference.

First the benefits of working across regions and ensuring there are better mechanisms put in place for sharing experience in the future. We have more work to do on this area. This works to the benefit of us all and can be done easily and quickly.

Second the need to be flexible and look at new ways of working. Climate Change poses many new and different challenges and we need to look at different approaches to how we carry out our core business. By necessity this must involve working across sectors and encouraging and better applying innovation in our work.

Third we must focus on better and more strategic partnerships. We must avoid a silo approach to working. In the Pacific, SPREP is committed to working more collaboratively with other Regional Agencies, particularly with and through the CROP CEO’s Task Force on Climate Change, as well as working better with civil society. This conference has also provided an excellent platform for expanding partnerships between the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Oceans. We now need to ensure this translates to action.

Fourth I would emphasise the issue of sustainability which is vital if we are to better address the many challenges of climate change. This is implicit in our discussions this week on moving from a project to a programme approach, ensuring more long term and sustainable sources of finance, and developing stronger and more effective institutions for climate change. This is also closely linked with the issue of strategic leadership – at all levels - as clearly outlined by Edward Green in his closing remarks yesterday.

Fifth, and finally, there are some very specific key messages from this conference. I awoke on Tuesday morning to the thought resounding in my eardrums that: “The climate has changed, the climate will change, and the climate demands change”. So this is one message that not only resonates but has stuck. Thank you Michael Taylor for this insight.

In closing I would like to thank a number of organisations.

The Government of Australia, and particularly the PASAP Programme, for its most generous support for this conference. We have all appreciated the guidance and wisdom of Martin and Jo and the hard work and dedication of Liz and Cameron throughout the week. Thank you. We really value having the PASAP team at SPREP and feel this is a real win-win situation. This underlines the practical and tangible benefits of partnership.

Thank you again to the Government of Samoa for excellent support throughout this conference and, once again, for the very generous hosting of SPREP in your beautiful country.

Thank you to the SPREP team for your hard work and support. I am honored to lead such a professional and hard working team.

Thank you to all the hard working staff at the Tanoa Tusitala – we have appreciated your hard work and smiles throughout this week.

Finally, I would like to invite you all to at SPREP tonight and wish you all a safe trip back to your home countries.

Thank you again and I would like to declare this very important and significant conference closed.

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