The almost full attendance by parties of the first face-to-face meeting of the Noumea Convention, since 2019 when COVID-19 hit and devastated communities around the world, has signalled our commitment to strengthen efforts to protect the Pacific’s natural resources and marine environment to ensure sustainable development for present and future generations.

The 17th ordinary meeting of the contracting parties to the Noumea Convention at Taumeasina Island Resort in Samoa was officially opened by the Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Sefanaia Nawadra, on Thursday 31 August 2023.

Nawadra thanked the outgoing Chair, Samoa, for their leadership and guidance and congratulated the incoming Chair, New Zealand, noting the critical importance of the Noumea Convention to the work of SPREP, which is celebrating its 30th Anniversary this year.

“The Noumea Convention and its two Protocols were adopted in 1986 and came into force in 1990. The Noumea Convention and a regional Coral Reef Programme were the seeds planted in Noumea by UNEP, SPC and what is now PIFS that became SPREP in 1993 in the fertile soil of Samoa – Vaitele initially then later to our permanent home in Vailima,” he said.

“SPREP is the Secretariat for the Noumea Protocol and you can say that all of the work of SPREP and its members contributes in some way to the implementation of the Noumea Convention.”

Ten of 12 contracting parties to the Noumea Convention are present in Apia this week. They are Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands and USA.

Photo: SPREP

“This gives me confidence and assurances that although faced with unprecedented triple global environment crises, health, inflation and war, we all remain committed to our joint commitments to protect the Pacific’s marine environment,” the Director General said.

He especially acknowledged the presence of Niue, Tuvalu and Wallis and Futuna as observers, and hoped that this will encourage them to become Parties and pave the way for all Members of SPREP to become Parties to the Noumea Convention.

In 2019, SPREP was mandated to conduct a review to assess the effectiveness and relevance of the Convention and its Secretariat. Funded by the ACP MEA Phase 3 project, a two-day Ad-hoc meeting in June 2023 discussed the recommendations from the review concerning resourcing and financial stability of the Noumea Convention, the development of both a Monitoring and Reporting Plan and a Communications and Awareness Plan and a proposed strategy on ways to strengthen the Secretariat. Stronger linkages to other Regional Seas Conventions and existing regional frameworks managed by the Secretariat were also on the agenda.

SPREP’s Director General acknowledged the support of the ACP MEA Phase 3 project for funding the meeting in June, and for supporting a team as the Secretariat for the Noumea Convention.

“I would like to acknowledge your contributions to the Ad Hoc meeting in June especially Australia’s leadership in facilitating a consultative process to revise, discuss and unpack the recommendations from the review of the Noumea Convention,” said Nawadra. “The list of recommendations from the review serves as a roadmap to inform a new direction for the Convention, its Secretariat and its 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.

“These legal instruments are the foundation on which SPREP is founded and is the first regional multilateral environmental agreement for our Pacific Region. I hope that you as Parties will here recommit to the Convention by setting our direction and continuing to make the changes necessary to ensure it remains relevant to our needs and the new challenges of today.”

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 and represents the legal framework of the Action Plan for managing the Natural Resources and Environment of the South Pacific adopted in 1982 on behalf of the South Pacific Conference on Human Environment.

Photo: SPREP

The 17th Noumea Convention kicks off a string of critical environmental meetings in Apia during the next few days including the 12th Waigani Convention on 01 September 2023. They precede the 31st SPREP Meeting of Officials, including SPREP’s Partnership Dialogue and the Ministerial High Level Talanoa, from 04 – 08 September 2023.

The meetings are guided by the theme: “Sustainable, transformative and resilient for a Blue Pacific.”