The second SWAP (Committing to Sustainable Waste Actions in the Pacific) Steering Committee Meeting has ended with a renewed focus from the project, countries and all the partners to accelerate efforts to improve lives in the Pacific through proper and sustainable waste management.
The Second SWAP Steering Committee Meeting was chaired by the Assistant Head of the Territorial Environment Service of Wallis and Futuna, Ms Ateliana Maugateau, who took over the reins from the outgoing Chair, Mr Seumaloisalafai Afele Faiilagi, of Samoa.
Funded by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and executed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), it is designed to improve sanitation, environmental, social and economic conditions in Pacific Island Countries and Territories and it is already being rolled out in Fiji, French Polynesia, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna.
Held virtually last month due to COVID-19 challenges, the Steering Committee evaluated the work done in 2021 and discussed opportunities for 2022 and beyond.
Notable progress has already been made; the meeting was told, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, and its impact on the implementation phase. Speaking on his last day as the Director-General of SPREP, Mr Kosi Latu, emphasised the importance of the project for the region.
“We have already seen some milestones as a result of the work done and I am very pleased about this,” Mr Latu said, referring to the participation of the SWAP project in the 2021 International Coastal Clean-up Day. “Nearly six hundred volunteers were involved from Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu and Wallis and Futuna. I’ve been told that more than five tons of waste was collected and nine awareness videos were produced to contribute to a cleaner Pacific. This is extremely exciting.”
The Director-General also referred to the work already to develop the National Used Oil Management Plans for Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
The inception workshops, held recently, have shown the importance of the task and the commitment of the countries to the achievement of these national policies. “These milestones demonstrate the critical role SWAP plays in achieving a cleaner Pacific.
We are therefore confident and fully engaged to continue the implementation of the SWAP project during the coming year, despite the still challenging situation related to lockdowns in Samoa and in other partner islands.”
The progress and the work done were not lost on AFD Public Sector Head/Pacific Regional Cooperation, Ms Nolwenn Bodo. Assuring the meeting of AFD’s continuous support, she challenged the Committee to open SWAP to other Pacific countries.
“I want to acknowledge the work of everyone, especially Julie Pillet at SPREP,” said Ms Bodo.
“We are very pleased and proud to support the SWAP project knowing how important its work is in addressing the environmental challenges faced by the Pacific region.
I look forward to the outcome of this meeting and how we can continue to work together to achieve its goals and purpose.”
Looking at the future, the Steering Committee discussed and endorsed the 2022 budget and work plan, which among other things included the design, development and implementation of pilot projects, as well a scoping study to identify disposal facilities that can be rehabilitated and climate proofed in the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
A video to raise awareness of the problem of marine litter will also be produced in the coming weeks. It will be shared on social networks and national television stations of the SPREP Member Countries and Territories.
The meeting’s Chair, Ms Ateliana Maugateau, acknowledged the participation of countries, territories, AFD, and SWAP partners including PacWaste Plus Program, J-PRISM II, GEF Islands Project, Pacific Ocean Litter Project (POLP), Newcastle University and the SWAP Project Management Unit at SPREP.
SPREP’s outgoing Director-General left the meeting with a final challenge.
“We need to build on those outcomes, we cannot allow COVID to stop us from building on those outcomes, we’ve got to find new ways of delivering on our work,” he said.
“We should be looking at linking all these projects including PacWaste Plus, GEF Islands, JPRISM, and SWAP because they all have strong points of reference, collaboration and integration where we can share resources and share expertise for sustainable management of waste and pollution sources in the Pacific.”