Shining our spotlight on our Pacific People that work for our Pacific environment is this Q and A series from your Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). 

Mr Semi Qamese is part of the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change and Resilience Building (PACRES) at SPREP.  PACRES works for better regional and national adaptation and mitigation responses to climate change challenges faced by Pacific African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

The Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are the country partners under the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change and Resilience Building (PACRES) project which is financed under the European Union’s 11th EDF Intra-African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (GCCA+) Programme.

Having started in 2018, PACRES has been active in our Pacific Island Members, helping to build resilience.  Semi shares more with us about his work with PACRES.

Q. What Pacific environmental challenge do you work to address?

We work to help build the resiliency of our Pacific islands people, villages and countries – especially when it comes to climate change.  More specifically, from the PACRES perspective we are working with our countries in many different ways. 

Where needed we help enhance the inter-government and sectoral mechanisms by reviewing policies, strategies and coordination methods to see how they can be strengthened, and we work together guided by our Members to do so.  We also work with our Members to strengthen the mainstreaming of climate change across their government systems and when it comes to activities on the ground in countries, we see how we can strengthen their nature-based solutions in a wide range of ways such as developing nurseries, helping with forest growth, riverbank stabilisation and riparian zone (the land alongside creeks, streams, gullies, rivers and wetlands) rehabilitation, and town planning.  These are just some examples.  We also help strengthen national networks of a wide range of partners for the same goal, and we help build capacity through online planning and e-learning tools. 

As you can see, there are a wide range of activities we do to help bring about a resilient Pacific.

Q.  What has been your greatest achievement in this role?

When it comes to working with countries, the major achievement I think we have made is we have worked hand in hand with our countries.  We have scoped the activities on the ground with our countries, and we have then planned the work to be done with our countries, and we have also actioned these with our countries.  The scope is based upon the needs of our countries and make sure that any work we do suits their outputs and objectives. 

Receiving the great feedback that we have; we are seeing that this is the best way for us to work – build upon their work nationally and provide them with the support they need to undertake work in line with their goals.

Q. What is one of the best things you like about your job?

I like that I am able to work in a multi-cultural workspace with people from across our different Pacific Island cultures in our region.  It is very inspiring to be able to work together from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures but we’re all working together for a common goal – a resilient Pacific.  I have learnt so much from many different people in this regard.

Another thing that I like about my job is that it is quite flexible in terms of timing, we aren’t micro-managed on a daily basis, but we are given the space to set goals with our countries and partners, and then ensure we are results based oriented.  We have our targets to achieve, and we work in the best way possible, so we are productive, and our outcomes are achieved.

Q.  Tell us about an activity you have done with our Pacific islands Member that stands out for you.

For me, one of the best activities we have done was with Nauru.  We worked together to develop the Nauru National Climate Change Policy with them.  In our scoping activity they let us know what was needed and we planned together to help make sure this happened.

This was particularly interesting as we started before COVID-19 became a pandemic in 2020, with consultants based in Australia and when COVID-19 hit, we were stumped a bit.  We had to try many different things to find the best way possible, learning many different lessons along the way.  We really learnt that we would continue this work virtually, so we worked with Nauru to form a country support group led by the Climate Change Director.  We made sure we were flexible to allow for consultations to happen in small groups and virtually.  We worked to the timing of our stakeholders, so we heard as many voices as possible.

Overall, it was a really interesting process, we’re proud to say we completed the Climate Change Policy in July 2020.

Q. If you could share one piece of advice that you have learnt from your work, what would it be?

Teamwork is valuable.  We aren’t able to do anything alone, we do it together and that’s how we move forward – just like that saying, “if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together.”  We make sure we do this in country with our teams on the ground.  This way we also strengthen sustainability of the work after our role is done.

We’re a team with our members, our Pacific Island countries, we work together, we want to go far.

To learn more about PACRES please visit: https://www.sprep.org/project/pacific-adaptation-to-climate-change-and-resilience