Peace Corps, South Pacific Regional Environment Programme Sign Agreement to Expand Environmental Programs in the Pacific; Volunteers to Depart from San Francisco Next Week

Washington, D.C., July 15, 1999—Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan and Tamari\'i Tutangata, the Director of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), signed a Memorandum of Understanding this week stipulating that the two agencies will expand their environmental programs in the Pacific.
Twelve Peace Corps Volunteers, under the auspices of the Peace Corps\' "Pacific Initiative," will depart next week from San Francisco to work on environmental projects in Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Niue, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.
"The Pacific Initiative reflects the Peace Corps\' commitment to the Pacific islands region, where about 350 Peace Corps volunteers are currently serving," Gearan said. "We look forward to expanding the relationship between the Peace Corps, the Pacific island nations, and regional organizations such as SPREP."
SPREP is an intergovernmental environment organization whose members include the governments of 22 Pacific island countries and four developed countries with direct interests in the region, including the United States.
Tutangata, the director of SPREP, said that the Peace Corps volunteers will make a real difference in enabling the Pacific island countries to manage their environments. "The volunteers will help fuse together traditional knowledge with modern practices, especially with respect to nature conservation," he said.
Steve Nagler, Pacific Initiative Director for the Peace Corps, said these volunteers will be the first group to work directly with a regional organization in the Pacific, which is crucial because of the small size of the countries and the great distances among them.
"For the Peace Corps, this is first time we have looked at development issues on a regional basis instead of a country basis," Nagler said. "We hope that SPREP will be the first of many organizations that will form partnerships for our Pacific Initiative. It will help us meet new needs—particularly with regard to the environment and youth development—that we could not otherwise meet."
The first project with SPREP, which will be funded by the United Nations Development Programme, will focus on increasing the capacity of Pacific Island governments and grass-roots communities to utilize their natural resources in a sustainable manner. The Peace Corps volunteers will serve as environmental educators, community organizers, and trainers.
Currently, nearly 6,700 Peace Corps volunteers are working in 77 countries around the world to bring clean water to communities, teach children, protect the environment, help start new small businesses, and prevent the spread of AIDS. Since 1961, more than 150,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.

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