Lagi Keresoma and Alan Ah Mu
APIA: TUESDAY 28 JANUARY 2014: Preparations for the biggest conference ever to be hosted in Samoa in eight months time are on the right track. That’s the conclusion by Hongbo Wu, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations for the Department of Economic and social Affairs.
Wu is head if a delegation of 11 senior UN Secretariat members for discussions with the Government on preparations for the 2014 Third International Conference on Small Island
Developing States (SIDS) to be held in Samoa this coming August/September.
Wu is also Secretary-General of the Conference.
The conference venue, collectively two gyms, the aquatic centre and two new structures under construction were studied by the delegation in a visit this morning.
During the site visit delegation members asked questions of Fa’alavaau Perina Sila, National Coordinator of the SIDS conference.
Minister of Works Manu’alesagalala E. Posala helped with inquiries as did Vui Sebastian Mariner, representative of OSM Consultants, managers of the project to get the
conference sites up to scratch.
Vui mentioned artificial grass is to be laid on the floor of the aquatic centre so conference participants won’t slip – and installation of standby generators.
“We’ve ordered 60 solar lights,” he told the UN delegation.
Wu showed interest in how Gym 2, the site of the main office for the conference, can be kept cool since once filled with 3 000 participants the heat level will rise.
“My general impression of the site visit this morning is that Samoa is on the right track in creating a solid preparation for the 13th Small Island Development Sates (SIDS) conference in September,” Wu told reporters later.
He acknowledged the strong leadership by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi in heading Samoa’s taskforce responsible for preparations for SIDS.
“Most of the work has already been put to place,” he said.
“The UN team of 11 will now be able to assess and identify the technical details and areas that needed further assistance,” he said.
But on the overall site visit this morning, Wu and his team were impressed.
He and Tuilaepa then had a joint press conference to explain the latest details for SIDS preparations.
Asked about the security for the conference, Wu said that every sub- committee conference will be held in different venues and will be equally covered by police with New Zealand and Australia lending help.
“The main conference with country leaders will be covered by the UN police.”
The numbers of people to attend SIDS is estimated to be over 3000.
Asked about the accommodation status, Tuilaepa said, “It is well covered.”
“People will also be accommodated on the Pacific Jewel cruise ship brought in to assist with the number of delegates,” he said.
Asked if the UN will bring in extra motor vehicles for the conference, Wu said the UN is currently fundraising for the sole purpose of bringing in more participants from small island states.
Recently, Japan has committed to assist by way of providing vehicles for the conference.
Samoa’s contribution budget for the conference is estimated at $40 million.
Asked how much Samoa will get from the conference, Tuilaepa referred to Samoa benefiting from utilising the newly upgraded sports facility for future events.
Wu said the conference will be a chance to “showcase Samoa’s successful stories to the world.”
Before the media conference, Tuilaepa and Mr. Wu met with the donor countries and organizations.
“Both Mr. Wu and Tuilaepa met with donor community and briefed them on the status of preparation both at the national level and international community in the lead up to the conference,” said SIDS National Coordinator Fa’alava’au Perina Sila.
“This conference is a timely opportunity for SIDS and their partners to renew their commitments towards an agenda of shared responsibilities and accountability to ensure that SIDS key priorities are captured in the post 2015 development agenda and implemented successfully,” Tuilaepa said.
“Samoa hopes that the SIDS conference will become the launching ground for a variety of effective and durable partnerships between SIDS and their development partners for the further sustainable development of SIDS,” he said.
Wu leaves Samoa on Wednesday leaving behind members of the UN planning mission to continue “bilateral meetings with the different committees to render technical advice and support in Samoa’s preparations.’
The official website for SIDS www.sidsamoa.ws was also officially launched today.
SIDS theme for this year’s conference is “Small Island Development States through genuine and lasting partnership.”
The conference will be preceded by pre-conference activities from the 28- 30 August.