Official Launch of the Samoa Parliamentary Support Project (SPSP)

31 May 2012

imageMembers of the Samoa Parliament and Ms Nileema Noble, UNDP Resident Representative in the front row fourth from left. Photo credit: UNDP Samoa MCO.

On the first day of the 50th Year of Independence Celebrations, Thursday 31 May 2012, Honourable La’auliolemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao, the Speaker of the Legislative assembly of Samoa and Ms. Nileema Noble, The UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative for Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau, invited the country’s leaders and development partners to the launching of the Samoa Parliamentary Support Project (SPSP) at 11.00am at the Luafatasaga Hall, Mulinuu.

In 2010, at the request of the Speaker of Parliament, UNDP commissioned a Legislative Needs Assessment of the Parliament, which has been used to ground the direction of this new project.

This project aims to strengthen the institution of Parliament through the development of the capacity of members to more effectively and accountably promote and progress Samoa's national development priorities and the achievement of the MDGs. Thus, the SPSP was developed under the MDGs Acceleration Programme.

Over a decade ago Samoa joined many countries from around the world in signing the Millennium Declaration thus committing its government to a serious attempt at achieving each of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015. The MDGs represent a set of eight key internationally agreed Goals which will enhance the quality of life of all peoples in the world, including Samoa in an equitable and sustainable manner.

The SPSP is a 3 year project (2012-2015). The Total budget is USD $1,529,525. The project is generously funded by the Australian Government (Ausaid) and the Government of Samoa with project management and technical advisory services provided by UNDP as well as the Pacific Parliamentary Partnership Programme (funded by Ausaid).

A dynamic partnership with the Pacific Parliamentary Partnership Programme, involving twinning arrangements between the Tasmanian Parliament and the Australian Federal Parliament with the Samoa Parliament, is actively engaged in carrying out several key learning components of the project with UNDP regional parliamentary experts.

Following Samoa’s national elections in March 2011, the HRPP Government was returned to parliament with a substantial majority and for the first time an official Opposition was formed within Parliament. Both the Government and the Opposition have indicated a strong commitment to utilising Parliament as a place for debate, discussion and oversight. Therefore, the time was right for this project to be developed and implemented.

The Prime Minister of Samoa commented, “It is highly appropriate that this is the year in which a Strengthening Project for our Parliament commences, as it also marks 50 years of independence from foreign rule.”

Ms. Nileema Noble also commented that the “Programme launch on the first day of the 50th year Independence Celebration is propitious, as the programme is expected to further deepen the democratic process in Samoa as it moves into its next 50 years of history.”

His Excellency Dr. Stephen Henningham, the Australian High Commissioner, who was also present at the launch said, “We hope that with the Samoa Parliamentary Support Project we are able to strengthen your abilities to represent and advocate for the needs of your community, and to contribute to the development of national policy. The moral courage shown by your forefathers has laid the strong foundations of the Samoa of today. I am certain that the conviction and concern you hold for your communities will help to shape the Samoa of tomorrow. The Australian Government is committed to working with you to realize a strengthened democracy, an invigorate parliament and a stronger voice for the people of Samoa.”

The SPSP launch during the first day of the Independence Celebrations was an opportunity to express ideas about the crucial role of the Legislative Assembly, the progress on gender equality and the partnership with the Australian Government.

The crucial role of the Legislative Assembly Ms. Nileema Noble underlined the crucial role of the Legislative Assembly of Samoa: “The Legislative Assembly of Samoa is the country’s foremost decision-making bodies – the place where the people’s voices are represented through their elected Members of Parliament. It is also the place from where the members of the Government are drawn. It therefore plays a fundamental role in establishing the rule of law, protecting human rights, overseeing a transparent governance process and actively engaging in the development process of the country.  The Parliamentary Programme will support the professional development of all the members of Parliament, including in areas of law making and Committee oversight, in support of the realization of the goals contained in the Samoa Development Strategy and the MDGs. The programme will also contribute to increasing the engagement of the Parliamentarians with the public – NGOs, youth, women and the media. Also, the Secretariat to the Parliament, the office of the Clerk, will be strengthened to provide efficient and high quality support and services to the Parliamentarians and other client groups.”

The progress also on Gender Equality (MDG 3) Ms. Noble also took this opportunity to “congratulate the Government for its bold move to attempt to establish a benchmark of 10% for female representation in the Parliament.”

She reminded that “Use of minimum women’s quotas are common throughout the world. Twenty four out of the 28 countries which have more than 30% women in their Parliaments, have used some form of quota – with great success.”

The Prime Minister reiterated his gratitude to the Government of Australia for the financial assistance through its AusAID programme, the UNDP multicountry office and all stakeholders for your contributions to this very important milestone in the history of Samoa’s legislature. Without further ado, I now declare commenced - the official launching of the Samoa Parliament Strengthening Project.”

The PM declared the official launching and the launch ended with gifts presented to the Samoa Parliament by Parliamentary Representatives from Australia (Tasmania and Federal Parliaments).