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The final side event of the Interregional Preparatory Meeting of the S.A.M.O.A. Pathway Mid-Term Review titled “Empowered Civil Society for Sustainable Development: Best Practices from CSO-Government Dialogues” and moderated by UN Resident Coordinator Simona Marinescu, fostered vivid discussions among panellists and participants on the role of civic engagement for development impact.  

Representing the Samoa Umbrella for Non-Governmental Organisations (SUNGO), an organisation established to provide alternative development options and assistance to vulnerable groups in Samoa and to provide input into Government policy from Community Based Organisations (CBOs), Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Chief Executive Officer, Mr Fuimaono Falefa Lima, shared a video presentation (funded by GEF-SGP) to highlight SUNGO’s success stories as well as lessons learnt since the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), held in Apia back in August 2014. He expressed the success SUNGO has achieved in “representing the region-wide initiative to develop a network of NGOs” which can be “represented in both national and international forums,” highlighting the importance of capacity building for their numerous member organisations.

Following Mr. Lima, members of the audience were captivated by the passionate presentation given by Mr. Lemalama Taaloga, Community Champion and High Chief of the Savaia Lefaga Village (or as he described it - “the real Savaia.” Twenty years after the initiation of Samoa’s most successful marine protected area (MPA), Savaia Marine Conservation Project now boasts esteemed awards and is Government of Samoa eco-tourism approved. Funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) with importance stressed on youth engagement and gender mainstreaming, Mr. Lemalama made it clear to see that through whole-community involvement, a sense of pride has been engrained into the Savaians due to the success of their project. Mr. Taaloga finished the discussion promoting his ambition of expanding the valuable skills gained and lessons learnt throughout the entire Lefaga district to ensure that all those who inhabit that area can lead sustainable livelihoods.

The third guest speaker, Mr. James Atherton, President of the Samoa Conservation Society (SCS) enlightened those listening on Samoa’s first carbon offset initiative which has seen more than 10,000 native trees planted the South Pacific’s, oldest National Park, O le Pupu Pue. Also funded by the GEF-SGP, this project supports an existing partnership between the SCS and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), addressing a range of problems in a holistic fashion under the broad themes of environment and socio-economics. “Trees are 50% carbon, proving one of the most efficient carbon sinks on our planet” Mr Atherton explained, however, deforestation along with the increased rates of air travel are two of multiple factors that have pushed humanity into a pivotal third revolution – the “Sustainable Development Revolution”. Closing his discussion, Mr Atherton remarked that “efforts need speeding up, however if each and every human assumes their responsibility, current species declines and land degradation within natural environments can be reversed; it is possible if we act now!”

To close the presentations, Toleafoa Fetoloa’i Yandall-Alama, ACEO PUMA from MNRE, covered briefly the document that aims to assist villages and communities to better manage their natural environment and infrastructure so that they can be more resilient to climate change and its adverse impacts, the Community Integrated Management (CIM) Plans. After eight months of consultations, the initiative was signed by 41 districts in Samoa, covering 253 villages, to produce a genuine partnership between villages and governments in the integrated management of infrastructure, livelihoods and food security, natural environment and resources, and importantly village governance.

“For Small Island Developing States, a strong partnership among State and non-State actors is a prerequisite for development progress in a context where resources are scarce, needs are mounting, and time pressure is critical. For SIDS, 2030 is too far away for SDG completion given the time pressures they are facing to strengthen resilience to national hazards and various forms of insecurity. UNDP and the GEF SGP teams are inspired by the high quality of engagement between the Government of Samoa, the NGOs and various community actors towards common goals. We wish to nurture that through everything we do.”, stated Simona Marinescu, UN Resident Coordinator in Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau.

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