REPORTING FROM APIA, SAMOA (2): In conversation with the Prime Minister of Samoa, Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi

It’s now been one week we’re on the ground in Apia and have been heavily involved in the conference on numerous levels whether in the Steering or drafting committee or delivering speeches addressing the community. This is a tipping point for our organisation as we share our campaigns with others and is being approached to create symbiotic partnerships with other Civil Society Organisations, and possible partnerships with United Nation (UN) agencies, and others in the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). We find that our work is being recognised and celebrated on an even larger platform, one that we didn’t even dream about. What is equally important is that the keyword for this SIDS conference this year is that of: “partnership”, one which we are striving to fulfil in every angle. From our meetings with different organisations, we are engaged in discussions in fostering partnerships that will not only promote our cause, but also help in information exchange between different countries so as to run more effective campaigns and expand our knowledge and activities across borders.

We have an incredible exposure and involved in cross cutting discussions around sustainable development in relation to woman, youth and children, indigenous people, intellectual property rights, people with disabilities, etc… Our scope is thus expanding as we stress that indeed we should not tunnel our vision on one particular field to achieve resiliency, but it is important to think of synergistic opportunities at every scale and level.

What is more is that we are getting to network with various heads of states and parliamentarians; one of which is Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, the host country of the UN SIDS conference this year. After the opening ceremony of the pre-conference, the honourable Prime Minister was very receptive to meet us and actively engage in a discussion oriented towards contemporary issues faced by the SIDS community on a local and global scale. As Samoa, regrouping both Islands Opulu and Savaii, has for energy demand only 34MW, we can’t help but compare with the average of 460MW energy demand in Mauritius. It seems that among the SIDS, we are among the rare ones to face the problem of dependency of fossil fuels as the others are taking a solid stance towards shifting to renewable energy. The honourable Prime Minister affirms that indeed, a commitment towards sustainable energy is the way to ensure the life of SIDS.

It is thus that we reiterate our call for a shift to renewable energy in Mauritius and stress on inter related contextual research that favours a sustainable output. It is a shame to portrait ourselves as one of the most developed countries in the SIDS while we are still strongly affirming our ground to promote technologies supporting an obsolete and extremely dirty industry.

As proud to be Mauritians, we actively engage in sharing our culture and history with others, but when it comes to our energy industry, we are shamed by our inaction to lead by example. There is a way forward, and one that can truthfully portrait us as visionaries paving the way by influencing not only our survival, but that of a much larger community. We have at our disposal a generational moment but what it revolves around, I guess, is: do we really want to step towards progress?

How important is it for Samoa hosting the SIDS conference this year?

Firstly, we have never hosted a Conference of this magnitude in our part of the world, the Pacific region.  By hosting this big Conference, it highlights our commitment in Samoa and as well as in the Pacific Islands. We are attached to budgets and the power of science that together can contribute towards stopping climate change.

What initiatives your government is already taking towards climate change mitigation?

We have already taken quite a lot of initiatives through replanting our forest and also another part of the adaptation policies that consists of taking on renewable energy projects. We are now in a situation where we can plan to be fully dependent on renewable energy by 2017. So, that is, a very significant contribution on our part.

What is your vision of a sustainable SIDS community?

Well, from this meeting, I know that most of our developing island economies are vulnerable to climate change and we greatly fear the effects of sea level rise, which if it takes place, many of our islands will be submerged under the ocean. So, we want to see concrete actions from this Conference for the countries which are participating to take positive actions to stop climate change. In fact, what we know is that this meeting is structured in this regards. Before the meeting took place, the outcome document (ndlr The S.A.M.O.A Pathway) already looks good, so that means that this Conference will turn out to be a most successful one.