Samoan Minister in top international jobs Board

Samoa is representing the entire Pacific and Asia region on an international board on greening in the international workforce in the global fight against climate change.

At the helm is Minister of Commerce, Industry and Labour, Lautafi Fio Purcell, who is co-chairing the Jobs Initiative International Advisory Board, alongside Spain’s Minister for Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera.

After the board’s first meeting early on Saturday morning, Lautafi said the group have agreed on a productive, cross cutting strategy that covers most of Samoa’s priorities in this area.

The advisory board is made up of 13 Government leaders, who are mostly Labour Ministers, and representatives from the financial institutions, trade unions and employers organisations and the strategy is intended to guide work to improve the world’s workforce as each country works to meet its climate action targets.

In the road to a more sustainable future, decent work and social justice should not be lost, the international community agreed when writing the Paris Agreement in 2015.

With the small island states of the Pacific often being represented by the leaders of much larger countries in Asia, Samoa’s election to co-chair is a milestone Lautafi is celebrating.

“For us to be involved in this is quite special for a small country like Samoa, to be recognised for our efforts, to promote the principles of just transition for job,” he said. “This is what we always fought for, the fact that Asia is a massive [area].

“We’re talking about China, India, the Middle East… our voices as the Pacific region is only a tiny part of that. So we have been arguing in the past to make our voice a whole lot louder.”

A considerable element of the work on greening the workforce is providing meaningful work opportunities to those in industries that are not environmentally sustainable, like in fossil fuels, some areas of construction and even in some cases tourism.

What exactly “green jobs” means is different for every country, Lautafi said.

“Green jobs is not a term that is strictly tied to industrial countries. [In Samoa,] agriculture needs to be reignited which we are already doing, and [we are] looking at fisheries as a major source of employment.”

Lautafi said having Samoa represented on this board will bring much needed funding opportunities to the region and to Samoa.

As he and his ministry reflect on their development strategies, their unmet goals are often unmet because of funding or technical support problems.

“Our involvement in this will ensure we get the support we need,” he said. “We get to share ideas with other countries, who are well established in creating and maintaining a sustainable green jobs as a means of employment.”

Samoa’s position on this board is an opportunity to lead the rest of the world, he added.

Already, other countries are trying to model the way Samoan communities work together and how discussions are held in the Talanoa style as a way to manage relationships between employees and employers, and the wider community.

When voicing her support for Samoa as co-chair, the representative for Costa Rica said her country is trying to adopt Talanoa at home.

“We are a role model to the world and they are learning from us,” Lautafi said.

“We may be small but we have some unique ideas of how we have survived as small economies.”

And with the impacts of climate change rapidly becoming more extreme, Samoa will use its role on the board to push other countries to be more ambitious in their efforts to reduce emissions and protecting their people on the way. 

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, the international community began working towards setting country targets for emissions reductions in a bid to stop the world from warming more than 1.5 degrees. 

Lautafi said whenever the opportunity presents itself, Samoa advocates for more action on climate change, as it contributes very little to the global crisis but is affected by it daily. 

“The more the sea levels rise the more we need to be pushing for other countries to make sure they continue to maintain the push agreed to in the global forums.”

As leader of a regional group dedicated to jobs and climate change too, Lautafi is in a unique position to represent the Pacific on these issues.

He is also the Vice Chairman of the Blue Pacific Big Ocean States, a Pacific Labour Ministers platform focused on climate change, sharing advice and strategies on decent work and a just transition to greener jobs, and connecting employment and climate action.

The Climate Action for Jobs Initiative and its Advisory Board is managed by the International Labour Organisation.


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