P.M. shares Samoa's struggles due to pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on Samoa’s economy, particularly the country’s food supply chain, tourism and remittances, Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi has told a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization virtual conference.

The dialogue, which was convened in Brussels, revolved around the theme “Weathering COVID-19 in Small Island Developing States [S.I.D.S.]: A pathway to resilience” and was held last week.

Its aim was exploring and understanding the challenges of identifying the gaps and opportunities for financial and technical assistance on food production, and identifying lessons learnt from S.I.D.S. in building resilience on food production against climate change and other natural hazard risks and shocks.

Tuilaepa was among speakers such as Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana; Chandrikapersad Santokhi, President of the Republic of Suriname; Tommy Esang Remengesau Jr., President of the Republic of Palau; Jorge Lopes Bom Jesus, Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Príncipe; and Josaia Vorege Bainimarama, Prime Minister of the Republic of Fiji. 

In a statement issued by the F.A.O. the leaders noted that the impact of COVID-19 was severe even where the virus did not spread, citing concerns about fewer remittances, school closures and increasing dropout rates.

“They called for debt relief, technical help to pursue innovation, technology, and an enabling environment for private sector investments in the agri-business sector,” read the statement.

It also added that the F.A.O. Director-General, QU Dongyu highlighted the organization's partnership with S.I.D.S., including the Global Action Programme on Food Security and Nutrition in S.I.D.S. (G.A.P.) launched in 2017.

He also stated that the F.A.O.'s flagship Hand-in-Hand Initiative is already active in seven S.I.D.S.

Mr. Qu added that F.A.O. is proud of its genuine, durable and consolidated partnership with the SIDS.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, F.A.O. has continued to advocate for food security and nutrition in the S.I.D.S," he said.

He also noted the establishment of the F.A.O. Office of Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries (O.S.L.) soon after he took office.

The Director-General invited S.I.D.S. countries to make use of e-commerce platforms for direct marketing, and to join the "1,000 Digital Villages" initiative to integrate value chains of agriculture with tourism.

In a statement delivered by Prime Minister Tuilaepa, he highlighted Samoa’s vulnerabilities as a member of S.I.D.S. which includes the negative impacts of climate change, the limitation of natural resources, geographical isolation from markets, and the burden of disease including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

He said that S.I.D.S. are ranked among the most vulnerable countries of the world.

“We are challenged by a multitude of developmental obstacles including geographical isolation from markets, limited natural resources and the triple burden of disease,” said Tuilaepa.

He added that S.I.D.S. are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, despite accounting for only 1 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions, to the extent that is existential threat for many of our low-lying small Pacific neighbors.

“So for small Islands developing states, it is about addressing the pressing new COVID-19 issues as well as coping with the ever persistent climate change and disaster risk resilience challenges.

“Fisheries, tourism and agriculture contribute significantly to our national Gross Domestic Products (G.D.P.) yet their vulnerability and fragility make it more challenging for the S.I.D.S. to produce adequate food supplies to meet the needs of our populations.

“Our dependence on food imports and food systems are particularly vulnerable to external shocks such as food prices and supply volatility.”

Tuilaepa added that the lockdown measures to address the public health crises caused significant impacts on our economies, particularly on our food supply chain, tourism and remittances.

“For some SIDS, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic was further amplified by disasters from natural hazard risks such as cyclones and flood as well as human-induced risks triggering the declaration of states of emergencies.

“So now, more than ever, we look to garner ways by which to raise our visibility and to invite the international community to support and bolster our resilience-building efforts.

“We see the F.A.O. Brussels Dialogue as key opportunity to inspire such unity of support, to identify solutions and pathways for S.I.D.S. to improve their food security and livelihoods, and be able to draw inspiration from the FAO projects funded by the European Union.”

Furthermore, the Prime Minister said that they are aware in Brussels of the active engagement of the S.I.D.S. ambassadors including Samoa’s, through their activities in the framework of the Organization of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States to provide important advocacy awareness and visibility opportunities for discussion and dialogue.

In addition, he said that the recently-launched Global Recovery and Response Programme on COVID-19, sees F.A.O. leveraging its mobilizing power to lead international efforts that support tailor-made partnerships and enable connectedness between donors and those most in need of assistance, to recover from and respond to COVID-19.

“F.A.O. has also selected six S.I.D.S. out of 27 priority countries for the first phrase of its flagship initiative “Hand-in-Hand”. Five of these S.I.D.S. are from the Pacific region. 

“As a central element of the Samoa Pathway, the blueprint for the S.I.D.S. of sustainable development, the modality of implementation focuses on strengthening international cooperation and partnerships to address the persistent development challenges S.I.D.S. face and to achieve the S.D.G.

“We note the lead role of F.O.A. in the Global Action Programme on Food Security and Nutrition (G.A.P.) supporting S.I.D.S. through policy advice. As well, they have provided the means of implementation of more sustainable and resilient food systems and associated agriculture, climate change adaption, livestock, fisheries and agriculture, forestry and natural resource management practices.”

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