CHOGM: take note its nine months to 2024

By The Editorial Board 14 March 2023, 6:00AM

On Thursday this week the 22nd Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting in London will get an update from Samoa’s Prime Minister on the country’s preparations to host the 2024 CHOGM.

Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa will use the meeting in the British capital to update Commonwealth leaders on Samoa's preparations to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Apia next year, according to an article (PM Fiame flies to London for Commonwealth Ministers meeting) in last Saturday’s edition of the Weekend Observer.

She confirmed that the Cabinet has endorsed the progress of the country's preparations to host the 26th CHOGM in Apia next year and confirmed a National Task Force will be established to lead and coordinate all preparations for the country's hosting of the conference.

To give some context to the enormity of Samoa’s work as host of the 2024 CHOGM – the last meeting of the 54-member grouping in Kigali, Rwanda last year attracted 29 Heads of Government and 6,374 Delegates. Media reports from Rwanda suggest the Rwandan government also allocated $4.7 million for costs associated with the African nation’s preparations to host the international summit, as well as $10.5 million to improve and build infrastructure for the CHOGM

Other press reports, also published in Rwanda in the lead-up to last year’s CHOGM in Kigali, made mention of costs that other CHOGM hosts catered for in their country’s budgets. The former CHOGM hosts included Kampala, Uganda in 2007 (allocated $100 million), Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2013 (allocated $90 million) and Malta in 2015 (allocated $8 million). In the Pacific region, only New Zealand (Auckland 1995) and Australia (Melbourne 1981, Coolum 2002, Perth 2011) have played hosts to CHOGMs before.

Nonetheless, there will be a cost involved after the Samoa Government’s successful bid in early 2018. The key question now, amid the country’s current economic woes as it attempts to rebuild the Samoan economy, is how much funding is needed to support Samoa’s preparations as the CHOGM host next year?

Will the Samoa Government be expected to build a new venue to host the 54 Commonwealth Heads of Government and their delegates next year? And what about the accommodation for the Commonwealth Heads of Government and their delegates and does Samoa's tourism sector have the capacity to take on all foreign guests?

We hope that the details which Prime Minister Fiamē will share at the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting in London this coming Thursday, will also be shared with the public in Samoa for the sake of transparency, as well as to prepare the people as there could be cost in terms of public funding.

While getting updates from the Samoa Government and the Commonwealth Secretariat on CHOGM 2024 has been difficult, the significance of the upcoming summit for the nation compels us to continue to knock on the door. Our questions sent through email to the C.E.O. of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peseta Noumea Simi have remained unanswered since 27 January 2023.

According to last Saturday’s article, Prime Minister Fiamē confirmed a National Task Force will be established to lead and coordinate all preparations for the country's hosting of the conference.

The National Task Force will ensure the readiness of the country to host the high-level meeting, especially the security of the leaders and their delegation members while in Samoa. It will also be responsible for looking at venues, accommodation, transportation, and other infrastructure, protocol services, events programme, and managing official ceremonies, health, finance, and emergency response coordination. 

And in yesterday’s edition of the Samoa Observer, an article (Search for CHOGM Project Manager) confirmed the progress that the Government is making as part of its preparations as the official host next year.

The CHOGM Project Manager, upon his or her appointment, will report to the National Task Force of which Prime Minister Fiamē is the Chairperson.

But how long will the recruitment process led by the Public Service Commission (PSC) for a CHOGM Project Manager take before an appointment is finalised and approved by the Cabinet? 

We ask this question because we have seen instances of long delays in finalising appointments to key Government positions, and for such a pivotal position considered vital for Samoa’s preparations, there should be some leeway for the recruiter to fast-track the recruitment process.

Looking at how much time the country has before it gets into 2024, local authorities literally have nine months, and each day ticks over as the Government kick-starts its own processes as part of its preparations for the summit. In all seriousness, no one should be resting on their laurels this year, if the CHOGM 2024 in Samoa is to make a big impression on all Commonwealth leaders and delegates. 

By The Editorial Board 14 March 2023, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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