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Last month saw the Global Launch of the International Year of the SIDS at the United Nations in New York in advance of the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the SIDS Conference that is to be held in Samoa later this year. The global launch, held on the 24th February, was attended by the Honourable Prime Minister and it was an opportunity to highlight again the importance of the upcoming SIDS Conference as a specific platform for international discussions on the sustainable development of SIDS particularly in the lead up to the post-2014 agenda and the Sustainable Development goals.

National preparations for the Conference are well underway. The renovations of the Conference site at Faleata Sports Complex are making promising progress. Two new buildings under construction will provide extra conferencing facilities needed in addition to four existing buildings within the Complex. Renovations to the four buildings, which are Gym 1, Gym 2, Gym 3 and the Aquatic centre are progressing well in order to provide appropriate meetings and office spaces for delegates. All the six buildings will be aptly named to reflect six islands of Samoa such as Upolu Plenary Hall, Savai’i Partnerships Hall, Nu’utele Accreditation Centre, Manono Media Centre, Namu’a Food Court and Apolima Secretariat. Landscaping are being undertaken by nearby church communities, engendering community participation and local ownership of this important project.

The second UN Planning Mission in January expressed their satisfaction with the status of national preparations thus far. The host country will provide transportation for each delegate of the Conference between hotels and the venue and including to and from the airport. With assistance from China and Japan, additional buses will be provided to supplement locally procured shuttle buses. Plans are also being finalized to ease any traffic congestion such as appropriate speed limits and dedicated routes. Specific training for drivers for the delegates’ shuttles will be conducted in the next few months.

Security preparations for the Venue, Matautu Wharf, hotels and airports are similarly underway and on target. In regards to accommodation, the government in conjunction with the Samoa Hotels Association is working to secure appropriate and sufficient accommodation rooms for all delegates. Present accommodation options are the cruise ship brought under the assistance of the New Zealand government, and land-based accommodations such as hotels, motels, lodges and private executive homes.

With regards to ICT, the government has been working closely with members of the ICT private sector to secure appropriate and adequate services for communications and information technology for the 3,000 delegates of the conference, taking into account the host country’s emphasis for a paperless/paper smart conference.

Sustainable partnerships are key aspect of the SIDS Conference. The United Nations endorsed Samoa’s theme of the Conference as “Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States through genuine and durable partnerships”. During the pre-conference period 28-31 August 2014, the government in conjunction with the United Nations have identified four forums to convene throughout this period. These are Youth Forum, Civil Society Forum, the Renewable Energy Forum and the Private Sector Forum and will be held at the Faleata Golf Course.

In terms of official government ceremonies, Samoa’s cultural opening ceremony to open and welcome delegates to the conference will be held on Sunday 31st of August. As well, the government will host a State Dinner for Heads of State/Governments and Ministerial heads of delegations and their respective spouses on Monday 1st September 2014.

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