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Launch of IOE SAMOA to empower civil society

July 01, 2024 • By Rajan Murti
Guests and participants for the IOE SAMOA project launch

Samoa’s political landscape has seen a significant shift with the rise of the Fa’atuatua i le Atua Samoa ua Tasi (FAST) Party, ending the four-decade dominance of the Human Rights Protection Party (HRPP). This change in leadership brings with it new energy and a fresh perspective on the country’s pressing challenges. The new government has committed itself to freeing up civil space, tackling governance problems such as corruption and centralization of power, and promoting community development.  The IOE Samoa, launched in Apia on 20th June 2024  and funded by the European Union, is observing and responding to these exciting developments as they unfold.

The "Initiative on Empowerment of Civil Society in Democratic Samoa,” (known as IOE SAMOA), embodies the project's aim to strengthen the role of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) as crucial facilitators of the Samoan people's involvement in exercising their rights and engagement with policymakers. International IDEA as the lead implementer of the project will be working with Samoa Umbrella for Non-governmental Organisation (SUNGO) and Women in Business Development Inc. (WIBDI). In Samoan, "IOE" means "YES," so the project's nickname, "IOE SAMOA," translates to "YES SAMOA" in English.

Her Excellency Barbara Plinkert, the Ambassador of the European Union to the Pacific, in the keynote message for the launch, said, “The Civil Society Organizations are integral partners of the European Union in the Pacific that work on shared values and visions such as human development, peace and security. As such, we are proud to be able to support their work. Also under the Samoa Agreement, which is the newly signed Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean, and Pacific States, the signatories have agreed to cooperate towards the realization of human rights in the Pacific Region, including the strengthening of an enabling and safe environment for the active engagement of civil society through their capacity building. Therefore, the launch of the IOE SAMOA project today is a step in the right direction and I wish the partners a successful implementation.”

In her opening remarks, Leena Rikkilä Tamang, International IDEA’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, highlighted the project's aims to support Samoan civil society in advancing human rights, influencing policy and decision-making processes. "We also recognize that in Samoa, collective decision-making and customary institutions play an important role, and live side by side with modern democratic institutions. The younger generation is facing the demands of finding workable compromises between the Samoan ways and modern political institutions when dealing with challenges like climate change or economic diversification,  and are finding innovative ways in navigating both worlds. Therefore, I strongly believe IOE Samoa has the potential to serve as an inspiration for similar initiatives in the Pacific region and beyond."We are grateful for the European Union’s generous support, and look forward to working closely with our partners, SUNGO and WIBDI, to achieve our shared goals," said Tamang.

SUNGO Executive Council member, Afioga Funemalafai Ono Fuatai and WIBDI’s Senior Programme Manager, Taaloga Apa expressed their support for the project, noting the potential for a significant positive impact on local communities. "The IOE SAMOA project aligns perfectly with our mission to support grassroots development and empower local leaders. We are excited to partner with International IDEA and the European Union to bring this vision to life," they said in a joint statement.

Known for its pioneering role in Pacific political independence, Samoa's protest movements against Germany and New Zealand led to its status as the first independent nation in the region in 1962. The 2021 election reaffirmed Samoa's position as a leader in Indigenous self-determination and democracy.

The IOE SAMOA project will focus on capacity-building workshops, community engagement programs, and policy advocacy. These efforts aim to strengthen the democratic process, enhance transparency, and promote inclusive decision-making at all levels of government in Samoa.

For more information on the Project, please find attached the Project Summary here and the Press Release for the event here.

About the authors

Rajan Murti
Programme Coordinator, Fiji
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