Members of the Development Partners Forum with USP delegation.
A forum to facilitate discussion between The University of the South Pacific (USP) and its Development Partners was held on 10 November, 2016 at the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre at the Laucala Campus in Suva. The objective of the meeting was to discuss the progress towards implementation of USP’s Strategic Plan (2013-2018), present theseven (7) new Strategic Research Themes (SRT) of the University, hear about their plans for future assistance and discuss USP’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2018.
Development Partners present at the forum included Australia, New Zealand, Japan, European Union (EU), France, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Asian Development Bank (ADB), United States of America, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), People’s Republic of China, Korea, Republic of Indonesia, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Fiji National Commission for UNESCO, and International Labour Organisation (ILO).
In welcoming the Development Partners, Professor Chandra acknowledged the development Partners for their relentless support towards the University.
He said the broad change in the way USP is approaching development assistance is more about how USP can work together and complement each other “in big ideas in the Pacific such as the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism, SAMOA Pathways and the recently concluded Paris Agreement on climate change so that these partnerships go beyond money and ensure that everyone is synergising and getting greater value from it”.
Professor Chandra added that, “USP is giving a major effort to scale up on its SRTs and link it closely with what is needed in the Pacific, to work with partners and have real impact from research that assists Pacific Island Countries pursue their development priorities, and at the end of the day, improve the well-being of Pacific people”.
He informed the Forum that USP is actively engaging with its regional campuses and has recently signed the Asian Development Bank loan agreement of US$15.4m and a grant agreement of US$1.5m for clear energy, for the new Solomon Islands Campus. The three different agreements (Loan Agreement between ADB and USP; Guarantee Agreement between ADB and Solomon Islands Government (SIG); and Grant Agreement between ADB and USP) was signed during the USP Council meeting.
Australian High Commissioner H.E. Margaret Twomey said their engagement with USP goes right back to when the University was first established in 1968 and the relationship has been a long and productive one.
“We have an impressive history behind us, indeed one of our best collective efforts on getting Pacific regionalism right. We just have to look around the campus to see the vibrant Pacific student life to know we have got something right,” she noted.
“Australia is here because investment in high-quality post-secondary education is one of our major priorities for Australian Aid investments in education. Skills are essential for growth and job creation,” she remarked.
HE Twomey mentioned that investing in the quality of education at all levels, is another major priority of Australia.
“It is what students know and can do that matters for poverty reduction and economic growth. Clearly, our partnership with USP provides pathways to progress on both these priorities,” she said.
She further noted that, “USP has a leading role to play in developing skills for growth, and in strengthening the quality of teaching and learning right across the Pacific”.
“USP is a success of Pacific regionalism – and we want to keep it that way.”
According to HE Twomey, Australia provides AUD 14 million annually to the University’s core budget under its current partnership arrangement and they are pleased to be making these contributions alongside significant investments from each member country and by our close partners New Zealand.
“We value our role in University governance – and take it seriously, though our role on USP Council and related Committees,” she added.
She further stated that Australia and USP are beginning discussions to develop a new Partnership Arrangement “that will build on what we have achieved together, and hopefully help mark the 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2018”.
HE Mark Ramsden, New Zealand High Commissioner said like Australia, NZ is also very proud of its long-standing partnership with USP adding that, “it is remarkable that we are only two years away from celebrating what is a really a significant anniversary”.
“It presents us both with a challenge and opportunity - challenge in terms of where USP is now with regards to the achievement of its Strategic Plan and the opportunity to mature both in terms of years and engagement and your ownership in the region and further provides an opportunity to re-attach with your alumni,” he commented.
HE Ramsden said the inclusion of a new representative to the USP Council was a “fresh pair of eyes for USP and what it saw was a very positive picture”.
“Because of its very unique structure as one of only two regional universities in the world with governance and ownership challenges, he saw a university that was succeeding, making a very conscious and reflective effort to deliver for its owners and for its students,” he stated.
HE Ramsden said it is a situation that is not without challenge as every Pacific regional institution is currently under financial stress having to make hard decisions and USP is no different.
Development Partners in discussion during the Forum.
“One area where USP is further ahead of other regional organisations is the level and degree of ownership of its members,” he remarked.
“We are at the start of a three-year partnership and we are actively working with USP to do something significant for 2018 around the renewal of USPNet and we are excited about that.
“We have witnessed a pretty incredible transition where leaders in politics, business and academia and civil society are increasingly educated at USP as the premier education institution in the region,” he added.
Professor Chandra then presented the University plans for its 50th Anniversary and involvement of key Development Partners.
Mr Jaindra Karan, Director Development, Marketing, Communications and Alumni updated the Forum on the implementation of USP’s Strategic Plan (2013-2018) and USP’s role in the region.
The seven new SRTs of the University were then presented by Professor Derrick Armstrong, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Innovation and International.
The Forum exchanged ideas and views on enhancing future collaboration between USP and Development Partners to support the University’s role in promoting regionalism.
Mr Siosaia Faletau, Liaison Officer, World Bank said even though they had just opened office in Suva, they looked forward to working with USP in common areas as they explore economic opportunities like tourism and fisheries.
Ms Caroline Currie, Unit Head, Economics and Programming of ADB said ADB’s specific mandate is regional elimination of poverty and interventions to help the region to achieve millennium development goals. ADB supports 14 countries and base allocation of $6m was provided to start this. ADB also has regional partnership agreements for which regional funds are available for each country.
She added that ADB supports areas of sustainable development energy, transport and urban development.
Mr Jesús Lavina, EU’s Head of Infrastructure, Natural Resources and Environment highlighted the possibility to network with institutions in the region but also engage internationally.
He further stated that researchers should go beyond the borders and look at the potential broader opportunities.
Mr Hiroyuki Sawada, JICA Resident Representative said based on their priority areas of work in the region like climate change, environment, people-to-people exchange including JENESYS, oceans, maritime and fisheries, the Government of Japan would continue to support USP.
Ms Hyun-Won Kim, KOICA Director from the Embassy of Korea said the opportunity to work with USP in areas like climate change and renewable energy project is always great and they appreciated the role of the University in the region.
Ms Crystal Niu, Third Secretary, Political Division, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China said USP played a very important role in the social and economic development of the region adding that they are open to further talks in supporting the development of USP. Ms Niu added that they would offer two scholarships for USP from next year.
Ms Surkafa Katafono, National Programme Officer, International Labour Organisation (ILO) confirmed they had engaged a research team from USP to work on a labour project and were grateful for the opportunity.
Mr Amani Cirikisuva, Fiji National Commission for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said their commitment to USP is viable and constructive and their collaboration with the University remains firm.
Mr Richard Edwards, USAID Pacific Islands Regional Coordinator, United States Embassy said they are happy with the partnership they have had with USP to date, particularly the Coastal Community Adaptation Project (C‑CAP). They are looking to work with USP on the upcoming Pacific READY project.
Ms Vathinee Jitjaturunt, Deputy Representative, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in an effort to improve the quality of education, they would like to work with USP on SMS application, including ways to improve their area of communications and media.
Mr Bakhodir Burkhanov, UNDP’s Country Director and Head of Regional Programme and Policy Support said UNDP looks forward to engaging into new MOU looking at aspects such as research policy advice, issues on climate change, sustainability, energy, resilience, disaster risk management- use of innovation and technology in this area, effective governance, cross cutting issues around gender and youth and economic empowerment.
He said in terms of partnership modality, there can be bilateral engagement and there is also a possibility of a micro grant scheme that can be initiated.
All Development Partners expressed commitment for plans to mark USP’s 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2018.
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