In her first official visit to Fiji, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power took some time to join our students at The University of the South Pacific’s (USP) Laucala Campus in Suva and engage in some robust discussion.
The USAID Administrator was hosted to a Pacific Youth Talanoa with USP students, where she emphasised her country’s commitment to development in the Pacific, security, brain drain, democracy and governance.
While officially welcoming Administrator Power, USP Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Pal Ahluwalia highlighted that the USAID has been a traditional partner for the Pacific region, reflected by the various projects and collaborations over the past several decades.
“We recognise and acknowledge the work that USAID has been doing to address some of the pressing challenges of this region, from a variety of technical areas such as agriculture, economic growth, environment, education, democracy, human rights and governance, women’s empowerment, water and sanitation, climate change and global health just to name a few,” Professor Ahluwalia added.
He said, “As you are well aware, climate change has been described as an existential threat to the livelihood of our people, and our Pacific Leaders have recognised the issue as the greatest security threat to our Pacific countries.”
Professor Ahluwalia stressed that our USP staff and students across the Blue Pacific have been instrumental in this space, fighting and voicing their concerns for our beloved region.
He also highlighted to Administrator Power that the USP law students’ success in obtaining the legal advisory from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has given the Pacific Youth a renewed hope to continue their fight and to be at the forefront against climate change and drive strategies for mitigation and showed the resilience of our region.
“This is the beginning of a larger battle which our students are taking the lead on, and I am proud that it will be our leaders who will be showcasing what this university is all about,” he added.
Meanwhile, in her opening remarks, USAID Administrator Samantha Power highlighted several strategic goals and the work that USAID is and will continue to carry out in the Pacific.
She highlighted that since World War II, as Pacific economies grew and living standards increased, USAID partnered with Pacific Island communities to invest in small businesses to help grow sectors like agriculture and fisheries and connect local goods to international markets.
“The fact that we can speak together like this today, in one Talanoa across the Blue Pacific continent, is a testament to our partnership. In the late 70s and early 80s, USAID invested in boosting this university’s satellite communications between this campus and what was then eight centres outside Fiji, helping build this institutional pioneering regional model to reach more students in the countries where you all live,” she added.
She also empathises with the young people present yesterday about the “pain of inflation young people are grappling with, the expenses of buying the basics just to be able to attend class. You’re also facing the worry associated with the three years of economic contraction as those of you who will graduate head out into the job market.”
Power added that USAID is ready to listen to the needs of the Pacific’s young population and chart a way to assist the youth in economic development, amongst other critical areas.
Earlier yesterday, Administrator Power officially opened the USAID mission for the Pacific Islands, leading to climate resilience, health and economic development investments.
These efforts will be waged across nine countries Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Republican Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Palau.
She also hinted at the Memorandum of Understanding that will be signed tomorrow (August 17, 2023) with USP on Digital Connectivity and Cybersecurity Partnership (DCCP).