Diplomats from Pacific Island Countries with Professor Rajesh Chandra, USP Vice-Chancellor & President with members of the USP team.
The University of the South Pacific (USP) held its second briefing session for 2017, with the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) Diplomats based in Fiji at the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre at the Laucala Campus on 23 November, 2017.
Its main purpose was to brief the PIC Diplomats and Fiji on the outcomes of the 85th USP Council Meeting; progress on the development of USP’s New Strategic Plan (2019 – 2024); USP’s plans for its 50th Anniversary celebrations and potential engagement by PICs; status of signing and ratification of the USP Convention; progress on New USP Membership; Regional Campus Development; and USP’s work on Climate Change, Oceans and Regional Initiative on ICT.
Diplomats who attended the briefing included Her Excellency Mrs Litia Mawi, Fiji’s Roving Ambassador to the Pacific; H.E. Mr Sebastian Anefal, Ambassador, Embassy of the Federated States of Micronesia; H.E Mr John Patteson Oti, Solomon Islands High Commissioner; H.E Mr Temate Melitiana, Tuvalu High Commissioner and H.E. Nikenike Vurobaravo, Vanuatu High Commissioner.
USP was represented by Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President, USP Senior Management Team and other senior staff.
Professor Chandra welcomed the diplomats saying this is an occasion to engage and further inform our PIC Diplomats and representatives on the latest progress made in regards to USP campuses and on regional issues.
H.E Mrs Litia Mawi thanked USP for organising such a forum as the Diplomats represented the feedback of their respective countries.
She thanked Professor Chandra for encouraging them to frankly speak their minds, adding that this is something we as Pacific Islanders should come out with.
H.E Mr John Patteson Oti acknowledged USP’s contribution to the region saying he looked forward to hearing about USP’s development and progress since the first PIC Diplomats briefing earlier this year.
He noted that it was an important meeting as he was eager to know about the development of the New Strategic Plan (2019-2024) and the University’s plans for its 50th anniversary in 2018.
H.E. Nikenike Vurobaravo, Vanuatu High Commissioner, acknowledged USP for the opportunity to be updated of the University’s major developments.
He stated that USP has grown and developed in so many ways and it is only appropriate for member countries to be updated in the way the Pacific Islands Diplomat briefing is organised.
Professor Chandra noted that USP is making steady progress in relation to the University Convention that was approved by the Council in its May 2016 Meeting.
He indicated that the University is proactively engaging and participating in dialogues relating to key areas such as Climate Change and Oceans that affect the lives of the Pacific people and is committed to enhancing the capacity of the region to deal with such inevitable challenges and opportunities regionally and at the global level.
Such initiatives, he said, are reflected through the University’s presence at the current COP23 in Bonn, Germany and USP also acknowledged Fiji’s Presidency and the leadership in the successful conclusion of COP23.
Professor Chandra acknowledged the support of the member country Governments saying they enabled the University to be physically present in the respective countries.
“This is the basis for our meaningful provision of quality higher education to students at the regional campuses and outreach at the community levels across the region,” he said.
Professor Chandra informed the diplomats that USP has just had a successful High Level Consultation (HLC) with Australia and New Zealand, where both countries expressed significant interest in furthering their partnerships with the University beyond 2018. He noted that they are eager to support the key priorities and objectives under the New Strategic Plan 2019-2024 that will guide the work of the University for the next two triennia.
With regard to the NSP (2019-2024), Diplomats were informed that it is highly collaborative, thoroughly consultative and will have buy-in and ownership of all stakeholders and serve the future plans and interests of the entire USP community.
Diplomats were then informed that preparations are well underway for the University’s 50th anniversary celebrations and there are plans in place to celebrate fifty years of its existence in a grand way. They appreciated the 50th anniversary website and also suggested other historical information that would further enrich it.
With regards to the USP Convention, of the twelve (12) USP member countries, eleven (11) countries including Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu have signed, while the University is following up closely with Niue for signature.
It was noted that only Samoa had ratified the Convention so far and Professor Chandra requested their support in urging their respective governments to ratify it quickly.
“It is important that we get more ratifications so that we can satisfy EU requirements. If that is granted, USP will be able to use its own rules and procedures in implementing EU projects,” Professor Chandra urged.
As for the new USP membership, Professor Chandra mentioned that USP plans to increase the membership from 12 countries to 15 member countries with the inclusion of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia and Papua New Guinea by 2018.
With regards to Regional Initiative in ICT, the diplomats were informed that the CROP ICT Working Group has expanded, allowing relevant development partners, private sector, and country representatives to be members and other players in ICT to be observers.
“The strengthened CROP ICT WG provides a common platform through which CROP agencies and other relevant stakeholders can address key emerging and on-going regional priorities in the ICT sector in a collective, collaborative and coordinated manner,” he noted.
With regards to USP’s support for Oceans, it was stated that USP has significantly contributed to coastal and marine knowledge in the region over the last 49 years and that it will continue to support and strengthen key partnerships, research and capacity building for research on oceans and climate change, including ocean acidification.
Diplomats were also briefed on the development at USP’s Regional campuses and the University’s support for Climate Change.
Professor Chandra acknowledged the contributions from the Diplomats and further assured them that the University will work closely with them on updating and informing them on key developments and any other endeavours that may arise in the Pacific.