Professor Rajesh Chandra, USP Vice-Chancellor and President (centre) with Development Partners and staff of the University.
A forum to facilitate discussion between The University of the South Pacific (USP) and its Development Partners was held on 24 November, 2017 at the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre at the Laucala Campus in Suva.
Development Partners present at the forum included from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Delegation of the European Union in the Pacific (EU), France, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Asian Development Bank (ADB), United States of America (USA), World Bank, People’s Republic of China, Republic of Indonesia, Trade Mission of Taiwan, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and International Labour Organisation (ILO).
The Forum aimed at providing an update on the progress of the University, especially on its new Strategic Plan (2019-20124) development; preparations for the 50th anniversary celebration; learn from the Development Partners about their key priorities for the Pacific Region; provide updates on USP’s work on Climate Change, Oceans and regional initiatives on Information Communications Technology (ICT) and discuss research ideas and concepts that can be jointly undertaken with development partners.
Professor Rajesh Chandra, USP Vice-Chancellor and President welcomed and thanked the development partners for their presence and support to the University and said that the University’s achievements so far have depended on very generous and effective partnerships.
He particularly acknowledged the partnerships from Australia and New Zealand that have funded the University in a number of ways ever since the University’s establishment.
Additionally, he added that the University has also received enormous benefits from other development partners and Japan and EU are such affiliations of the University that have provided support for a number of years.
USP, Professor Chandra said, is also excited about the new partnerships that are rapidly developing with ADB and World Bank as they are the major players that contribute towards the development of the Pacific, and that the University’s work intersects with them in very significant ways.
One of the crucial things going forward for the University is around USPNet and Professor Chandra mentioned that there has been a large contribution made by New Zealand towards the upgrading of USPNet and JICA is committed to funding the hub station at the Laucala Campus as well as creating another hub for backup purposes.
He further thanked EU for their assistance towards the University in terms of working with the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP) agencies as well as EU so that the University is now a vital part of most of the component.
“We feel that unless more attention is paid to creating high caliber of human resources, no amount of money will ultimately make the Pacific more sustainable,” Professor Chandra added.
He highlighted that there is a responsibility on the part of development partners so that the Pacific, in one form or another has some capacity to be able to work in partnership with others to find the kind of solutions that will serve the region well.
Moreover, Professor Chandra noted that the University is in the process of getting its Convention signed and operationalised.
In between the two (2) Council Meetings this year, eleven (11) countries have signed the Convention and two ratifications have been received. Two (2) countries, he added, have expressed their interest to ratify the Convention.
In thanking the Vice-Chancellor and President for such fora, His Excellency Mr Masahira Omura, Japanese Ambassador to Fiji said that Japan-USP partnership goes way back to the 1980’s and highlighted key development assistance provided to the University through JICA.
These included construction of the Marine Campus, upgrading of the USPNet Hub, capacity building in ICT (2002-2005), ICT for Human Security Project (2010-2013) and the establishment of the Japan-Pacific ICT Centre in 2011 at the Laucala Campus.
H.E Omura said that the partnership has been two-way in areas of construction and refurbishment of facilities, provision of technology, research expert volunteers, capacity building, and exchange programmes.
The Ambassador reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to continue its development assistance to the University in the years ahead and celebrate the USP-Japan partnership on a much higher level.
Mr Gordon Burns, Counsellor Regional at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) acknowledged the role of the University in the region in areas of learning, teaching, research and its role as a CROP agency.
With the current partnership between USP and Australia coming to an end in 2019, Mr Burns said that they are in the process of working with the University on how they could develop the next partnership, which is anticipated to be announced during the 50th Anniversary celebrations next year.
He further added that DFAT is working with USP in the final year of their current partnership in 2018, to look at strengthening the University’s role in teacher education in the region.
Mr Jonathan Rowe echoed similar sentiments and highlighted the new outlook for the University which are celebrating its 50th Anniversary next year and also marking the end of the USP and New Zealand partnership in 2019.
Mr Christoph Wagner, Head of Cooperation at EU, congratulated the University for its 50th Anniversary next year and affirmed EU’s support in future.
The Vice-Chancellor and President talked about the development of the new Strategic Plan (2019-2024) and said that during its 85th Meeting, the Council approved the new vision, mission and values of the University along with key priority areas.
He added that the University will also hold consultations with the governments of member countries.
Professor Chandra further informed that during the Council Meetings in 2018, there will be workshops on the New Strategic Plan which will focus on the draft of the Plan.
As part of the Forum, Peter Stewart, 50th Anniversary Project Manager gave an insight of the celebrations intended for next year; Dr Morgan Wairui, Deputy Director of Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD) talked about USP’s climate change programme; Dr Jeremy Hills, Director of the Institute of Marine Resources (IMR) presented on Oceans; Mr Kisione Finau, Director, Information Technology Services (ITS) briefly talked about regional initiatives on ICT; and Dr Jito Vanualailai highlighted on the types of work undertaken in areas of research and the Research Office’s way forward.