The University of the South Pacific (USP) and Australia’s Griffith University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on 11 December 2018, for the establishment of the Pacific Water Centre (PWC) at USP.
The Centre will have a vision where Water in Pacific Island countries is managed by locally-trained skilled leaders and workforces to enable sustainable development, including achievement of the water-related Sustainable Development Goals.
Three broad areas of activities that the PWC will focus on are:
- Providing education and training in water and sanitation through the development and delivery of formal training programmes and short technical courses that meet specific capacity needs;
- Knowledge sharing – by providing platforms and forums for a community of practice to have spaces to connect, network and share water resources; and
- To provide and facilitate collaborative applied research where local research capacity through training and supervision of researchers can be developed.
In signing the MoU, Professor Rajesh Chandra, Vice-Chancellor and President of USP said that through the University’s Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS) and Griffith University, through its International Water Centre (IWC), have a long-standing relationship having engaged and are continuing to collaborate on many Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and capacity building projects.
Professor Chandra explained that in fifty (50) years, the University feels that it is central to the future development of the region, and as a CROP agency, USP is recognised increasingly as the think-tank for the Pacific and as the hub for research and innovation.
“Like other universities, USP can achieve more by good collaborations and partnerships and what we see in the works so far is all of those recognitions,” Professor Chandra said.
He further informed that USP, under its Strategic Plan 2013-2018 has an increased focus on Regional and Community Engagement, which is an identified key priority area over the course of the Strategic Plan and this continues to be a major priority under the University’s new Strategic Plan 2019-2024.
He noted that USP has a dual role in the region of imparting quality higher education and research and fostering regional integration.
“This partnership with Griffith University reflects our contributions towards the development of the region in close collaboration with regional and international stakeholders. Water is a critical resource for the Pacific people and USP is committed to ensuring that it is managed in a sustained manner for the benefit of the Pacific people” he added.
Professor Chandra also acknowledged that Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice-Chancellor Designate has a strong understanding and connection with Australian universities, and is very strongly committed to research and innovation.
Professor Sarah Todd, Vice President (Global) at Griffith University echoed Professor Chandra’s sentiments and added that the signing indicated a strong partnership going forward.
The PWC, she highlighted, is an important initiative for both universities and she acknowledged other key stakeholders present at the signing ceremony.
“When you think about the PWC, stakeholder engagement will really make a difference, and it is not just USP and Griffith MoU signing, but we are signing on behalf of other education providers and training institutions across the Pacific” she said.
She affirmed that Griffith University looks forward to working with USP, and with developing this, it will be the basis of an important relationship that is going forward as the true objectives and missions of the PWC are met.
Dr Johann Poinapen, Director of IAS shared that access to water is a basic human right and water is crucial for human health and well-being, as well as economic performance and business growth.
Dr Poinapen noted that the Pacific region is behind on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals SDG6 targets (Clean Water and Sanitation) although it is making some progress on the provision of basic services.
“But when we talk of safely managing drinking water and sanitation, we still have a lot to do. One of key components that would significantly improve our progress is the Training and Capacity Building. Currently, in the South Pacific, we do not have any formal and comprehensive water programmes offered in any of the universities,” Dr Poinapen said.
He pointed out that accordingly, it is only natural that the establishment of the PWC becomes a logical proposition and timely, as we continue to strive with more resolve to meet the aspirations of the region and also the Sustainable Development Goals for the Pacific with respect to water and sanitation.