MCO Samoa’s Joint Programme (JP) for Integrated Social Protection focuses on strengthening the resilience of Pacific Island States through universal social protection across four contexts (Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tokelau). The JP aims to increase resilience through viable and financially sustainable social protection systems that will address life cycle vulnerabilities, strengthen social protection floors and enhance employability, while taking a people-centered, equity-focused and climate-resilient approach. Moreover, the JP seeks to address data gaps in poverty and vulnerability by using traditional and non-traditional data sources to identify persons at risk of being left behind.
The JP has been active over the first semester. Collectively, PUNOs have adopted a One UN approach and practiced internal exercises to strengthen collaboration. In the Cook Islands, the Government ratified the ILO’s Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention No. 102, and undertook a legislative review of the Employment Relations Act 2012. In Niue, correspondence is ongoing between the government and disability counterparts to initiate the development of a pilot project focusing on education and employment pathways for persons with disabilities, and to establish a Disability Reference Group via the National Disabled Persons Organisation. In Tokelau, programme planning began with the Ministry of Education for the inclusion of children with disabilities in the Education system, and for the preparedness of teachers to support them.
JP partners in Samoa hosted a side event during the 84th Extraordinary session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and took steps to immediately eradicate forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking, prohibition, and the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers; as well as child labour in all forms by 2025. A partnership was also struck with the Samoa Business Hub to commence entrepreneurial “Start Your Business” training for vulnerable women in farming. Partnerships have also been established with Government Ministries, the Samoa National Provident Fund and disability stakeholders to initiate a pilot programme for persons with disabilities.
The Joint SDG Fund has authorized JPs to repurpose up to 20% of funding for COVID-related activities. In MCO Samoa, however, four of five PUNOs endorsed their existing workplans as being aligned with COVID-19 support and response. Only UNICEF elected to repurpose activities for COVID response with allocation. Further, PUNOS have mitigated the risk of delays by working together through technology and adapting modalities where possible to suit the new normal. Thus, while the pandemic has stymied progress in some cases, MCO Samoa has showcased its resilience. Over its first six months, the JP has been productive.