Samoa continues climate change media shun

29/11/2010 02:48


Photo and Story by Cherelle Jackson

The Samoan Prime Minister, the Minister of Natural Resource and Evironment and the CEO of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are all in Cancun, Mexico this week to take part in the global climate change summit, yet there was no official press briefing on the issues they are there to present.
But this is no surprise, every year at about this time the Samoan government sends a delegation to the
Global Climate Change Summit that is held in various parts of the world.
The summit sees at least 20,000 delegates, activists and campaigners come together under one roof to
discuss the fate of the world, to be a little dramatic, in regards to climate change.
It's where most of the decisions are made in regards to adaptation, mitigation, emmission standards, and
catch this, that's really where the funding is discussed, where millions of dollars are funnelled towards climate change projects in all parts of the developing world.
Each year a Samoan delegation of either a Minister, CEO and usually the Climate Change Officer along with
others registered under the banner of the Samoan government, takes part in the meeting.
They get funded by various Aid Donors to be at the meeting, as part of Samoas commitments to the
implementation of the Kyoto Protocol through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change  (UNFCCC).
The only problem is, for an issue that affects the lives of each and every Samoan the participation by our
Government to these meetings are usually done under a nonchalant veil of secrecy.
Perhaps they don't see their participation at the Conference of the Parties 16 (COP16) on climate change as
significant, but frankly if our Prime Minister has made the minimum 16 hour flight to Mexico, then it must be important, and surely the nation has a right to know about the cause of his temporary absence from the Government building.
The secrecy that surrounds the trips by Government representatives to the COP16 is intriguing, because they
are participating in a global meeting, and one that is of great value to Samoa, so surely they must have a thing or two to say before departing.
Most Pacific island nations, but more specifically Carribean islands issue a press release, host a press
conference and funds a press officer to create awareness about the stance of their countries in the up coming meetings.
It's a chance to create publicity on the issues they will stand for and more importantly to inform their
citizens, who are the ones who will actually have to adapt to the impacts of climate change, about what sort of commitments the Government will agree to in the world arena.
But year after year, Samoa sends a delegation, the head of delegation addresses the world and yet they come back and go back into their offices like nothing happened.
There's a secrecy about the climate change project initiatives and participation of Samoa that is a bit discomforting.
Whereas many a nation will invest time to create awareness about their participation and support of initiatives that will overall do good for the country, somehow ours makes a habit of not making a fuss about it.
For instance, Samoa submitted it's Second National Communication to the UNFCCC earlier this year without much fanfare, no one knew about it except those in Government.
But the report was a significant step for Samoa, as it brings together the status of adaptation, mitigation and emissions in Samoa, it is a snapshot of how we have done in regards to the Kyoto Protocol, yet it was published without a press conference so that the country can have some idea about Samoas current status.
What is interesting about the disregard for the citizens right to know about these things is that it is deeply entrenched within the UNFCCC process to have an effective awareness aspect withing climate change projects.
For instance in the Second National Communication this statement is made: "Local media training has also helped increase awareness and understanding of the media, allowing Government and responsible agencies to communicate more effectively about climate-change issues."
This is slightly innacurrate, as in order to have effective  communication of climate change issues, there needs to be communication to begin with, and in media terms, this is a press conference, press release and an effective press officer.
The Communication goes on to state: "The national communication Efforts should be focussed on making climate-change information available to a wider audience. The MNRE must continue its current fruitful partnerships with media outlets to support its existing programmes."
This is also a stretch of the truth, in order to have a fruitful relationship with the media, their must be a relationship to begin with, and until they host a press conference before or even after the Government sends a delegation to these climate summits, it will remain a difficult task to achieve this so called fruitful relationship.

*The writer is the author of Staying afloat in Paradise, an academic paper on climate change journalism published by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.