Samoa has made remarkable progress since the turn of the millennium in advancing human development. The country has the highest life expectancy in the Pacific and the maternal mortality ratio has nearly halved in the last two decades. Net enrolment rates for primary and secondary education have grown steadily since 2000 and now stand at 94.4 percent and 85.5 percent respectively. Levels of women’s representation in decision-making fora are improving and, following a change to the Constitution in 2013, women now hold seats in the national Legislative Assembly.
However, concerns remain in very specific areas where progress has either stalled or there has even been a reversal of gains.
Rates of basic needs poverty have crept up from 18.8 percent in 2013 to 22.7 percent in 2018. Domestic violence remains a serious issue, with 52 percent of women reporting having experienced physical, emotional, and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner - an increase of nearly 6 percent over the last decade. Immunisation rates remain stubbornly low. A measles outbreak in late 2019 claimed 83 lives, the majority of whom were children. Non-communicable disease-related threats are on the rise and about a quarter of adults have diabetes.
Drop-out and completion rates in the education sector are a growing concern, as are the learning outcomes for those who attend. Only 45.5 percent of children aged 7-14 can successfully complete three foundational reading tasks. Boys lag behind girls on several indices, including learning outcomes, repetition rates, and drop-out rates.
For students with disabilities, the picture is even more bleak, with only nine across the whole country, enrolled in secondary education in 2019, indicating how lacking the education system is in identifying students with disabilities and finding opportunities for them within the formal education system.
Investing in Human and Social Issues
To address these issues, Palladium will partner with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to implement the Samoa Human Development and Social Inclusion (SDHSI). The activity will help build the human development foundations required for Samoa's health security, economic recovery, and continued stability into the future.
With a focus on five pillars – education, health, gender disability, and social inclusion – the program is expected to take place over two phases, from 2021 to 2029, with the first phase comprising an investment of AUD 18.5 million over four years.
“We are thrilled to be involved in delivering a program of support that can help accelerate progress toward enduring human development outcomes for all Samoans, while at the same time serving the interests of the bilateral relationship between Australia and Samoa," says Richard Paulsen, Director of Palladium’s Asia Pacific Education Practice.
The Samoan Government remains committed to overcoming these areas where trends are working against the growth and development targets for the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has further complicated the policy landscape as needs have grown, disparities may have widened, and budgets become more constrained. Some of the problems that Samoa is facing don’t necessarily lend themselves to purely government solutions delivered within single organisational units.
Often, they are problems that cut across the organisational, political, socio-cultural, and economic landscapes. Complex challenges require new ways of working and the Samoa Human Development and Social Inclusion program is conceived just to do that. It will deliver Australia’s commitments to help build the human development foundations required for Samoa’s economic recovery and continued stability thereafter.
The program will support policy, systems, and practice where there is scope to test the potential for transformational change and look for ways to facilitate an exchange of knowledge and expertise between the two nations as Samoa looks to focus in on human development and social inclusion principles as part of its overall development and economic growth strategy going forward.
“The program captures the spirit of future cooperation of the bilateral cooperation program between Australia and Samoa while providing opportunities to extend the long-standing relationship Palladium has with Samoa,” concludes Paulsen.
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