By Valerie Cliff, Deputy Director, Regional Bureau for Asia-Pacific and Director, Bangkok Regional Hub

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They call it the Pearl of the Pacific and as you fly into Samoa, the island presents a stunning vista.

This was my first visit to Samoa, a long way from my base in Bangkok.  I came here to meet government leaders, the people of Samoa, the UN country team, donors, and UNDP country office staff.

The timing of my visit coincided closely with the start of the Pacific Games, with athletes and visitors from more than 20 island nations from as far away as Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Guam.

The Pacific Games are akin to the Olympics for the Pacific island states, the nations here take them very seriously, and you could feel the excitement in the air.

As we visited project sites, I witnessed a colorful array of banners strung across neighborhoods, church fences, and schools.  In fact, each primary school in Samoa ‘adopts’ a specific country that is competing and is their cheerleader throughout the games.  It was the kind of hospitality and kindness that struck me all through my visit.

Although its winter months in the Pacific, during the week of my visit, Samoa was being lashed by torrential rains. Such rains usually result in the flooding of Upolu district, in the capital Apia. However, when I visited, this time there was no flooding.  I was told by community members that the river wall built along the Vaisigano River, to block it from overflowing its banks, saved the town from flooding.

The first part of the wall was built through a Global Environment Fund project, and with new funding from the Green Climate Fund, the river wall will be extended to block the entire length of the area vulnerable to flooding. 

There is still a long development road ahead in Samoa and across the world. The country faces the common challenges of poverty, youth unemployment, gender inequality and great risks from climate change.

At UNDP, we are working with our governmental and community counterparts in Samoa to meet those challenges and to help the country along its path of sustainable development, as it pursues economic growth.  

We want what the people of Samoa want, prosperity, peace and a planet that can sustain present and future generations. 

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