#AceWorldNews – SAMOA (Apia) – August 31 – Ahead of the official opening of the United Nations conference on small island developing countries, the UN and Samoan flags were raised on Saturday over the site in the capital, Apia, that will host what is considered the largest conference of its kind in the Pacific region.
“It’s critically important for us to put our best foot forward and we have done just that,” chief executive of the conference Falalavauu Perina Sila told UN Radio following the flag raising.
With cannons firing, the UN blue and the Samoan blue, red and white were hoisted over the Tuana’imato sports complex in a symbolic handing-over of the venue to the UN for the next several days.
The site’s aquatic centre is used for accreditation, with photos for identification cards being taken next to diving boards and a lap pool. The hockey stadium has been temporarily converted into office space. Hanging bananas decorate walkways where joggers once stepped, and electric carts ride up and down the complex routes.
On Friday afternoon, the site had more visiting families than delegates. The Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States is set to begin on 1 September, with a series of pre-conference forums on youth, private sector and civil society, organized mostly off-site.
Safuneituuga Paaga Neri, surrounded by her grandchildren, was among those visiting the complex.
“I wanted them to see this. It is historic,” she said. As part of the preparations for the conference, the school year was adjusted to give students a break, and free up more volunteers for the conference.
In addition, residents have been decorating the villages between the Faleolo International Airport and Apia’s centre. Visitors are welcomed with flags, painted coconuts and flowers.
Asked what she hoped the conference would bring, Ms. Neri’s answer turned to climate change. She stressed that partnerships must be created that will allow people living near the shores to withstand extreme weather and rising sea levels.
Samoan journalist Andrew Fassau told UN Radio that the people he has interviewed in the run-up to the event are particularly concerned about the impact of climate change.
“They hope that something good will come out of this conference with regard to the small island nations like us,” he said, adding that islanders are pointing to industrialized nations for causing the climate woes.
The expectations held for this conference are seen outside of the sports complex gates, where Samoan police direct traffic on streets named “SIDS,” “welcome” and “hope.”
UN News Centre
UN Radio Listen to conference agenda.