Potential benefits of research for Tokelau highlighted

Apia, 4 September 2014
Tokelau’s Department of Education staff were involved in an inspiring SIDS side event called  Education and Research for Sustainable Development. Tokelau as the smallest SIDS can benefit from research into the mental health of our young people; links between imports and non-communicable diseases; cultural knowledge and practices; food security; resources and sustainable development, and  climate change effects.

This SIDS  side event attended by staff from the Department of Education was convened by the National University of Samoa (NUS), Centre for Samoan Studies. The session focused on the research the university staff and students were conducting in the sciences, technology, education, arts, and health. Among the highlights were the strong and enduring partnerships the university has carefully cultivated and nurtured over the years to support its research agenda. For example it has strong ties with Massey University, Otago University, and the Australian National University who provide technical expertise, capacity building and to a degree funding. An encouraging development is the associations the NUS is forming with government ministries, industry and the wider community through partnerships in research in such areas as renewable energy, numeracy achievement and teacher competence, understanding the emotional impacts of tsunami, the quality of water at the NUS and substance use in young people. Strong support from development partners such as Australia and New Zealand has enabled the university to proceed with its research programme.
The session was well attended by participants from across the SIDS, development partners, and those from organisations in New Zealand, Australia, and as far away as Scotland. Some interesting points were raised in the discussions. In regard to education and research for sustainable development, a key issue raised was the risk of research not being sustainable because it is costly in both human and financial terms. Insufficient funds and the ongoing search for funds constrain research efforts. A member from the Pacific Leaders’ Group noted it was critical for SIDS development to be informed by research. As such data needs to be available and understood on any development issue including the costs associated with the issue so that relevant and effective strategies are implemented.

Research having an influence on the quality of lives of people and society in general is critical for the development of all SIDS. This side event was inspiring. Tokelau as the smallest SIDS can benefit from research into many of the challenges it faces today. Research in mental health which was highlighted as a gap in Samoa could similarly be a focus for Tokelau research into the mental health of our young people, and perhaps as it relates to substance use. Another research focus in the health sector could be on any links between what is imported and the incidence of non-communicable diseases on Tokelau. A very important area of sustainability for Tokelau and therefore a research focus is its cultural knowledge and practices including language. Food security, resources and sustainable development, the effects of climate change are other important areas for research. This particular session has highlighted the need for a research agenda and research strategies to support Tokelau’s sustainable development initiatives. Tokelau as a nation has enormous capacity to cultivate and nurture meaningful and enduring partnerships to pursue a research agenda for its sustainable development.