Official Launch of the Samoa National Culture Framework and Policies

The Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (MESC) of Samoa launched its key policy documents at the event in Apia on 15 January 2019. These documents include National Sports Framework 2018-2028, and National Culture Framework 2018-2028, the National School Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Policy 2018-2023, and the National Information and Communication Technology in Education Policy 2018-2023. These frameworks and policies have been developed as part of the Education Sector Plan and within the framework of the Strategy for the Development of Samoa. They set strategic directions to develop programmes and services in the areas of education, sports and culture in Samoa.

A holistic vision for sustainable development

Among the documents launched was the Samoa National Culture Framework 2018-2023. Under the vision “Samoan culture is safeguarded and promoted through traditional and innovative means, to ensure its continuity in the future”, the Framework identifies three goals on Cultural Heritage, Cultural Industries and Culture in Education. For each goal, a distinct policy has been developed.

In line with the “Regional Culture Strategy: Investing in Pacific Cultures 2010-2020”, endorsed by the Pacific ministers of Culture in 2012, the Framework and three Policies aim to: identify, safeguard and maintain the country’s natural and cultural heritage and infrastructure; develop cultural industries and; mainstream culture in education. The policy also presents an implementation plan with a monitoring and evaluation framework.

Importantly, the Framework ensures its linkage to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and calls for the integration of culture into existing sector plan and national development strategy. It also marks a decisive step forward in operationalising the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which Samoa became Party to in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

During the development of this national policy, UNESCO, through its Office in Apia, provided its technical assistance and policy support so that it is in line with the guidelines provided by these legal instruments. 

Hon. Loau Solamalemalo Keneti Sio, Minister of MESC congratulated the efforts made by all those involved in the consultative process in developing these policy documents. Reflecting on the extensive collaborative and coordination work involved in ensuring a coherence among different policies, plans and strategies under the purview of MESC, Ms Karoline Afamasaga-Fuatai, CEO of MESC said “It is crucial for us to complete this task and we are ready to move forward. It is of critical importance to implement and deliver these policies, while monitoring their contributions to the achievement of SDGs in Samoa”.

The economics of cultural industries in focus

The only signatory in the region to the 2005 Convention, Samoa aims to bolster its contemporary creative and performing arts sectors, fully recognized for their role in employment creation and income generation.  The National Cultural Industries Policy states;

“A policy for the Cultural Industry sector is primarily a way of strengthening the culture sector by recognition of its dual nature hosting both economic and cultural values. Traditionally, Samoa has focused only on the cultural value of cultural goods and services. With the inclusion of cultural industries in the National Culture Framework, Samoa is now also recognising the sector’s function as an economy – it has wages and contracts, markets and supply chains, royalties and intellectual property, legal regulation and trade agreements and so on. Its recognition of economic values does not come at the expense of its cultural value but aims to strengthen this culture value.”

The impact of the digital revolution on the creation and distribution chain of cultural goods and services is recognized as a preeminent challenge and opportunity. One of the policy statements in the National Cultural Industries Policy is “Support digital infrastructure, connectivity and security” with “Promote access and strengthen the security of cultural producers within the digital sphere” as its strategy.

“It is very satisfying to see our in-depth discussions with the Samoan government and civil society coming together in this new policy”, says Justin O’Connor, Professor of Communications and Cultural Economy at Monash University (Melbourne, Australia) and a member from the Expert Facility on the 2005 Convention who advised on the design of the policy in Samoa in 2016. “This Framework and Policies mark an important breakthrough, requiring long term human and financial investments. Samoa has taken bold steps, particularly regarding the development of its cultural industries. Hopefully, it will inspire other countries in the region, and help to frame regional policies for sustainable development that can stimulate innovation and creativity”.