Stepping up the enforcement of environmental laws in Samoa

Enhancing the capacity, skills and confidence of officers who play a role in environmental compliance and enforcement of laws was the key objective of Environmental Compliance and Enforcement training at SPREP this week.

The training aimed at ensuring consistent compliance and effective enforcement of environmental and natural resource management policies and legislations in Samoa.

 These policies support the sustainable management of Samoa's natural capital for the benefit of current and future generations.

SPREP's Deputy Director General, Mr Roger Cornforth said the difficulty SPREP faces is assessing whether there is compliance and where there is non-compliance, is there an efficient and effective way for rectifying or punishing non-compliance?"

"Education and awareness-raising can only take us so far in changing behaviour. People get set in their ways and easily revert back to bad practices when no one is looking, especially if it has been the norm for some time. There needs to be a back-up by way of effective enforcement,” he said.

The training aims to explore how to identify non-compliance as well as what the impediments to enforcement might be, whether they be lack of legislation, lack of technically qualified staff, lack of awareness, or unfamiliarity with the court system.

Participants include authorised officers from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MNRE), Police, Office of the Attorney General, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration, Ministry of Works Transport and Infrastructure, Ministry of Revenue and the Planning and Urban Management Agency.

Ms Kathleen Taituave, Principal Legal Officer at MNRE said, "We have enough environmental laws in place, both mandated under MNRE and those environmental related regulated by other ministries such as customs, maritime and fisheries, however there is still limited enforcement due to a number of reasons such as capacity issues, lack of confidence in authorised officers to exercise their powers or also no willingness to enforce and monitor compliance."

"This training is therefore very important especially with the involvement of different sectors given the cross cutting nature of environment issues. Coordination amongst different Ministries is heavily relied upon in order to effectively manage our natural resources and conduct enforcement.”

“Apart from understanding how to conduct enforcement, awareness is another important aspect because in order for people to comply, they need to understand the laws in place and the impacts of their actions on the environment,” he said.

The training was held from the 17 – 19 September at the SPREP Campus in Vailima.

The Environmental Compliance and Enforcement Training is being held through a partnership between the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) through its Pacific Centre for Environmental Governance, SPREP and the Australian Centre for Financial and Environmental Compliance (ACFEC), and is funded by the European Union-funded African, Caribbean and Pacific-Multilateral Environmental Agreements (ACP-MEA) Project Phase II.