Credits Caption: Keeping the promise towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Photo: © UN Samoa | Aterina Samasoni
Published on June 20, 2024

Joint programmes are changing lives in our small islands

The recently held UNCT Roundtable on Joint Programmes discussed their transformative power while recognizing potential challenges to their success.

Joint Programmes, a collaborative effort by various United Nations (UN) agencies, embodies teamwork, blending resources, expertise, and innovative approaches to address complex challenges and improve livelihoods.

Since 2020,  these joint programmes have made a significant impact on the lives of communities in the Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa, and Tokelau.

Take Tokelau, for example, three remote atoll islands, inhabited by close to 2,000 people, they continue to strive for sustainable development within the complexities of their environments. In 2022, the UN Country Team (UNCT) in Samoa with funds from the Joint SDG Fund, collaborates with the Government of Tokelau on a joint programme, that aims to accelerate the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) through integrated policy solutions. 

By focusing on nutrition, food and ocean security, the joint programme, is more than just an initiative – it’s a lifeline. This collaboration enabled the Tokelau Department of Education to develop policies that have embedded healthy eating within early childhood education policies. It has supported the Department of Agriculture with guidance from the communities, to set up and manage vegetable gardens. 

Caption: Vegetable garden in Fakaofo Tokelau, ready for harvest.
Photo: © FAO Pacific


In Fakaofo, this community garden project transformed barren land into fertile ground, producing 300 cabbages distributed to elders in each household. Similarly crucial are the efforts by the Government of Tokelau and the UN to develop a Blue Economy roadmap, helping Tokelau manage food supplies and ocean-based industries like fishing and tourism for economic growth and marine conservation.

In Niue, another small island nation with a population close to 1,700, the joint programme on innovative and sustainable policy and digital solutions to catalyse enhanced food and livelihood security, leverages digitalisation, nutrition education, and the ocean economy to uplift communities. Niue has launched its National ICT Policy and has completed the Niue National Digital Strategy, further advancing Niue's journey towards a digitally inclusive society. 

Caption: Niue
Photo: © UNDP Cook Islands Niue Samoa Tokelau


These are just a few key achievements, from two of the ten joint programmes, implemented with a total budget of over USD 13 million, funded by donors including the European Union, Joint SDG Fund, India-UN Development Partnership Fund, and the UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

The success, challenges and significance of these collaborations were the focus of discussion in a recent UNCT Roundtable on joint programmes.

During the Roundtable, the UN Resident Coordinator Themba Kalua highlighted the significance of these programmes, stating that “in the Pacific, the joint programme mechanism is crucial because it facilitates integrated support that our governments highly appreciate." 

Photo: © UN Samoa | Aterina Samasoni


In addition to the integrated support these joint programme according to Maya Marquez, a representative of the Joint SDG Fund, are rooted in cooperation frameworks and are aligned with the country's development agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The design and implementation of these programmes are guided by key principles, including a human rights-based approach, disability inclusion, gender responsiveness, and youth inclusion.

The importance of integrating a human rights-based approach (HRBA) in joint programming was reiterated by Momoko Nomura, the Human Rights Adviser in the Resident Coordinator’s Office (RCO), stating that HBRA enhances people's enjoyment of rights and involves designing and implementing interventions with the people they aim to support.

Caption: Human Rights Adviser Momoko Nomura delivering the presentation on integration of human rights-based approach in joint programming,
Photo: © UN Samoa | Aterina Samasoni


This approach prioritizes the principles of participation, accountability, non-discrimination, and transparency, ensuring that every person has a voice in the development process and access to the benefits of these programmes. 

The Roundtable also reflected on key challenges that undermined the timely completion and success of these oint programmes.

These challenges included delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the constraints of a limited government workforce and resources, and the complexities arising from differing financial and procurement systems across UN agencies, further complicated by lengthy fund transfer processes. 

The need for efficient management and operationalization of programmes, stronger communication and visibility activities as well as challenges with monitoring and evaluation inputs and processes was also highlighted.

Another critical challenge identified was the absence of an on-the-ground UN presence to manage and support programmes effectively, emphasizing the importance of developing models to coordinate partners and ensure efficient implementation.

Caption: Human Rights Adviser Momoko Nomura delivering the presentation on integration of human rights-based approach in joint programming,
Photo: © UN Samoa | Aterina Samasoni


The Roundtable also agreed that the success of these initiatives depends on robust governance, strong leadership, and coherence among participating agencies, ensuring a unified approach to addressing pressing issues.

The Roundtable discussion was enlightening, and with an understanding of the challenges and recognizing the successes and invaluable lessons from the past five years, the UNCT is committed to planning and delivering more effective and impactful joint programmes. 

By ensuring proper design, securing necessary resources, enhancing governance, fostering stronger on-the-ground coordination, and embracing innovative, inclusive approaches, the UNCT is committed to delivering people-centered joint programmes that drive sustainable development in small island developing states.



All joint programs of the Joint SDG Fund are led by UN Resident Coordinators and implemented by the agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations development system. With sincere appreciation for the contributions from the European Union and Governments of Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and our private sector funding partners, for a transformative movement towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.