Future Leaders of the Pacific Conference wrapped up Friday

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10th February, 2013

PHOTO: US Embassy, New Zealand

“We need more women in power in the pacific”
– Adi Tafuna’i, Future Leaders of the Pacific Conference, 7 February 2013

The Future Leaders conference addressed women’s empowerment, climate change, democracy in the Pacific, non-communicable diseases, and seabed mining. Aspiring young leaders representing 15 Pacific Island nations met with regional political leaders in Pago Pago, American Samoa, for a “mini-Pacific Island Forum” to discuss critical issues facing the region.  The Conference is intended to serve as a springboard for a series of ongoing discussions that will feed into the next Pacific Islands Forum scheduled for August in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.  It is organised by the US Embassies in New Zealand and Samoa, the East-West Center, and other regional organisations.

Day three of the conference addressed Gender Empowerment, Adaptive Leadership, Non-Communicable Diseases, and Climate Change.

A series of roundtable discussions addressed the issue of Gender Empowerment in the Pacific:

“Ms. Adimaimalaga (AdiTafuna’i opened with a discussion on ‘Gender Empowerment through the Private Sector’. She shared her experiences as the Executive Director of Women in Business, where she has led female entrepreneurship using locally based resources in Samoa to tap into external markets. That effort has addressed what she referred to as a “poverty of opportunity” wherein Pacific women lack the opportunity to earn where they live due to a cash-based economy, infrastructure, lack of education, and cultural traditions that tie them to working at home. She encouraged leaders to consider how countries in the Pacific use regional resources to fuel economic development and empower women. In break-out sessions youth shared projects and frameworks to empower women’s economic development that have worked in their home countries, and how this could be applied regionally.” (US Embassy New Zealand)

PHOTO: Day 3 – Delegates during a discussion about gender in the Pacific. A series of roundtable discussions on women’s empowerment took place on the second last day of the conference. (PHOTO – US Embassy New Zealand)

Deputy Chief of Mission Jeff Robertson led an engaging discussion on ‘Adaptive Leadership in the Pacific’. The session addressed identifying adaptive challenges, how to not shy away from conflict, and how to create a productive work environment. He noted that leadership was an activity and not a position of power and non-formal authority is developed from trust. Leaders were encouraged to select one challenge in their country they would like to address during the small group discussions. Many leaders noted youth unemployment, education, communication and transparency between government and the public.

Orginally scheduled to speak on day two, but postponed due to a tsunami watch, Dr Nancy Lewis spoke of Non-communicable diseases (NCD) in the Pacific. Non-communicable disease is the leading cause of death in the Pacific. She described the Pacific region as having a triple threat, high rates of infection plus premature mortality rates, and significantly increases NCDs. In the mid 2000s an epidemic of NCDs was declared. At the 2011 Pacific Island Forum this issue was officially highlighted.

PHOTO – Day 3, Field Trip: the delegates at the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa. The leaders visited the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association Marine Sanctuary for a discussion on climate change. (PHOTO – US Embassy New Zealand)

Dr. Lewis asked how delegates to examine whole of society approaches to the major challenges. In the break out sessions youth delegates noted loss of cultural traditions of food preparation, food prices for fresh produce, and cultural feelings towards exercise contributed to NCDs. The delegates agreed to promote healthy practices, and promote local foods to help improve both health and the economy.

The delegates then traveled to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Marine Sanctuary where Dr. Victoria Keener led a discussion on how climate change will impact the Pacific at the only ‘Science on the Sphere’ located south of the equator. Projected onto a large globe, delegates saw the impact of rising sea levels, earth temperatures, ocean acidification, and the extent of harmful human influences on global marine ecosystems. The delegates discussed how climate change is affecting their islands and what steps can be done to mitigate effects, which include reduction of agricultural resources, global migration, and disaster preparedness. The delegates from Nauru and Kiritbati had poignant perspectives from their home experiences.

Delegates then had the opportunity to visit some of American Samoa’s sites including the market and the Jean Haydon Museum which houses a number of cultural artifacts.

To close the evening, the delegates were treated to a private dinner hosted by the Honorable Governor Lolo Moliga. Ambassador David Huebner thanked the governor for the kind invitation with a siapo. Roy Pa’u ausage, director of Youth and Women generously gave each youth delegate a memorabilia bag containing custom made future leader tee shirts, lava lava, and the famous Wahoo tuna. At the end of the night, a special performance closed the evening with the first lady performing the taualuga.

Some of the youth representatives from the conference will share their findings with several heads of government during the next Pacific Island Forum. The conference ran from February 4 to February 8 in American Samoa and featured keynote addresses, panel discussions, and hands-on workshops highlighting island voices and perspectives, and enthusiasm at the close of the conference includes calls to make this an annual event.

Source: US Embassy, New Zealand |  http://ow.ly/i/1tWLN

News and photos on Flicker – http://www.flickr.com/photos/us_embassy_newzealand/8452946548/in/set-72157632700235058

Talking about this:
US Embassy NZ @usembassynz
Jessica Rowland @jrowbot #FPL13

Keep up-to-date with the conference on FlickR and through these channels:
Embassy of the United States in Samoa – samoa.usembassy.gov/

Blog of the US Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa –  blogs.newzealand.usembassy.gov/ambassador/


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