What are the issues facing the Pacific's future leaders? | Pacific Beat

What are the issues facing the Pacific's future leaders?

What are the issues facing the Pacific's future leaders?

Updated 5 February 2013, 12:15 AEDT

For the next three days 25 young professionals from across Oceania will be attending the Future leaders of the Pacific conference in Pago Pago.

Some of the many issues that will be addressed will include seabed mining, climate change, women's empowerment, democracy and more.

It's an idea that sprang to life in 2012 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting Cook Islands and emphasised the importance of women and young people in the region.

The East-West Center along with the US Department of State and the Government of American Samoa are hosting the event.

Dr. Jerry Finin, is co-director of the East-West Center's Pacific Islands Development Program and the Center's representative at the Future Leaders conference:

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Dr Jerry Finin, co-director of the East-West Center's Pacific Islands Development Program


FININ: I think it's always good to listen to the voices of young people and to get their ideas, to share ideas with some of the senior people of the region. And the direct outcome I think will be an opportunity to have some of these ideas conveyed to the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Majuro on the margins of that meeting come August. So in some ways it's a springboard to that activity, which will be taken up in cooperation with the government of the Marshall Islands who will be hosting the forum this year.
COUTTS: How were the topics selected for discussion?
FININ: Well we talked with many of the youth who are actually participating and said what are some of the things that you see as being most important? So for example the young people from Papua New Guinea said seabed mining is something that's very much on their minds these days, especially in the province of New Ireland. So it was through that kind of discussion that we selected from amongst a larger number of topics obviously.
COUTTS: Women's empowerment is something that's been discussed for quite some time and at length, but not among young people, is that what's being said?
FININ: Well I think there have been discussions but it's always good to have people who have achieved professional positions and who have very rich experience to talk with younger people about their own paths. And so we expect to have some very outstanding Pacific Island women speak to the topic of their own professional and personal paths, and the challenges they faced, and how they worked through those challenges.
COUTTS: And does culture and tradition and the matai system, cultural heritage in any way impede the youth of the region's progress and paths to leadership roles?
FININ: Well I don't know if I can answer that question directly, but we'll certainly be asking that question and listening very carefully during the course of the conference. And I think we'll have for example the head of state of Samoa, someone who's very interested in matters of tradition and culture, but also recognises that we live in a globalised age. And so it will be presentations like that, and discussions, directly small group discussions, that will allow young people to explore that kind of topic.
COUTTS: And is that also the case with climate change or has the youth voice been heard more on that particular issue?
FININ: Well I think that has been so much in the news in recent years that it's a topic that may have actually bred some confusion. Discussions about mitigation versus getting at some of the root causes, and so I'm very anxious to hear what the young people have to say about the topic from their perspective, and whether they're satisfied with the job the policy makers are doing today.
COUTTS: Now it is about future leaders of the Pacific, will any time be spent on what that actually means and what it means to be a leader and if you're interested in being a leader, the steps that perhaps you need to take to get there?
FININ: Yes as a matter of fact there will be. We have someone coming in who did some training at Harvard University on the whole subject of leadership, and he'll be talking about leadership within a Pacific Islands context, as well as organising some actual hands-on exercises. Obviously there are many different styles and roles associated with leadership, but that's a topic that will be specifically addressed.
COUTTS: And gender specific as well? 
FININ: Yes as it turns out the majority of the participants, about 65 per cent are young women professionals, and that was not by design as much as it was I think by the interest in this topic. And so that's one of the things that I find very uplifting.
COUTTS: And are the women actually in any kind of leadership roles at the moment?
FININ: Many of them are in leadership roles in non-governmental organisations or in their own professional office positions. So none of them hold elected office, but that's not to say that they're not serving in a leadership capacity within their own communities. And when we say future leaders, part of the reason for that term is to say that these are the opportunities available to you if you continue to think about these issues and think about your own role in contributing to society, starting at a young age.
COUTTS: And what other parts of the agenda do you think are really important that they do take place throughout this conference?
FININ: Well I mentioned the head of state of Samoa, we also have a wonderful presentation that will be given by the Honourable Toke Talagi, the Premier of Niue, who will be talking about the trends and issues and opportunities that he's confronted as one of the most experienced leaders in the region today. We also have a session by Dr Sitiveni Halapua from the Kingdom of Tonga, and he'll be talking about the role of Talanoa and building democracy and good governance. So these are some of the overarching kinds of topics that will be important and be part of the first day's discussions.


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