HONOLULU (Feb. 4, 2013) –The East-West Center, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State and the Government of American Samoa, is currently hosting a Future Leaders of the Pacific conference in Pago Pago to address critical issues facing the Pacific Islands region. The February 4-7 gathering has convened about 25 young professionals from across Oceania, along with regional leaders and academic specialists, to focus on trends, issues, and opportunities for collective regional action.
The conference includes keynote addresses, panel discussions and hands-on exercises that highlight young island voices and perspectives. The opening addresses were given by His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Head of State of Samoa, and His Excellency Premier Toke Talagi of Niue. The Hon. Dr. Sitiveni Halapua, a member of parliament from the Kingdom of Tonga, is also addressing the group.
Among the topics being addressed by the Future Leaders are climate change, women's empowerment, expanding democratic space, non-communicable diseases, and seabed mining. In addition to its educational value, a major goal of the multi-day gathering is to provide a mechanism through which the voices of younger generations of future Pacific leaders will be brought to the attention of today's officials.
The genesis of the Future Leaders gathering stems from August 2012, when the Pacific Islands Forum met in the Cook Islands, providing leaders the opportunity to meet with each other and, through the Post-Forum Dialogue, to interact with countries and multilateral organizations from outside the region. While leading the U.S. delegation to the Cook Islands, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized the importance of women’s empowerment and the crucial role of young people in charting the region’s future.
The Future Leaders conference is intended to serve as a springboard for a series of ongoing discussions that will feed into the next Pacific Islands Forum meeting scheduled for August 2013 in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Selected youth representatives from the conference in American Samoa will be on the ground in Majuro for a planned meeting with several heads of government and officials, where they will convey ideas and perspectives coming from the gathering in American Samoa.