EWC and US Dept. of State Convene Young Pacific Leaders in Hawai‘i


HONOLULU (Jan. 16, 2018) -- The East-West Center and United States Department of State are currently conducting a three-day regional conference for young leaders from Pacific Islands nations from January 16 to 18, 2018.

The more than 30 delegates are a diverse group of young professionals from Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, Tuvalu, Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Palau, Australia, New Zealand, American Samoa, and Hawai’i. They were chosen from a competitive pool of over 700 applicants to participate in the conference.

The Young Pacific Leaders Conference (#YPL18) reflects America’s enduring commitment to democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and regional stability in the Asia-Pacific. It also presents an opportunity for the United States to better understand issues and priorities for Pacific island states from the perspective of the region’s future leaders, and to reflect on them when shaping our own policies.

At the conference, delegates are participating in an interactive discussion on US policy toward the Pacific Island states, including a videoconference with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matt Matthews. The United States’ commitment to the Pacific Islands includes the efforts of 17 US departments and agencies working on development projects, humanitarian and disaster assistance, trade and investment, education programs, and regional security for the more than 9 million people who live in the Pacific Islands.

Representing the US Department of State at the opening ceremony, former US Ambassador to Fiji Frankie Reed noted that the United States is part of the Pacific and the Pacific is part of us. It is one of the things that define us as Americans. This conference is one of the many tangible examples of our long-standing and enduring commitment to the countries and peoples of the Pacific Islands region.  Our histories and futures are inextricably linked, and the United States is committed to enhancing the region’s economic and social development, and supporting regional security.”

East-West Center President Richard R. Vuylsteke said that hosting the Young Pacific Leaders Conference series alongside the Department of State for the past several years has given the Center an unique opportunity to contribute its decades-long experience with capacity-building programs in the Pacific, as well as “an evolution today, thanks to technology, that allows us to remain more closely connected with conference delegates than ever before and to help integrate Pacific communities with the broader region in new ways that are very exciting.”

The 2018 Young Pacific Leaders conference series was launched in 2012 at the Pacific Islands Forum in Rarotonga, Cook Islands. This year’s event builds on the outcomes of four previous gatherings convened in American Samoa, New Zealand, Samoa, and Hawai‘i, and will address critical issues relating to education, environment and resource management, civic leadership, and economic and social development.

At the #YLP18 Conference the Department of State will announce a small grants competition, in which alumni of the conference series will be invited to submit action-oriented proposals to fund public service projects in their home countries. This inaugural program will be implemented by Cultural Vistas, an American NGO, and will provide seed grants to up to 12 teams for projects to be implemented throughout 2018.

By fostering long-term people-to-people linkages with a diverse group of Pacific Islanders, including Americans, this conference will create a vibrant network among the participants for addressing regional challenges.