Records two short documentaries during conference
American Samoa was represented during the Emerging Pacific Leaders Dialogue conference (EPLD) 2014 by 33-year-old Zena Iese of Amanave and Afao, and Josie Malepeai, an employee of the USDA Farm Service Agency.
The goal of the Conference, according to epld.net is “to strengthen the capacity of the Pacific region’s future leaders to manage challenges collaboratively, positively, and creatively.”
An independent media specialist and independent contractor, Iese said he attended the opening ceremony in New Caledonia and spent three days there before the delegates were sent to different Pacific island nations to carry out study tours.
In his case, Iese said, he was sent to Fiji with eleven other delegates representing nine different Pacific nations. The conference was held October 16-28.
“This was the first time for me to visit that side of the world and not only was it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me, it was also a life changing experience that I will never forget,” Iese told Samoa News last Friday.
He said he was fortunate to be chosen, as his application was among a pool of 700+ submissions from around the Pacific region.
The Emerging Pacific Leaders Dialogue Conference is held every four years and Iese is already beginning the push to have the territory host the next event, or even future conferences.
“The conference brings together emerging leaders to promote good governance for their countries,” Iese explained. “Leaders from different industries were present and for me, I was in the category of independent film while Malepeai represented the federal government.”
Initially, there were supposed to be 110 delegates involved, but only 81 showed up.
“Being part of the EPLD has definitely opened my eyes to that side of the world and how to connect with them,” Iese said. “If we really want to get somewhere with our economy and structure, all we need to do is look to the people who are going through the same things, specifically our brothers and sisters in the neighboring Pacific islands.”
He continued, “We are so tied up in the American world and their way of life, when there are others out there going through the same thing and their methods are working for them.”
Iese said he was able to compete two documentaries in a matter of six days, footage that can be viewed through the Samoa News website and Facebook page.
The documentaries — one that is four minutes long and another, an eight-minute piece — include recordings on both land and air.
He said during his study tour of Fiji, he and the other delegates were able to go around the island and get a first hand look at the economic machines that drive Fiji, as well as learn about how they are moving forward.
“We looked at Fiji as a role model for other Pacific islands, and we discussed how we can incorporate their methods,” Iese explained, adding that Fiji has “been at it since the 1800s, and although their economy took many hits with unstable political issues in the past, resilience kept them going and now they continue to grow, with exports like Pure Fiji and Fiji Water which are exported to worldwide destinations.
He said he collected data and was given the chance to make a presentation before Princess Anne, who is a member of the Conference Board.
Iese’s presentation was about his findings in Fiji, specifically the social, political, and economic arenas, and what solutions we would come up with.
“It was great getting feedback and being in the presence of all these world leaders,” Iese said. “We were able to rub shoulders with the High Commissioner of Australia, Princess Anne, the President of Fiji, and others who hold key positions in different countries and nations around the Pacific. Their goal is to groom the leaders of the future and they understand that if the Pacific islands work together, everyone would realize that we are not separated by the ocean but instead, we are connected by it,” Iese said.
Two of the biggest issues discussed during the conference, said Iese, were climate change and domestic violence.
“For Fiji, the issue is the erosion of lands through water,” Iese explained. He said there would be a drought and then the island would be hit with heavy rainfall which floods most of the land. He recalled how they were returning to their hotels when they got caught up in a flood. He said the water completely covered the bridge and residents were walking around like it was nothing. “They weren’t panicking because they are used to it. Our van couldn't make it across the bridge so we waited. Fifteen minutes later, people were out there taking selfies of the flood. It’s an everyday problem for them.”
Iese said that during the conference, someone said that “Samoans want to be first in everything”. He said, “It was evident that this was true because Samoans from New Zealand and Australia were speaking up, speaking their minds during discussions. I had a sense of pride just seeing that.”
He said “The reason why we have it so strong is because we are of a small island nation, where unity is still easier to control, unlike Papua New Guinea where they are dealing with 800 different clans and dialects, everyone speaks different languages. But we are all going through similar problems. The conference opened our eyes to the ways they solve their problems there, giving us a different look as far as solutions.”
Iese said he had an ‘awesome experience’ and he wants to meet with Governor Lolo to share the information he has, “and see what they want to do with it.” He said he also wants to make contact with other key leaders in the territory, including young people who are potential leaders in both the government and private sector.
In the meantime, Iese said he looks forward to the next EPLD Conference, which is set for 2018.
He wanted to express his gratitude to Samoa News; Terry Custodio Auva'a; Mapu Jamias and Iligainoa Gebauer; Jonathan Fanene, Tapumanaia Galu Satele Jr., and Pa’u Roy Ausage and the entire Dept. of Youth and Women’s Affairs (DYWA) crew; Ethan Lake and the American Samoa Amateur Wrestling Association; his parents Tolua and Wika Iese; and his siblings Leotina, Teka, and Andrew for making it possible for him to take part in the EPLD 2014.