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Future Leaders Summit brings together Oceania

The Pacific Future Leaders Summit with 25 representatives from around the Pacific, kicked off Monday night with an ava ceremony conducted by students of the American Samoa Community College. The conference hosted by the American Samoa Government was made possible by the assistance of the US Department of State and the East-West Center.This conference addresses critical issues that are facing the Pacific Islands Region, which has attending some twenty-five young professionals from across Oceania along with regional leaders and academic specialists. The focus of the summit is on trends, issues, and opportunities for collective regional action and will feature keynote addresses, panel discussions and hands-on exercises that highlight young island voices and perspectives. Some of the areas to be discussed within Pacific cultural frameworks are empowerment of women and climate change, This Summit is an offshoot of Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's visit to the Cook Islands.Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Head of State of Samoa, Masiofo Filifilia, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga and First Lady Cynthia, Premier Toke Talagi of Niue, Dr. Sitiveni Halapua, a member of parliament from the Kingdom of Tonga, Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga and his wife Pohakalani, and government officials were among the guests at the youth summit, held at the Haleck’s building in Tafuna.GOVERNOR’S ADDRESSGovernor Lolo acknowledged with humility, the presence of Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi, Pacific leaders, Resource experts, and young future leaders from around our Pacific community. He said selecting American Samoa to host this historic event, highlights the commitment of the United States, and its recognition of the absolute need to build leadership capacity in the Pacific Region.“The presence of his Highness Tui Atua underscores the equal acknowledgment by the Pacific Leaders of their sacred duty to prepare our young leaders for tomorrow.”Lolo said he’s appreciative for this opportunity to host this Pacific Leadership Forum, because it provides the springboard to launch his own youth development initiatives, which mirror this regional effort to invest in our youth today, so that our tomorrows are secured.He urged the young future leaders of the Pacific to take advantage of this rare opportunity to prepare themselves, to become authentic, effective, and compassionate future leaders within their respective countries.“The issues you will be discussing during this forum impact the quality of lives of our respective peoples in the future. We are island microstates with limited natural resources, except the vast ocean that connect us and is the major source of our livelihood.“Sustainability is the goal that we need to achieve so future generations can depend on the same resources that we enjoy today.“So the issue like climate change is of great importance because of its impact on our ocean resources, our coral reef systems, and our land resources,” the governor stated.He added that while seeking opportunities to sustain life, we must be vigilant in addressing issues such as non-communicable and communicable diseases which diminish the quality of our lives and continue to read about new virus mutations which offer greater resistance to available antibiotics; necessitating the investment of more resources to develop more effective cures.“We are greatly susceptible to epidemics and given our lack of resources to respond accordingly, we must find new pathways to ensure we reduce our risks. If we don’t, we will continue to pour into healthcare services, funds that we should invest to build our economic development capacity to generate jobs for our people.“While our Pacific Cultures accord great respect to our women, the Western Culture harbors the perception that our cultural status designation of women is not acceptable by their standards. The Pacific Region is being transformed as the women assume a more dominant role in government, businesses, and community,” he said. Governor Lolo noted that he recently appointed four women to top posts in his administration — Dr. Salu Hunkin Fianau, Dr. Taimalelagi Clair Tuia-Poumele, Dr. Ruth Matagi-Tofiga and Faleosina Voigt, and they are among the women who have excelled in Education and other fields of endeavors. This trend is indicative of the emergence of women in our government and he noted his happiness that the topic of the empowerment of women is being discussed.“Pacific leadership is unique because while we aspire to adopt western leadership and management ideologies, theories, and practices, we must exercise these western skills and competencies within our cultural framework,” he said.Lolo said, “The youth of tomorrow must therefore learn to balance modern concepts and cultural dictates. This is your challenge.” AMBASSADOR DAVID HUEBNER’S ADDRESSAmbassador of the United States- New Zealand, David Huebner also gave special remarks noting that he’s attended three Pacific Islands Forums and has worked with his colleagues in Washington to increase America’s vibrant participation in post forum dialogues, and each of the last three forums have seen large, multi agency delegations from the US.He added that the largest in the forum’s history was with former Secretary Clinton, where a group of more than 100 officials last year went to Raratonga to listen, discuss, engage and collaborate, because America is like every other Pacific nation present at the conference — a nation that is one family, bound by powerful ties of history, culture, genealogy, geography and destiny.Huebner said he’s looking forward to all the great challenges of the era, sustainable development, climate change, maritime security, fisheries preservation, food security — they are inherently Pacific issues that are shared by all the nations presented at the conference.“Our Pacific kinship is, in my view, a matter clear and settled,” he said. He also gave examples of the young ones who changed the world for the better, like Mark Zuckerberg, 20, who founded Facebook; Albert Einstein, who changed how the human race perceives the universe when he posited his general theory of relativity at 27; and, other young men and women.“In my view there is no better use of my time or government’s money than bringing together dynamic young people, exposing you to leaders thinkers and doers, stimulating discussion, building your capacity and confidence and helping you build networks among yourselves” the ambassador said.The Future Leaders conference is 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. Leone High School Choir and Iakina SDA New Hope Singers entertained at the opening of the event.