Ituau rep at Pac Parliamentary & Political Leaders Forum
Ituau faipule Rep. Taotasi Archie Soliai is one of more than 70 parliamentarians and political leaders from 22 island countries in the South Pacific Region taking part in the Pacific Parliamentary and Political Leaders Forum - the first of its kind - which is being hosted by the New Zealand Parliament from April 18-22.
Taotasi is the only representative for American Samoa at the event.
“This is great opportunity for us as Pacific islanders to collaborate and share ideas on issues that pertain to us as an island people,” Taotasi said in an email correspondence to Samoa News yesterday morning. “The problems that we face are similar and likewise, we can find similar solutions to resolve those issues.”
According to the New Zealand Parliament website, “A core objective of the gathering is to promote stronger cooperation, collaboration, and political cohesion amongst new and merging political leaders from the South Pacific, and to strengthen their relations with New Zealand Parliamentarians.”
The Forum is the result of the unanimous recommendation made by the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Committee in 2010 that “The House expand its relations with Pacific Parliamentarians, setting aside a week of the New Zealand Parliament’s time to host them and focus on ‘Pacific issues’ of concern to the neighborhood and domestically, and issues of common regional interest.”
All Pacific countries were invited to the Forum, including leaders from Fiji, Tokelau and New Caledonia - which do not have parliaments. The New Zealand Parliament website notes that invitations were extended to emerging leaders, women, and younger parliamentarians.
The Forum kicked off Thursday, April 18 (NZ time) with a Parliamentary debate. There will be time allotted for a question and answer segment. Other items on the agenda include a mix of seminars and debates between New Zealand MPs and those from the region.
The Forum will discuss a range of issues of particular importance to the Pacific, including:
Environmental issues and climate change;
Global economic outlook and implications for the region;
The importance of parliament and sound governance to the development of business and job creation;
Gender equality and the gender balance of parliaments (empowering women of the Pacific);
Problems of isolation and delivery of services to remote communities;
The importance of parliament to local communities; and
The importance of free and open media to our parliaments.
There will be four debates by Pacific parliamentarians and political leaders that cover each of these issues.
Debating sessions are open to the public. According to Taotasi, all the delegates have been asked to make a presentation on any of the noted subjects, as well as participate in the debates which he says are “a good opportunity to not only share our position, but also hear what other islands have to deal with.”
Taotasi has signed up to debate these issues from his perspective as to how they pertain to American Samoa. He presentations began yesterday and will conclude today.
“This Forum provides an opportunity not only to work together with our Pacific brothers and sisters to address the common concerns and challenges we face as islanders, but it also provides a completely different perspective and insight on the Parliamentary setting in New Zealand,“ Taotasi said.
The Ituau lawmaker concluded, “Being the bigger and more established island country of the Pacific group, New Zealand has offered to stand with our island countries to address the issues and concerns, as well as help facilitate the needed assistance to our islands.”
In addition to Taotasi, delegates to the program include representatives from the Commonwealth of the Northern Marina Islands (CNMI), Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Guam, Kiribati, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna.