Dame Meg Taylor, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, sent a strong message to Pacific leaders about the importance of taking ownership of the new Framework for Pacific Regionalism, at a seminar held at Victoria University of Wellington last week.
“The courage of a leader is to take it from a piece of paper and put it into action,” she said.
More than 200 people representing all sectors, including politicians, high commissioners, Pacific leaders, businesspeople and academia, attended the seminar, which was co-hosted by Victoria University, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
Dame Meg provided insights into the implementation of the Framework—which sets out the process through which regional priorities are identified and implemented—and considered the opportunities it presents. A panel discussion moderated by Ambassador for Pacific Economic Development, the Hon Matua Shane Jones, brought together a group of experts to support the discussion: Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Associate Professor Hon Luamanuvao Winnie Laban; Robin Hapi, who has extensive experience in the fisheries industry and economic development; John Overton, Professor of Development Studies at Victoria University; and Tony Angelo, Professor of Law at Victoria.
In her response to Dame Meg’s keynote address, Luamanuvao reiterated Dame Meg’s message with a Melanesian Pigin saying ‘Man tokim, doim’—‘the plans have been laid. It is time to get on with the job and to make things happen’. She emphasised the importance of achieving a regional balance that takes into account the needs, capacities and ambitions of the smaller island states alongside the larger island states.
“Giving voice to all is an ongoing challenge in working with Pacific communities,” she said.
She also emphasised the importance of women being part of the decision-making process as well as the importance of education.
“Education is the key to unlocking social and economic opportunities in the Pacific,” she said. “It is my view that New Zealand and Australia, as members of the Pacific Islands Forum, have particular responsibilities to support building the educational capacities of member nations.”
“Having these types of seminars at our University reinforces the contributions that universities can make in terms as a key player in the region because it is the universities that train future Pacific leaders,” Luamanuvao reflected.
Victoria University’s Chancellor Sir Neville Jordan delivered a vote of thanks at the end of the seminar. To Dame Meg he said “we give you not only a vote of thanks but a vote of confidence”.