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Pacific Leaders Address Key Regional Issues

Pacific Island leaders seated at the 12th Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders held at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi
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HONOLULU (Sept. 16, 2022) – The 12th Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders (PICL), titled Puʻuhonua: The Pacific Way Forward, featured a robust three-day schedule of dialogues, plenary sessions, meetings, and side events. View photos from the Sept. 12-14 summit on Flickr.

Convened by the PICL’s Secretariat, the Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP) at the East-West Center, the conference program reflected the key regional priorities identified by Pacific leaders at their last summit, which was held virtually last year.

Heads of government and ministers representing 16 Pacific countries and territories engaged in a series of closed meetings to deliberate on a range of issues including ongoing nuclear legacies, Japan’s current plans to dispose of nuclear-contaminated Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) treated water into the Pacific Ocean, increased commitments to advancing the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, and an endorsement for PIDP to assume leadership responsibilities for the Pacific Women Leaders Coalition.

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David W. Panuelo, Chair of the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders and President of the Federated States of Micronesia, with US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy R. Sherman at the 12th Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders

A series of sessions over the course of the conference created space for Pacific leaders to dialogue with non-PICL member countries including Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Non-member countries were given the opportunity to comment on the current state of their respective country’s engagements in the region, followed by frank and open questions and comments from island leaders. PICL leaders focused on the need for international partners to demonstrate greater commitments and action in their engagement with Pacific Islands nations and territories while respecting “the Pacific way.” In addition to closed dialogue sessions with international partners, Pacific leaders also dialogued with leading experts in sessions focused on industry diversification and contemporary geopolitics in the context of China in the Pacific.

With an emphasis on climate change, industry diversification, and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery, the conference welcomed several side events offered by public sector, non-profit, academic, and other professional organizations featuring the latest innovations, research, and work to advance regional priorities. As a member of the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific (CROP), PIDP convened the CROP Women of the Wave Network as part of the PICL activities. The network brings together women working across the nine CROP agencies to share perspectives and strategize pathways toward empowering women and girls to assume leadership roles within CROP and other professional spaces.

In addition, two public plenaries drew both live local audiences as well as virtual participation from audiences in the Pacific region, the US, and elsewhere. Plenary sessions included “Scaling Up Climate Finance for the Blue Pacific Continent” and “Pacific Diasporas.” Together, the panels addressed the most pressing concerns collectively held across the Pacific Islands, as well as insights related to the growing Pacific Islander communities making homes away from their islands in the US, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries.

The PICL program was designed with an energized commitment to Pacific regionalism that has begun more prominently echoing throughout regional organizations. Speaking to the importance of Pacific leaders coming together through the PICL, His Excellency David W. Panuelo, President of the Federated States of Micronesia and PICL Chair, noted, “Yes, we have our own national interests, and possibly differing views and perspectives on important issues, but we have mutually agreed regional interests, and Pacific Regionalism can only happen in a safe space for us to dialogue.”

Key Topics
Critical regional priorities discussed include:

  • Climate change impacts, action, and financing
  • COVID-19 pandemic recovery
  • Industry diversification
  • The “2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent” endorsed by Pacific Island Forum leaders
  • United States, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and China in the Pacific
  • Nuclear-contaminated Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) treated water disposal
  • Ongoing nuclear legacies
  • The Pacific Women Leaders Coalition

Leader Delegations
The following leaders (or their designees) and accompanying delegations from Pacific countries and territories attended the 12th PICL:

  • Honorable Lemanu Palepoi Sialegā Mauga – Governor, American Samoa (virtual participation)
  • Honorable Tepaeru Kiteitekata Herrmann – Special Envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum, Cook Islands
  • Honorable Kandhi A. Elieisar – Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Federated States of Micronesia
  • Honorable Faiyaz Siddiq Koya – Minister for Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Republic of Fiji
  • Honorable Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu – Minister for Culture, Environment and Marine Resources, French Polynesia
  • Honorable Josh Tenorio – Lieutenant Governor, Guam
  • Honorable David Ige – Governor, Hawaiʻi
  • His Excellency David Kabua – President, Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • Honorable Chitra Jeremiah – Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Nauru
  • Honorable Dalton Emani Makamau Tagelagi – Premier, Niuē
  • Honorable David Atalig – Secretary of Finance, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • His Excellency Surangel S. Whipps, Jr. – President, Republic of Palau
  • Honorable Fiamē Naomi Mataʻafa – Prime Minister, Sāmoa
  • Honorable Jeremiah Manele – Minister of Foreign Affairs, Solomon Islands
  • Honorable Huʻakavameiliku Siaosi Sovaleni – Prime Minister, Kingdom of Tonga
  • Honorable Kausea Natano – Prime Minister, Tuvalu

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