REMARKS: SG Puna keynote to Inaugural Conference of Pacific Education Ministers

2023 Conference of Pacific Education Ministers
Ministerial Banquet
Monday 20 March 2023


Mr Henry Puna
Secretary General – Pacific Islands Forum


The Honourable Jan Tinetti, Minister of Education, Aotearoa New Zealand
Honorable Ministers of Education from across the Region
Senior Education Officials
Professor Pal Ahluwalia, Vice Chancellor – University of the South Pacific
Senior Representatives of CROP Agencies
Senior Representatives of Partner Agencies
Ladies and Gentlemen


• Kia Orana, Bula Vinaka and a good evening to you all.

• At the outset let me register my thanks to the convenors for the invitation to say a few words this evening on an issue close to my heart. I of course refer to education.

• At the outset, let me also thank the Government and people of New Zealand for hosting our Pacific family this week – especially so soon after the devastating and deadly impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle.

• I also acknowledge the government and the people of New Zealand for your enduring contributions over the years to the wellbeing of the people of our Blue Pacific Continent – including, of course, with regard to education.

• Many of us were educated on New Zealand based curriculums, or through New Zealand scholarships, or in New Zealand boarding schools, technical colleges or universities. And so this evening, I believe it is important that we recognize Aotearoa New Zealand’s significant contribution to the region’s education over the generations.

No 2050 without Education

• Honourable Ministers, last year Forum Leaders adopted the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent as our region’s blueprint to work together to address our shared challenges and to achieve our common aspirations.

• In the context of significant geopolitical and climate change impacts on our region, the Strategy is our approach to shape the future in the way that we want.

• More specifically, it frames our regional cooperation around 7 Thematic Areas and related strategic pathways, and in my view, the most important of these areas is People Centered Development – which includes education as a central pillar.

• Honourable Ministers, the placement of education at the heart of the 2050 Strategy is no accident. It is there because our Leaders recognise that education will be the most critical long-term factor in our achievement of the Strategy.

• Without education and capacity development to drive economic growth, we will remain dependent on others to finance our development goals.

• Without curricula that draw on the best of our traditions and cultures, we will never have the people to build climate resilient, Pacific-relevant, societies and communities.

• Without focused education, we will not have the scientists and technicians to develop the approaches we need for a just and equitable transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewables-based economies – something which a number of our Pacific Ministers called for in cyclone-struck Port Vila last week.

• Without education, we will never capitalise on our immeasurable ocean-based resources including our fishery, genetic materials, minerals, and renewable energy. Indeed, without education, the promise of the blue economy will, ironically, never materialize for us, the stewards of the Pacific Ocean.

• Honourable Ministers, in short, without education there can be no 2050 future, and in this respect, let me re-emphasise how important it is that you meet here this week; so that you may bring a renewed energy and focus to this important matter.

Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF)

• Honourable Ministers, added to this, let me congratulate the work of the Pacific Regional Education Framework Facilitation Unit, which has been driven by the leadership of the University of the South Pacific. And moving forward, we will continue to USP’s leadership in this regard, and I encourage all of us to do the same.

• I also take this opportunity to thank the Global Partnership for Education, as well as the Implementing Agencies for your support to PacREF.

• As we consider the mid-term review and move into phase 2, I will ensure that PacREF is well aligned to the 2050 Strategy, to ensure coherence across our various frameworks and platforms.

Closing Remarks

• Honorable Ministers, to close, I encourage you to consider how we might ensure that education drives the achievement of the objectives that we harbour as sovereign states and as a region.

• For me, education is not only a development goal. It is a strategic imperative for our region if we are to reach our 2050 vision.

• In this regard, I invite you to discuss how we can advance the education of our girls and boys and women and men in a way that is linked to the goals and ambitions that our leaders have set for us all.

• In addition, I encourage you to remember the most vulnerable members of our community, such as persons with disabilities, those in rural and remote areas, and out of school youths, as you determine the next phase of our national and regional approaches to education.

• Ministers, Officials, Partners – with those few remarks, I wish you all the best in your discussions over the coming days.

• As we contend with the challenges of today and tomorrow, our 2050 future must start here and now – with a reinvigorated focus and investment in education and skills building across our Blue Pacific region.

• Meitaki Ma’ata and thank you all. –ENDS.


Image: SG Puna responds at the formal Powhiri opening ceremony, Monday 20th.




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