REMARKS: SG Puna at launch of the Pacific Youth Advisory Board on Governance


Auckland, NZ
11 May 2023

• Esteemed Guests and Honourable Ministers
• The USP Student Association and your Executives
• Development partners, friends,

• Tena kotou, tena kotou, tena kotou katoa, Kia Orana and a very good afternoon to you all.

• It is my distinct pleasure to offer some reflections this evening at this launch of the Pacific Youth Advisory Board on Governance and I want to acknowledge the timing and transformative milestone this launch represents.

• As most of you would be aware, I came into the role of Secretary General to the Pacific Islands Forum in May 2021.

• A time when the region was under siege with the COVID-19 pandemic and was navigating one of the more complex challenges in its history – including within its own membership.

• I brought to the role decades and a lifetime of public service to my nation through my career calling – including 10 years’ worth of experience at the highest-level Government and governance in my own home-country – the Cook Islands.

• Coming into this role, at such an unprecedented time in this region’s history, reaffirmed for me two basic principles that I have held dear while serving my country.

The first is, the importance of strong and focused leadership – Leadership at all levels of society; and the second is, the importance of integrity and strong governance principles in all decision-making processes.

• It is on this basis that I personally welcomed the intent and rationale behind the establishment of this Pacific Youth Advisory Board on Governance.

• For indeed, our Youth are our future Leaders.

• Your voices, and more importantly, your views, bring dynamism and vibrancy to regional policy development and discourse.

• Yours is the voice that holds us, the Leaders of today, accountable to the decisions that we make – because it is your future that is on the line.

• The mere fact that you have demonstrated your willingness and fortitude to turn specifically to the issue of Governance, through this advisory board, must be commended.

• I am sure we all recognise how sensitive the issue of good governance can be in our region, so it is refreshing to see this issue now come to the fore in a structured and considered manner at your level.
• May I especially note the efforts you are stepping out to ensure diversity and representation are honoured in the selection and make up of this board.

• As I had alluded to in my opening address today, “governance” is at times an abstract term especially in a region such as ours.

• A region that is deeply steeped and connected to our historical and cultural roots yet also embracing of the contemporary world.

• I for one am often guilty of being too steeped in old school thinking, but am enough of a realist to see a bolder, more radical resolution is required to solve the governance challenges that continue to plague us – as cultural societies, as countries and as a region.

• One thing is for absolute certain – we live and co-exist in such interesting times in the region.

• The winds of change are upon us, and we must grasp at opportunities for transformation, and make the most of this time to deliver our aspirations and visions for the future.

• We must take hold of the opportunities presented by the likes of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, and the vision that it provides for our region.

• As we continue to work together as a region to design how we bring the 2050 strategy to life, I encourage you to step up, contribute and make your voices heard through that process.

• Be bold in your contributions, whether it be on governance, on leadership or on regionalism – whatever it is – Be Bold.

• Use platforms such as this Board to exchange and test the viability of innovative ideas, solutions, and challenges – for indeed, no one person is a connoisseur of knowledge – we can all learn from each other’s experiences. And we must certainly be able to learn from failure, from mistakes, from fixing systems so they work better and are fit for purpose.

• In saying so, I welcome the opportunity and interface for the Secretariat to work with the Youth Advisory Board,. There are many areas of mutual interest that we can progress together, and I look forward to seeing stronger collaboration, where possible, in the near future.

• I will borrow from the mana of our tangata whenua who have gifted us this whakatauki for the journey for this new advisory board, bringing new momentum to our regional journey—

ma te kimi, ka kite
ma te kite, ka mohio,
ma te mohio, ka marama! — Seek and discover. Discover and Know. Know, and become enlightened!

No reira, tena kotou, tena kotou, tena kotou katoa.

• Meitaki Ma’ata. –ENDS

NOTE– The above text has been checked against delivery on May 12, and replaces an earlier version posted May 11th.


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