The Secretary General
The Secretary General acts as Secretary to the Pacific Islands Forum and is responsible for the management of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
Mr Henry Puna is the 10th Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum.
He is the first Cook Islander to hold this post.
The Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General is responsible, in close consultation with the Forum Chair and within the limits set by the Forum Leaders from time to time, for setting Forum Leaders’ Meeting agendas and coordinating responses by members to regional events, particularly crises. The Secretary General also performs several other key functions which include being the Pacific Ocean Commissioner. As the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, the Secretary General advocates for the secure future of Pacific people based on the sustainable development, management and conservation of the Pacific Ocean and its resources.
Prior to taking up the regional role on May 24th, 2021, Secretary General Puna was Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, from November 2010 until October 2020.
Born in Aitutaki in 1949 and raised in Rarotonga, he spent his formative years witnessing the transition to self-governance for his nation. He was one of the first wave of Cook Islands solicitors, starting at Auckland University then the University of Tasmania, obtaining a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1979. He is an alumnus of Australia National University in Canberra and was admitted to the bar in September 1980.
Secretary General Puna’s formative years combined with his return to atoll life as a pearl farmer and parliamentarian, supplied rich insights and lived knowledge of the resilience and resourcefulness of small island communities bearing the brunt of climate change across the Blue Pacific.
Holding portfolios including Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Marine Resources, Energy and Renewable Energy, Climate Change, Tourism, and the Outer Islands, Puna steered his nation on a path which has earned the Cook Islands global recognition for Oceans sustainability and renewable energy.
As the Cook Islands Foreign Affairs Minister and Leader, he pursued a more vigorous level of international diplomacy for the Cook Islands, extending foreign relations and formal ties to more than 50 nations including the People’s Republic of China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, and Singapore.
Before politics, between 1989 and 1996, Mr Puna served on the board of the South Pacific Ports Association, and the Pacific Forum Line. His executive roles in national government heading Trade, Labour and Transport as well as operating within the constraints facing regional shipping and transportation strengthened his affinity for the hardships and vulnerabilities of connecting remote atoll-based communities across ocean states.
A key focus in his early years as Prime Minister was transforming access to energy across all inhabited islands of the Cooks. His championing of renewable, clean energy and support ensured the bilateral and global funding partnerships for a successful transition to solar energy, breaking the monopoly of fossil fuel.
At the international level, as the 43rd Forum Chair and host of the 2012 meetings and Leaders Retreat, he invited former US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton to a milestone meeting with Forum Leaders, who renewed their commitment to address human rights for women, through a new Pacific Leaders Gender Equality Declaration.
In 2016, in recognition of his service to the region and academia, he received an honorary Doctorate in Law from the University of the South Pacific, Fiji, and served as Chancellor of the University from 2017-2018.
As a Forum Leader championing climate change, tuna fisheries, and innovative partnerships for oceans and energy sustainability, a landmark global achievement has been the 2017 founding legislation establishing the world’s largest multiple-use marine park, the Marae Moana.
Henry Puna is 71 in 2021, and an avid golfer and fisher. He is married to Cook Islands Member of Parliament for Manihiki, Akaiti Puna.
The Secretary General (SG) of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) is also the Regional Authorising Officer (RAO) for the Pacific- Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (P-ACP) region. PIFS is also the Duly Mandated Regional Organisation (DMRO) for the Pacific, as far as the European Commission is concerned.
The RAO plays a significant role in the administration of the European Development Fund (EDF) for the P-ACP states. The RAO is also supported by a Deputy Regional Authorising Officer (DRAO) based at PIFS.
Working closely with the P-ACP National Authorising Officers (NAOs) and with the European Union (EU) Delegations in the Pacific, the RAO’s functions are to coordinate the programming, implementation and coordinate the Pacific Regional Indicative Programme (PRIP). These functions are detailed in the Article 35 of Annex IV of the revised Cotonou Partnership Agreement.
The PRIP is the regional envelope through which regional programmes and projects are funded and administered under the EDF. The programmes are:
Priority Area 1: Regional Economic Integration
1.1. Strengthening the regional trade and business enabling environment
1.2. Private Sector involvement in economic integration
Priority Area 2: Sustainable Management of Natural Resources and the Environment and the Management of Waste
2.1. Fisheries & Marine Coastal Ecosystems
– Financing Agreement
2.2. Waste Management
– Financing Agreement
Priority Area 3: Inclusive and Accountable Governance
3.1. Transparent and Effective Policies and Public Finance Management, Data and Statistics
– Financing Agreement
3.2. Promote and Protect Human rights for ALL and progress in Gender Equality and Civil Society Engagement in Governance Practices
– Financing Agreement
3.3. Technical Cooperation and Capacity Building Facility (TECCBUF)
– Financing Agreement
– Delegation Agreement
Priority Area 4: Support for Regional Investment Projects
4.1. Investment Facility for the Pacific
– Financing Agreement
The Office of the RAO also leads and coordinates various regional working groups and facilitates the Steering Committee on the 11th EDF Pacific Regional Indicative Programme, in partnership with the EU.
Background and history of the Regional Authorising Officer
Formal cooperation between the European Union (EU) and the ACP states began in 1975 with the signing of the Georgetown Agreement. The PACP states have benefited from a number of financial programmes provided by the EU, including the Pacific Regional Indicative Programme.
In 1999, PACP Leaders mandated the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General as the RAO for the duration of the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement (until 2020). The Secretary General’s role as the RAO was again confirmed at the PACP Leaders Meeting in Rarotonga, Cook Islands in August 2012.
The role of the RAO is defined by the “Implementation and Management Procedures” outlined in the revised Cotonou Partnership Agreement 2005 (Article 35 of Annex IV). Because of the important functions, technical roles, and the overall coordination and management responsibility that the RAO performs, the RAO is supported by a team of technical experts.
A ‘Support programme to RAO’ provides necessary support to the RAO and the Pacific region in the implementation of the Pacific Regional Indicative Programme.
What is the purpose and objectives of the Support Programme to RAO?
The current phase of the programme supporting the RAO is called the Technical Cooperation and Capacity Building Facility (TECCBUF)
The overall objective of the project is to contribute to the effective implementation of the EU’s development cooperation within the Pacific – Africa, Caribbean, Pacific (P-ACP) region in line with the Pacific Leaders’ vision for inclusive development to achieve a region of peace, harmony, security and economic prosperity.
The project purpose is 1) to improve management of the EDF portfolio (including Intra-ACP programmes) by the Regional Authorising Officer (RAO) and regional organisations; and 2) to facilitate CSOs and Non-State Actors (NSAs) effective participation in policy engagement and implementation.
What are the expected results for the Support Programme to RAO?
Overall, the expected results are as follows:
KRA 1: RAO better coordinates and steers the design and implementation of RIP and Intra-ACP funded actions in the Pacific region, and provides more effective oversight, monitoring and reporting.
KRA 2: Improved capacities of Regional organizations and other relevant stakeholders at regional and national level in the Pacific region to implement EU programmes in light of joint commitments made under the SDGs and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
KRA 3: Enhanced policy dialogue and coordination between Pacific ACP States, the OCTs, CROP agencies, the DMRO, the EU and other development partners.
KRA 4: Strengthened voices and capacities of the CSO’s/NSA’s where regional policy dialogue is concerned.
Our Ocean, Our Future
For the people of the Pacific, the ocean is everything – life, culture, security, safety, prosperity, health and wellbeing.
But the Pacific Ocean is under threat from such things as overexploitation, habitat damage, pollution, and climate change – requiring urgent action and innovative approaches.
Pacific Ocean Commissioner
The Pacific Islands region is rising to the challenge. Work is underway to implement a world-leading, shared approach to ocean management, led by the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Henry Tuakeu Puna (also Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat)
The approach has the backing of 22 Pacific Island Countries and Territories under the Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape, and incorporates over 40 million square kilometres of ocean and islands – bigger than the land-mass of China, Canada, USA, India and Australia combined.
The Commissioner is working to unite Pacific countries and territories through sustainable ocean management and use across this vast area – with a focus on coordination, collaboration and integration.
The initiative has the potential to be transformative for the region, with positive ramifications right across the globe.
The Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner
A small, dedicated, team of ocean experts supports the Commissioner. The Office’s role includes:
- Enhancing coordination, collaboration and integration – with a focus on development effectiveness and improving return on investment.
- Assisting the Commissioner to undertake high level-advocacy and awareness activities.
- Providing expertise and support to Pacific Island Countries and Territories on cross-sectoral ocean issues, such as biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.
- Developing coordinated approaches to measurement and reporting – lifting accountability.
- Promoting Pacific Island Countries and Territories establish maritime boundaries and extended continental shelves.
- Analysis of linkages between oceans and climate change, ensuring the Pacific is well placed to meet the challenges ahead.
In addition, technical and scientific support for the Commissioner is also provided by the CEOs of relevant Pacific regional organisations (CROP Agencies), particularly the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) and the University of the South Pacific (USP), and through their CROP Marine Sector Working Group.
As a result of the commitment of Pacific Leaders, a great deal has already been achieved:
- Pacific Island Countries and Territories endorsed the Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape – a guiding approach to ocean management that includes clear goals and activities, within a framework to track and measure progress and enhance accountability.
- Established the Pacific Ocean Alliance – A network of private, public and civil sector representatives acting together to advance approaches to integrated ocean management.
- High profile international ocean advocacy – Pacific Ocean Commissioner has pushed ocean management onto the international agenda at forums across the globe.