Being a Smaller Islands States Attaché – by Moira Simmons Avafoa

My name is Moira Simmons-Avafoa, I am from Tuvalu, a country surrounded by an ocean (Exclusive Economic Zone) that is more than 29000 times larger than its land area. I have strong family links to Vaitupu and Niutao, two of Tuvalu’s eight islands from which my grandparents journeyed and settled in Kioa Island, Fiji.

Tuvalu is a member of the Smaller Island States, a special group of eight Forum countries including Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Tuvalu that have acute vulnerabilities due to our geographical and economic context.

I am the Senior Advisor – Pacific Division with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tuvalu, but I’m currently working with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat as part of the Smaller Island States Attachment Programme. I was interested in the attachment because it is aligned to my work plan at home and also to Tuvalu’s national priorities.

The Attachment Programme is linked to the five priority areas of the SIS Regional Strategy 2016-2020 which relate to climate change, marine, air and sea transport, labour mobility, and health.

Of these priorities, my key interests lie with two very important country priorities which are also outlined in the Tuvalu National Sustainable Strategy 2016-2020 (Te Kakeega III), these are Climate Change and Oceans (marine).

The Attachment Programme has given me the opportunity to view our regional issues and challenges from a different lens. Working with dedicated individuals on a daily basis at the Secretariat has boosted my understanding on policy matters and given me the inside experience I need to view the challenges faced by member countries from a different and very policy driven perspective.

Through the Programme I will be part the team working on key regional meetings like the 49th Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru in September. This will give me valuable experience to carry into next year’s 50th Pacific Islands Forum which will take place in Tuvalu.

With great staff support and excellent facilities, the Programme allows me the opportunity to delve into the details and specifics of engagement and policy making. Through this attachment, I am also able to witness firsthand how policies and initiatives of the Blue Pacific are developed and driven.

This capacity building initiative is vital for human resource development and promotes south-south corporation in the Pacific. In Tuvalu, our work force in departments is usually represented by meagre staff numbers therefore this opportunity allows me to support national plans and priorities.

I would like to thank the Government of Tuvalu, all relevant development partners that fund this programme, Smaller Island State Leaders for endorsing this programme initiative and the supportive staff of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat for availing me the opportunity to participate in this attachment programme.

I encourage interested SIS government officials to take part in this opportunity to maximize & learn more about our common goals, our unique challenges and our shared identity through working at the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat and supporting our Smaller Island States in the Pacific.

 

Fakafetai Lasi.