From left: Minister in Assistance to the President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, David Paul; President David Panuelo, Federated States of Micronesia.

Leaders from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau gathered at the East-West Center on October 14, 2019 for the inaugural meeting of the Micronesian Conference of Leaders convened by the Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP) at EWC. Attendees included FSM President David W. Panuelo, along with Palau Vice President Raynold B. Oilouch and Marshall Islands Minister in Assistance to the President David Paul.

(View photos from the event here.)

During the meeting, East-West Center staff briefed the leaders on the broad variety of programs the Center conducts focusing on the Pacific Islands. These include use-inspired research on climate change impacts and mitigation; women’s empowerment workshops; economic and policy analysis; reporting tours and professional exchanges for Pacific journalists; and leadership training and capacity-building.

The Micronesian leaders expressed strong continuing support for PIDP, which was established by Pacific Island leaders in 1980 to support “equitable social and economic development” in the Pacific region. All three delegations emphasized PIDP’s unique and valuable contribution to the region as the only member of the Council of Regional Organizations of the Pacific (CROP) based in the North Pacific. They also offered input into future directions for new programs and collaboration in what EWC Vice President and PIDP Director Karena Lyons called “a new era” for PIDP.”

Video overview of the conference.

Leaders voice support for PIDP

Federated States of Micronesia President David Panuelo delivers a Presidential Address at the inaugural Micronesian Conference of Leaders hosted by the East-West Center’s Pacific Islands Development Program on October 14, 2019.

“The Pacific Islands Development Program has been a very important platform for our region’s leaders to discuss critical issues for nearly forty years,” said FSM President Panuelo in an address to the group. “We are very appreciative of the role that the East-West Center and PIDP have played in leadership programs that have helped develop our human resources and contributed to the nation-building process that our country has been going through. PIDP is a regional organization that has added tremendous value to Pacific Islands empowerment and development, and I am confident that the organization will be ideally postured to continue its legacy of value-added initiatives going forward, as we seek to collaborate and harmonize our common goals for the betterment of our Pacific communities.”

At a dinner in the delegations’ honor, Admiral Philip Davidson, Commander of the U.S. military’s Indo-Pacific Command, emphasized that “the United States has long been committed to our Pacific allies and partners in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific, and we remain committed to the Pacific Islands’ future security and prosperity. We believe our allies and partners are critical to the prosperity of the region, and that all countries should have a voice in shaping the international system.”

Special guests at the dinner also included Hawai‘i Governor David Ige and the Commander of the US Coast Guard in the Pacific region, Rear Admiral Kevin Lunday, as well as representatives of other U.S. government agencies, community organization leaders, and members of the foreign consular corps.

A New Era for PIDP

In 1980, under the visionary leadership of Fiji Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara and Hawai‘i Governor George Ariyoshi, a special program was established at the East-West Center specifically to address the unique issues island nations faced as they emerged from decades of colonization. Since then, the Pacific Islands Development Program has provided a forum for island leaders to discuss critical issues of development with partner countries, donors, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

PIDP has conducted a broad range of activities to enhance the quality of life in the Pacific Islands, including serving as the Secretariat of the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders, implementing capacity building and leadership development programs, and providing a hub for dialogue and research on issues of critical importance.

With the appointment of Lyons as its new Director, PIDP is carrying out a revitalization of its presence and effectiveness in the region. Lyons, a New Zealander of Samoan descent, is the first woman to lead the program. “We have invited you all here to witness the cultivation of a new era of PIDP,” the former New Zealand Consul General in Honolulu and Ambassador to FSM, Palau, and RMI told the gathering of leaders, “as well as a new era of engagement across the entire Blue Pacific community built on responsiveness, connection, and relevance.”

“The time has come for PIDP to be reviewed and revitalized, as your countries and the other nations of the Pacific have taken control of your own destinies, and are global leaders in the fight against climate change and for sustainable ecosystems and economies,” added East-West Center President Richard R. Vuylsteke. “As we embark on this new direction, we want to take this moment to turn to you for your advice and leadership in the next chapter of PIDP’s relationship with the nations of the Pacific, as the first step in a much longer journey together.”