“I am excited to join the East-West Center’s ‘ohana at such an interesting inflection point in our region’s history,” Lyons said. “Changing geopolitical dynamics in the Pacific are creating unique opportunities for the Center and reinforcing the importance of EWC’s role as a nexus between East and West. From my interactions so far, it’s clear that the Center’s people are its best asset. I can’t wait to roll up my sleeves and drive EWC’s work as our region’s premier research and capacity-building institution.”Karena Lyons
EWC Vice President; Director of Research; Director (designate) of the Pacific Islands Development Program
Area of Expertise:
Asia Pacific international relations; US-Oceania defense and security relations; Political and economic development in the Pacific Islands.
As East-West Center Vice President and Director of Research, Ambassador Karena Lyons is a key member of the leadership team and contributes to the Center’s overarching and long term trajectory. She is the strategic lead for the Center’s Pacific work across the research, education, and capacity building programs. Lyons also serves as the Director (Designate) of the Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP), which is a separate and distinct regional entity within the Center. Spearheaded by Fiji’s then-Prime Minister Sir Ratu Mara, PIDP was created by the Pacific Heads of Government in 1980 as the secretariat for the Pacific Island Conference of Leaders. Over the years, and as directed by Pacific Islands Heads of Government, PIDP has evolved to meet regional development demands by becoming a mechanism for delivering capacity building programs and analytical output (research and news).
Before joining the Center in May 2019, Lyons was New Zealand’s Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau, residing in Hawai’i where she was Consul General to the State of Hawai‘i and Envoy to the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Previously, she served as the Foreign Policy Advisor to the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs; as Strategist and Negotiator for New Zealand on the United Nations Security Council; and as a faculty member at the University of Auckland School of Law. She is a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand and holds a Master of Laws degree from the University of Auckland and the Freie Universität, Berlin, as well as a Bachelor of Arts (Sociology and Politics) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of Auckland.