Ministry for Pacific Peoples — Young Pacific leaders powerful beyond measure Young Pacific leaders powerful beyond measure Skip to content

Young Pacific leaders powerful beyond measure

Young Pacific leaders powerful beyond measure

  • 15 Aug 2022
B NZ and realm delegates YPL

(Picture caption: The New Zealand/realm country Young Pacific Leaders Conference delegates. Back row L-R - Natalia Fareti , Findlay Jacob-Sauer, Kiesha Dais, Orion Tiatia. Front row L-R - Sulu-Danielle Joshua, Ashleigh Pihigia, Nathan Chong-Nee and Maru Mariri-Tepou. Absent – Winona Ngaro-Malifa.)

Being part of the 2022 Young Pacific Leaders Conference has cemented Asena Tolungamaka’s belief it is time for young leaders to lead.

“The next generation of young Pacific leaders are determined, forward thinking, and full of integrity,” Asena says. 

“They lead with their people and lands at the forefronts of their hearts and minds, and this experience proves young Pacific leaders are more than capable to decide what the solutions are for the challenges the region is facing. 

“It time to let the next generation lead."

Asena was part of a 42-strong cohort of young Pacific leaders and alumni mentors, including 10 from New Zealand and its realm countries, who attended the 2022 Young Pacific Leaders (YPL) Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii, from July 18-21. 

The individuals were selected for the eighth YPL Conference from a competitive application process, open to applicants aged 25-35, from across the Pacific region.

With a focus on, Pacific Engagement 2.0: Carving New Paths for Regional Cooperation, it brought together the emerging leaders from the region to develop new connections, advance leadership skills, and create opportunities for collaboration in solving regional and global challenges connected to YPL’s four programmatic themes: Education; Environment and Resource Management; Civic Leadership; and Economic and Social Development.

Following the Conference, participants and the larger YPL community will participate in YPL LEADS, a month-long event in August 2022, highlighting the YPL program through community service activities in the Pacific. 

The New Zealand/realm country contingent all had various reasons for applying for the programme, however, most agreed it was one way to see their home nation involved at a regional level and heard about issues affecting the Pacific.

Tokelau’s Sulu-Danielle Joshua says she applied to make Tokelau more known, especially within the Pacific. 

“It was important to me that Tokelau had a seat at the table, and as the saying goes, ‘Nothing about us, without us’,” Sulu-Danielle says. 

“We are usually left out of the Pacific talks, and Tokelau is often just an associate member or mere observer or not present or invited in the first place.” 

Sulu-Danielle adds the theme resonated with her, and she was excited to be able to join the YPL network, to find different ways to tackle the same problems Pacific nations face, and potentially use those solutions in my community.

Winona Ngaro-Malifa of Niue says the conference has influenced her future trajectory.

“Once we were welcomed into the presence of the other Pacific delegates, it was evident we were connected by something deeper than our ocean, our blood and our ancestry.

“We represent the missing part to each other's stories.”

“From a work perspective, I haven't known till now how I could make an impact for our people in this industry. 

“There are two avenues which I will be endeavouring to pursue since the conference including equipping Pacific peoples with the knowledge to step into investing safely and potential benefits and downfalls to the market/ market volatility; and the power of voter activism and holding companies to account through shareholder unification.” 

She says it was a rarity and highlight to share stories with our Melanesian and Micronesian brothers and sisters in such granularity.

“During the conference, there was an overwhelming sense that although each set of islands may be small but collectively, we are powerful beyond measure.”

Launched in 2013, the YPL initiative is the United States Government’s signature programme to strengthen leadership development and networking in the Pacific. 

Visit the US Embassy website for more information.