Samoan woman Vice President of East-West Centre

A Samoan woman recently appointed as the Vice President and Director of Research for East-West Center took on the role to educate Americans about the Pacific. 

Born and raised in New Zealand, Karena Lydons, left her work as a former N.Z. Ambassador to Micronesia to take up the role at the research and education foundation in Honolulu Hawaii this year. 

Also a former Consul General for Hawaii, Ms. Lyons ended her diplomatic role with New Zealand to be part of the Pacific diaspora in Honolulu. 

“Two reasons [I took up the role are] the opportunity to stay living in the Pacific working on Pacific issues across a broad spectrum of topics,” she said. 

“And [there is the] irresistible opportunity to educate Americans about the Pacific and this is definitely the place to do it.”

From the village of Safa’atoa Lefaga, Ms. Lyons explained that U.S. Ambassadors posted in the Pacific come through the Center to get briefing about the region. 

She said with the political winds blowing in the direction of the Pacific, her role gives her the opportunity to tell diplomats about the Pacific. 

Ms. Lyons participates in the overall strategic and administrative leadership of the Center, as well as heading up EWC’s research division and cross-departmental Pacific Islands Initiative.

Before joining the E.W.C., Ms. Lyons as the former N.Z. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau, resided 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 on the United Nations Security Council. 

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. 

Ms. Lyons was one of several academics at the E.W.C. that met with the Pacific Island Journalism Reporting Tour 2019 this week.  

She is the daughter of Lemalu Feagaiga Lyons of Safa'atoa and Neil Lyons. 

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