Forum Secretary General hosts ‘Meet the Press’ event

By Tina Mata'afa-Tufele 23 June 2021, 3:20PM

The Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum (P.I.F.) Henry Puna will host a first time ‘Meet the Press’ event on Wednesday.

The Forum Secretariat announced the virtual one-hour engagement in a media advisory sent to Pacific newsrooms. 

It is Mr. Puna’s very first press conference since the controversial vote that put him in office as Secretary General in February.

“Following from a busy induction of briefings and transition meets across programs of the Secretariat, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Henry Puna is looking forward to his first press conference as Secretary General,” the advisory states.

“In the one-hour Wednesday ‘meet the press’ talanoa, he looks forward to sharing priorities for regionalism and taking your questions.”

Mr. Puna is keynote speaker in the opening plenary of the annual Australasian Emissions Reduction Summit from 24 to 25 June 2021 in Sydney, Australia, according to a statement from the Forum released over the weekend.

Partnerships and advocacy for urgent climate change action, partnerships for a new regional resilience financing facility, and a reinvigorated vision for regionalism towards 2050 are key aspects of the Forum Secretary-General’s trip to Australia.

A key focus of his appointments is to raise advocacy on and align partnerships towards Pacific priorities, including climate change negotiations which have begun virtually and will culminate at COP26 in Glasgow later this year.

“The disruptions caused by COVID-19 restrictions mean I am unable to take up the established precedent of in-country visits across the Forum membership. Despite this, I am cognizant that the integral work of advocacy and strategic positioning of our Pacific priorities must continue,” Mr. Puna said.   

“Despite the delays in reaching Suva, the NZ-Australia bubble provides some key opportunities to progress our work program in the interest of the collective membership.” 

The Summit, now in its eighth year, is led by the Australia’s Carbon Market Institute (C.M.I.), an independent industry association for business leading the transition to net-zero emissions. 

C.M.I. has a diverse membership including primary producers, carbon project developers, heavy emitters, large corporate, finance and service organizations—many of them active investors in the Pacific.   

Previous keynote speakers have included Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, former Kiribati President Anote Tong, and former Forum Secretary General Dame Meg Taylor.

The Secretary General position had been particularly contested ahead of the Special Leaders Retreat and leadership vote in early February, with leaders from the Micronesian nations demanding their representative be picked as a show of fairness. 

Leaders nominated Gerald Zackios of the Marshall Islands, saying it was Micronesia’s turn to be represented in the top job and threatened to leave the Forum if their wishes weren’t honoured. 

But after an all-day meeting that went late into the night, most of the Forum leaders, including now caretaker Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi, voted for Mr. Puna with just one vote getting him over the line.

Micronesia's leaders believed they had a commitment that their candidate, Gerald Zackios from the Marshall Islands, would be named Secretary-General.

On 8 February, leaders of Micronesian states agreed to leave the Forum.

In late April, Micronesian leaders received an apology from the Pacific Islands Forum, months after walking out of the inter-governmental organisation.

President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands said the Marshall Islands is prepared to exit the Forum by 2022.

By Tina Mata'afa-Tufele 23 June 2021, 3:20PM

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