By NATHAN LATI
SIX people from Papua New Guinea are among 21 attending a Pacific Islands Leadership Programme (PILP) in Hawaii, and later Taiwan, that will end on Oct 26. The PNG participants consist of three women and three men who work in both the government and non-government organisations. All participants are from Pacific Island countries.
The 11-week programme is currently taking place at the University of Hawaii’s East-West Centre at Manoa, and will end with a four-week retreat in Taiwan. The meeting is funded by the Taiwanese government.
The programme has been running for the past four years under different themes. This year it is Navigating Uncharted Waters.
PILP has specified pathways for each programme with the aim of creating new dimensions in leadership for young and upcoming leaders. The theme Navigating Uncharted Waters, forms the basis on which the participants get to know the Pacific Way of leadership.
The programme looks at initiating programmes that will help overcome the challenges in everyday life for citizens and young people, as well as deal with cross-cutting issues.
Participants from other Pacific Islands countries also come from other walks of life and the programme helps them find common grounds to address issues in the Pacific by integrating learned leadership concepts into the Pacific Way.
The issues of regional and national importance in relation to political, social, environmental and economic concerns are the basis of the workshop with issues presented with different setting and scenarios which the participants discuss to find a way forward.
The training is intensive with classroom lectures on climate change and resilience and practical role plays on leadership issues and scenarios.
There are site visits, group and individual case presentations – all guided by professionals who have working experience with TEDx Programmes in the likes of Philippe Lemonnier and prominent leadership mentor Keith Coats, who is the director of Tomorrow Today Global leadership advocacy organisation, as well as other academic professors from University of Hawaii and affiliated institutions.
Of course, the programme had to begin with learning the history of Hawaii. Kamehameha ruled the Kingdom of Hawaii until his monarchy was overthrown and the island annexed by United States in 1893.
The ancient palace and legislative building used during the times of King Kamehameha still stand in downtown Honolulu and is now a historical site. The palace has been restored into a museum and open to the public on special occasions only.
This group of participants is known as, Generation Five, and their slogan is, One Ocean, One Pacific Nation. They are vying to make sure Pacific Islands nations recognised by other developed nations, especially in relation to the Paris climate change accord and other agreements concerning the Pacific Ocean and climate change.
The vast expanse of ocean that holds spectacular marine biodiversity and connects the beautiful shorelines of the island nations with tropical warm waters and beautiful white sandy beaches are being greatly affected by climate change. As people much affected by the changes in weather patterns and rising seas, Pacific Islanders are resiliently championing the island way of life in a changing world.
Apart from the academic programmes, there are optional weekend activities for the PILP attendees to interact and share ideas or go hiking around the popular tourist sites of Hawaii’s Oahu Island. One significant site the team visited was Mount Koko Head.
The volcanic mountain is a vertical climb of 1048 stairs/railroad ties, which was originally built over 60 years ago to get supplies from the beach to the military bunkers at the top during the v World War (WWII). Koko Head itself has three significant depressions or old vents and its last eruption dates back to 30,000–35,000 years ago.
A good number of Melanesian, Polynesian and Micronesian students attend the University of Hawaii’s Manoa Campus, studying under various facilities. The informal meet and greet during the weekends for potluck at Friendship Cycle area brings the Pacific diversity into one, as islanders meet and mingle as one big family.
At those gatherings, Melanesian treats such as buai gets passed around, the Polynesians crank up the communal Kava ceremony and the Micronesians are the chefs and jesters with joke after joke peppering the jovial gathering.
The people of, Small Islands with Big Oceans, can literally be translated to, Small People with Big Hearts.
- Nathan Lati is an attendee of the Pacific Leadership Fellow 2017.