Forum SG role not for the faint-hearted: Puna


Outgoing Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Henry Puna says he has learnt the hard way in his role for the last two years in the region’s premier political and economic policy organisation.

Speaking on his own personal reflections on his tenure as a “regionalist”, Puna will only serve one term as SG at the Forum compared to his predecessors who completed two terms.

“Having now served in this role, I have come to appreciate the importance of the role of Secretary General, in upholding regionalism, not only as its custodian, but as the link and conduit between the Political Leaders that together form the Pacific Islands Forum, and in leading the collective’s management of the often diverse views, of our partners.

“As I have learnt the hard way in the last two years, this role and position is not for the faint-hearted,” Puna emphasised at the Pacific Transnational Leadership seminar in Auckland Monday.

SG Puna hopes his successor, the former President of Nauru, Baron Waqa will be better prepared to navigate and steer the region, towards a stronger collective future.

“It has pushed me to my limits both physically and mentally; it has required me to dig deep into my political experience, to strategically assess emerging issues; it has tested my diplomatic skills to the wire, and it has forced me to be increasingly decisive and assertive. And through it all, I am proud that the values and teachings of my parents and “our” elders has always been my core guiding light.

“Indeed, I imagine that this is the case for all regionalists today, who manage the expectations of their memberships, and yet, continue to work to progress our collective aspirations.

“Indeed, as we move forward from the challenges within the Forum Family of 2021 – 2022, I am determined that the sacrifice that my Government and I have made, to ensure the solidarity of the Forum, will not be in vain.

“I hope that in the remainder of my short term as Secretary General, I will be able to consolidate the political conversations I have had in the last 3 years, to articulate my interpretation of the risks and opportunities, that lie ahead for regionalism,” said Puna.

The former Cook Islands Prime Minister said to lead a country is an honour but to lead a region of multiple independent and self-governing countries and territories, is a masterful art.

“Through a leadership lens, and with the Pacific Islands Forum in mind, we know the importance of collective strength to the future of our Blue Pacific continent. When that collective strength seeks to better know and serve the needs of all, who live in our sea of islands, our vast moana – we can truly lead the world.

“When I took on the role of Prime Minister on 30 November 2010, I took an oath to serve my country and her people; to look beyond our individual differences, and to recognise that we are one people with one vision, and a common destiny.

“We built on the work of the Leaders who came before us.

“Together, we propelled a stronger foundation for self-determination – a framework of governance, which recognised that our future is mapped by our own talents and foresight, and that the measures of success, as well as failure, are our own,” said Puna.

This year’s Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting in Cook Islands in November will be Puna’s last engagement as Forum SG.