The former Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, and the current Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum, the Honourable Henry Puna, has been announced as the keynote speaker at the Australian Council for International Development’s (ACFID) 2021 National Conference.
Mr Puna was Prime Minister of the Cook Islands from November 2010 to October 2020. Since 2006, he has been the leader of the Cook Islands Party. In June 2020, Secretary-General Puna announced his intention to stand down as Prime Minister, in order to run for the role of Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum. During his time as Prime Minister, he held various ministerial portfolios including Foreign Affairs and Immigration; Marine Resources; Energy and Renewable Energy; Climate Change; Tourism, and the Outer Islands.
Mr Puna helped lead the Cook Islands to global recognition for ocean sustainability and renewable energy. He was instrumental in the development of the Marae Moana, a multi-use marine park covering more than 1.9 million square kilometres, making it the largest commitment by a single country for the integrated management of conversation across land and ocean.
Welcoming the announcement, ACFID CEO Marc Purcell stated that:
“Mr Puna’s early life before entering into politics, and experiences as Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, have translated into valuable wisdom. He holds great insight into how the island communities of the Blue Pacific have been dealing with the pressing challenges of climate change, and what this means for the future”
“ACFID has a longstanding relationship with the Pacific Islands Forum, and it is a great privilege for our membership to host Mr Puna. We are delighted he will open our national conference.”
Earlier this year, on 4 February, Mr Puna was elected as Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum. He is now the 10th Secretary General, and the first Cook Islander to hold this post. The Secretary-General also serves as the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, a role that will see him work with leaders from across the globe in international organisations, the private sector and civil society to strengthen Ocean Governance.
Mr Puna has restated the gravity of continuing the strong collective efforts to progress regional priorities, including the development of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Continent; COVID-19; climate change; fisheries; maritime boundaries; nuclear legacy issues; and continuing engagement in preparation for the global launch of the Pacific Resilience Facility later this year.
To find out more and to register for the conference, visit the ACFID Conference website.