Relevant, Active and Constructive: Singapore’s Small State Diplomacy

Singapore is quickly becoming one of the top nation-states for ‘smart city’ initiatives and sustainable development practices. It is also a champion for small states in the international arena. However, Singapore faces many of the same challenges as its Asia-Pacific neighbors, including threats from climate change, lack of natural resources, and reliance upon larger states to act on support for transnational issues. To examine Singapore’s perspective on diplomacy in the Pacific, Genevieve Neilson, Pacific Island Security Scholar, interviews Singapore’s non-resident Ambassador to Fiji and the Pacific Islands Forum, Verghese Mathews.


What are your responsibilities as non-resident Ambassador to the Pacific Islands Forum?

As Non-Resident Ambassador to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), my role is to represent Singapore’s interests vis-à-vis the Pacific and, just as importantly, also to enhance existing ties between Singapore and the Pacific Island States. Essentially, I am like a contractor building more bridges between governments, institutions, businesses and peoples. I hope to create a network of friends in Singapore for the Pacific and in the Pacific for Singapore and in the process raise awareness of each others’ strengths and vulnerabilities and the opportunities available in each others’ territories.

My other diplomatic colleagues and I represent Singapore’s broader engagement of plurilateral and multilateral processes, which are imperative for small states like Singapore. Like the Pacific Island States, Singapore has many inherent vulnerabilities due to its size, its serious lack of natural resources, and its limited land mass. As a low-lying island state we, too, are vulnerable to rising sea-levels. Likewise, it is undoubtedly a struggle for small states like Singapore and the Pacific to make themselves heard on the international stage, but working together allows us to amplify our voices. In addition, small island states generally understand the challenges that each faces at a fundamental level, which enables them to better explore solutions that are mutually beneficial. This is a key reason why Singapore established the Forum of Small States (FOSS) at the United Nations.

What are some of the differences between Singapore’s approach to engagement with a multilateral forum like the Pacific Islands Forum compared to bilateral engagement with Pacific island states?

Bilateral and multilateral engagement ultimately serve a similar purpose, which is to promote a country’s interests internationally. As a small country, Singapore’s foreign policy is centred on cultivating as many friends as possible while preserving its sovereignty and independence.

Bilateral engagement focuses on promoting good relations between two countries, through dialogue, cooperation, mutual respect etc. It tends to cover issues that are particular to that relationship. For example, if both countries share a resource such as water from a common source, they need to cooperate to ensure that both are able to access that resource in a mutually beneficial manner. In the case of Singapore’s bilateral relationships with the Pacific Island States, one of the ways that Singapore works with these countries is through the provision of technical assistance. Singapore shares similar challenges to those faced by the Pacific Island States, and has had first-hand experience in addressing such issues. Singapore can therefore work with a Pacific Island State such as Fiji, Kiribati, or Tonga, to identify areas of interest, such as transport planning or economic development, and provide technical assistance in such areas. To date, we have trained close to 5,000 officials from the Pacific Islands under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, a platform through which we share Singapore’s developmental experience.

However, there are issues that cannot be dealt with only bilaterally and have to be addressed at the broader level given their transnational nature; climate change, transnational crime, and infectious diseases are all examples of challenges that have far reaching effects and require a coordinated response across the globe. This is where multilateralism becomes essential. There is certainly an element of promoting good relations with other countries at multilateral fora. However the framework for multilateral engagement is somewhat different and there are generally many more stakeholders involved on any particular issue.

On a broader scale, Singapore uses international platforms such as the UN to voice its views and concerns on global affairs which impact its people or even promote issues that we feel will benefit the global community. One example of this is the “Sanitation for All” resolution, which Singapore tabled at the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly to draw greater attention from the international community to sanitation, public health and hygiene. Singapore is only a development partner of the Pacific Islands Forum, our role in the Forum is much smaller compared to that of its members. Nevertheless, it affords a space for Singapore to identify commonalities, exchange ideas and explore partnerships with our fellow small island states.

At the latest Pacific Islands Forum Minister’s Meeting in Suva, Fiji in August, attendees agreed that there needs to be a unified Pacific voice at international gatherings. As a small state in ASEAN and APEC, how does Singapore attract international attention and build coalitions around common foreign policy interests in the Asia-Pacific?

Fundamentally, Singapore can only attract international attention as long as we remain relevant, active and constructive. If we are not able to adapt, survive and prosper as an independent and sovereign nation, other countries would quickly lose interest in us. When it comes to building coalitions around common foreign policy interests, it is essential to be constructive, seek common cause, and provide solutions, even where it concerns an issue in which Singapore has no personal interest. One way in which Singapore seeks to make common cause is through our establishment of the Global Governance Group (3G), an informal coalition of 30 small and medium sized states that exchanges views on global governance and financial rules and IMF/World Bank economic policies. The 3G provides input to the G20 to helps make the G20 a more inclusive and representative grouping. It is also important for Singapore to remain engaged in the international system to uphold international norms and practices, including on matters such as the rule of law and freedom of navigation.

Getting a group of countries to come to a consensus is difficult where they have different national interests and priorities. The challenge is in identifying common purposes and benefits, which are often determined by circumstances and factors beyond our control. To do this, we must be able to understand other countries’ concerns and persuade them to appreciate our ideas from their point of view. If we are able to convince others that they will benefit from a certain course of action, this will effectively align our interests and contribute towards building consensus. Take ASEAN, which is comprised of 10 member states of different sizes, demographics, levels of development, geostrategic circumstances and histories. Despite our differences, in 2015 the ASEAN Member States came together to form the ASEAN Community, to catalyse deeper integration within the region in the economic, social and cultural spheres. Of course, there are issues on which the ASEAN Member States have different positions, however there is ultimately a broad consensus among the ASEAN Member States that we have a common interest in closer integration and cooperation. By doing so, we are able to collectively face global uncertainties and complexities, and maintain stability for growth.

As a small island state in the Asia-Pacific, Singapore faces common geographical challenges to its Pacific island neighbors in the region. Yet, study done by Carbon Brief showed that between 2000 and 2014, Singapore achieved the largest emissions reduction in percentage terms and carbon intensity (the CO2 emissions per unit of GDP). How has Singapore sought to counter its natural resource constraints and the impacts of climate change while still growing its economy?

Enhancing energy efficiency has been and will continue to be a core strategy for Singapore’s mitigation efforts, given our limited access to alternative energy options. Our small size presents real difficulties in pursuing alternative energy options such as nuclear, hydro-electric, wind or geothermal power. Harnessing solar energy in a significant way is also a challenge due to competing uses for limited land and rooftop space, and intermittency issues. We made early policy choices to switch from fuel oil to natural gas, the cleanest form of fossil fuel, for electricity generation. Today, around 95% of electricity is generated from natural gas. Singapore also prices energy at market cost, without any subsidy, to reflect resource scarcity and promote judicious usage.

We will continue to encourage the adoption of more efficient power generation technologies, and encourage the use of more energy efficient industrial equipment, buildings, transportation, and household appliances. We are also working to enhance energy efficiency in the industry sector, which contributes to the bulk of our emissions.

We will also continue to invest in R&D to develop low-carbon technologies which can address our climate and sustainability challenges, and create solutions that can also be applied abroad. S$900 million will be invested from 2016 to 2020 to tackle Singapore’s energy, water, land, and liveability challenges. We have embarked on an energy storage programme, and are also test-bedding floating solar PV panels on our reservoirs, which will help to overcome some of the challenges of solar deployment in Singapore.

Singapore will harness green growth opportunities to develop and test-bed various innovative solutions in the areas of clean energy, energy efficiency, green buildings, and clean transportation. For example, our nationwide electric vehicle car-sharing programme, which will see the deployment of 1,000 electric vehicles and installation of 2,000 charging points, serves as a “living lab” platform to attract new players to develop, test and commercialise innovative urban solutions in Singapore before scaling up for the region.

With the National Climate Change Secretariat established under the Prime Minister’s Office, Singapore is taking a whole-of-nation approach to developing and implementing domestic and international policies and strategies to tackle climate change. Where do you see the international aspects of Singapore’s climate change efforts focused in the near future?

Singapore supports the multilateral rules-based process under the UNFCCC. We will continue to contribute proactively to international efforts to address climate change. Singapore ratified the Paris Agreement at the High-level Event on Entry into Force of the Agreement, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on 21 September 2016. This is further affirmation of our support and commitment for climate action. We also acknowledge the contributions from other sectors towards the global action to address climate change, for example from the international aviation sector. Singapore has volunteered to participate in the pilot phase of the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) under ICAO.

Singapore works closely with other countries and institutions to tackle climate change. We regularly share our experiences, best practices and technical knowledge on climate change and green growth issues with other countries at international conferences and technical cooperation programmes. For example, Singapore hosts the biennial World Cities Summit, Clean Enviro Summit, Singapore Green Building Week, the Singapore International Water Week and the Singapore International Energy Week. These platforms gather policy makers, practitioners and stakeholders in city planning, water and energy management to examine urban challenges, identify shared solutions and share best practices. Under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, we have trained almost 11,000 developing country officials on clean energy, emissions reductions and broader sustainability and environmental issues. We will deepen such contributions to help fellow developing countries implement the Paris Agreement.

We will continue to collaborate with international research hubs to push the envelope in several low-carbon scientific and engineering disciplines, and leverage Singapore as a test-bedding hub for innovative solutions. Some international research and innovation hubs in Singapore include the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), and the Cambridge Centre for Carbon Reduction in Chemical Technology (C4T).

 


Varghese Mathews

Verghese Mathews is Singapore’s High Commissioner to the Republic of Fiji and concurrently Ambassador to the Pacific Islands Forum, resident in Singapore. He is a Senior Fellow at the MFA Diplomatic Academy, a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Member of the Advisory Board of the International Business Chamber of Cambodia, and a Member of the Malawi Advisory Committee on Economics. Mr. Mathews joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in May 1969.


The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

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Overcoming the Challenges Facing Hawaii Nonprofits – Lisa Maruyama

Hawaii has a large network of nonprofit organizations spread across the state. However, nonprofits on the outer islands often lack the resources, networks, and exposure of those on Oahu. Cheryl Walsh interviews Lisa Maruyama, President and CEO of the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations, about the challenges facing nonprofits on the outer islands.


Could you please provide our members with a snapshot of the nonprofit sector in Hawaii?  What are some of the core issues and focus groups that are being served by nonprofits across the state? In what ways do they differ from the nonprofits on the mainland?

In 2015, there were just over 6,000 charitable nonprofit organizations in Hawai`i. These organizations have an IRS 501(c)(3) tax-exempt designation for their critical work in the areas of health and human service, environmental stewardship; the arts and cultural enrichment; education; animals, advocacy, good government and other essential services for public and community benefit. Hawaii nonprofits are varied in size, mission, geography, and business model. Collectively, they work toward a better future for everyone, from the keiki to the kupuna.

Nonprofit services in Hawaii may be unique as compared to other communities in the Continental U.S., in the perpetuation of the host Native Hawaiian culture and language, and in the preservation issues particular to the only island state in the union. In that big industry does not exist in Hawaii, our economic landscape is vastly different from other large cities in the U.S. This impacts charitable giving to nonprofits in Hawaii. The cost of living in Hawaii is very high, rivaling only those big cities of San Francisco, New York City and Washington DC, making it challenging for lower and middle income families to thrive in the islands, and subsequently increasing demand for nonprofit safety net services.

The mission of the Hawai‘i Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations (HANO) is “to unite and strengthen the nonprofit sector as a collective force to improve the quality of life in Hawaii.”  That said, Hawaii is an archipelago. And, your clients are scattered across the island chain. Given this physical reality, what are some of the obstacles that you face when trying to unite nonprofits across the state as a collective force? And, to what extent have you been able to overcome these challenges?

Since our inception 10 years ago, all of our communications have been electronic to allow for equal access. Much of our educational content is on our website; also accessible by anyone, anywhere. Our board of directors is made up of representatives from each island so that we can remain in touch with the needs of communities on each island. When physically on each island, we will occasionally conduct listening sessions to keep apprised of the issues. We also conduct occasional surveys to better understand these needs. Additionally, we have on-island partners that help us gather and disseminate information.

Despite these initiatives, we still encounter challenges in being a truly statewide organization. The needs of nonprofits on other islands are also varied by island and by community, which make it hard to serve these organizations with our own limited capacity. Also, if we are not on each island frequently, maintaining our relationships with our partners is difficult.

Economically, Oahu is the dominant island in Hawaii. How does this impact the work of nonprofits on Oahu? The neighbor islands? In general, do you think that businesses, foundations, and government agencies headquartered on Oahu do enough to support nonprofits headquartered on the neighbor islands?

Of the total number of charitable nonprofits in the State of Hawaii, 65% are on Oahu; 17% are on Hawaii Island; 12% are on Maui, 5% are on Kauai; .4% are on Lana`i; and .2% are on Molokai. With two-thirds of all nonprofits on Oahu, there is always a danger of a predominant amount of resources being distributed to that island. Nonprofits generally do not allocate enough resources to their neighbor island operations, nor do they have the proper technology to facilitate enhanced communications.

Foundations and government entities do also admit to a lack of appropriate resources being disseminated to the neighbor islands. Public policies often don’t support equal distribution. For two years in a row, there were attempts by community advocates to ask the Hawaii State Legislature for increased funds for public testimony by video conferencing and live stream coverage of hearings, to provide better access by neighbor islands to the political process. These requests were denied both years.

While there could always be more dollars going toward these islands, it has been encouraging to see island-specific funds established by trusts and foundations in Hawaii. KTA Superstores, Big Island Candies, and other corporations provide the majority of their support to Hawaii Island nonprofits and other community strengthening organizations. Alexander and Baldwin and the Baldwin Family Foundation provide support to Maui and Maui County. G. N. Wilcox Trust, Elsie Wilcox Foundation and the Annie Sinclair Knudsen Fund all provide support to Kauai only. Oracle Corporation CEO Larry Ellison created a company called Pulama Lanai that has been supportive of infrastructure development and community strengthening on Lanai.

A piece published in a Harvard Business School newsletter Working Knowledge suggests that many nonprofits believe that they must grow big before they can achieve significant social impact.  However, the article’s author, a HBS Professor, says that the research suggests that a more powerful lever to increase a nonprofit social impact might be to focus on building network relationships.  Do you agree or disagree with this theory?  And, to what extent do you think nonprofits on the neighbor islands have taken advantage of social network technologies to overcome the challenges that they face?

I would argue that small, grassroots, agile nonprofits can have tremendous impact in their communities, and sometimes with more refinement and nuance than a large multi-million dollar nonprofit with branches on each island. Often, we see the larger nonprofits wishing to partner with these community-based, smaller nonprofits for greater customization of their services.

I agree that networks provide a more facile, agile way to leverage resources if economies of scale can be realized by the collective power of the network. For this to happen, the networks formed would need to be extremely well organized. This is not often the case.

Networks, and especially if managed by a third party intermediary, are also helpful to allow network participants to see the larger social issue that needs to be addressed. Many times, these nonprofits work with their heads down on very narrow missions, not ever perceiving the larger landscape. Networks conceivably could help to coordinate, streamline and focus services on true community needs.

On Maui, there is already a well-organized group called the Maui Nonprofit Executive Directors Association (MNPDA) that is longstanding and robust in membership. The group has elected leadership, paying members and monthly meetings. The group benefits from information sharing and co-learning, but the greater impact of meeting missions as a means for collective impact does not seem to be an outcome of the group. However, if there is an advocacy threat of some kind, particular to their existence and identity as Maui-based nonprofits, this body is organized and has the appropriate decision making mechanisms in place to respond as a group.

There is a fledgling group of executive directors on Oahu, but this is largely a Honolulu-centric, very informally organized group of about 20 executive directors. The intent of this group is more social in nature, than any formalized programmatic or advocacy agenda.

I do not see evidence of other forms of organization on any of the other island, and from my limited perspective where I sit. There may be more informal regional networks that I am not aware of.

In general, I do not think that nonprofits on neighbor islands maximize technology to leverage connectivity and resources within their island communities. Sometimes, a convener or a facilitator entity from those communities is needed to forge ties, broker relationships and provide leadership as an objective third party.

In terms of operations capacity, human resources for staffing, grant writing, fundraising and general accounting are important assets for nonprofits. Yet, nonprofits in remote locations often do not have the staff or funding to hire full time to fulfill these duties. Are there any simple fixes for this problem? If not, do you think that foundations should make it a priority to provide nonprofits on the neighbor islands with shared human resources to boost their operations capacity?

Pooled back office and fiscal sponsorship mechanisms have been desired for many years, particularly by neighbor island nonprofits. Unfortunately, past attempts to build these programs, particularly on Oahu, have failed. The liability and cost assumed by the coordinating entity is high. Nonprofits seeking these services tend to be smaller in budget. Consequently, fees charged to these clients are minimal. As such, the business model has been challenging, making the coordinating role unattractive to take on.

To my knowledge, existing models that have succeeded are the Kohala Center and the North Kohala Community Resource Center on Hawaii Island and the Tri-Isle Resource Conservation and Development on Maui. Of interest is that the successful models do exist on neighbor islands.

Having said that, there is still a tremendous need for such services on each island. There is not enough expertise on each island, including Oahu, particularly in the areas of accounting and law, making some form of consolidation, and resource pooling very needed and attractive.

 


Román Oyarzun Marchesi

Lisa Maruyama is President and CEO of the Hawaii Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations in Honolulu, Hawaii.


The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

Protecting Pacific Natural Resources, Peace and Security in a Changing Climate – Tim Groser

In 2015-2016, several initiatives have bolstered the U.S.-New Zealand relationship, including modernization of defense ties and cooperation on transnational issues like action on climate change and protection of the ocean. In addition, the Obama Administration has heralded the conclusion of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement as its primary economic platform for engagement and growth in the Asia-Pacific policy re-balance. To examine recent key events and aspects of the U.S.-New Zealand relationship, Genevieve Neilson, Pacific Island Security Scholar, interviews New Zealand Ambassador to the United States Tim Groser. Appointed in January 2016, Ambassador Groser has regularly drawn from his expertise as the former Minister of Trade and Minister Responsible for Climate Change Issues.


As Minister, you played a central role in several significant achievements, such as the finalization of New Zealand’s free trade agreement with South Korea, conclusion of Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement negotiations, and securing the Paris Climate Agreement. After settling in to life in Washington, what are your priorities as Ambassador in the coming months?

To begin with, paradoxically, my focus was dominated by the Paris climate change agreement and TPP; as a former Minister I have a unique position in both these areas. I have had to avoid becoming involved in internal US politics on these issues, but put forward the substance of the case as the New Zealand Government’s Ambassador in Washington.

With time, I have begun to reacquaint myself with the defence and security elements to the relationship and enhancements to the scientific and innovative sectors. It has been pleasing to see in my time as Ambassador the announcement of a 15-year modernisation plan worth nearly $20 billion to ensure the New Zealand Defence Force has the capabilities it needs to meet the country’s security and defence challenges. Demonstrating New Zealand’s willingness to share the burden of international peace and security is an important part of our relationship here.

Prior to the signing of the Paris Agreement in April, the Royal Society of New Zealand released a report detailing the impacts of climate change for New Zealand. What has been the New Zealand Government’s response to the report?

The report observes that New Zealand is strongly dependent upon international connections and that the way other countries respond to climate change will influence New Zealand’s international trade relationships. This is something that I followed closely in my former capacities as Minister for Trade and for International Climate Change Negotiations. It is important to me that these debates are informed by sound economics, and a real understanding about the carbon cycle. Otherwise, real damage can be done by junk concepts such as “food miles”. Research has shown that New Zealand’s mild climate, greater efficiency, and availability of electricity that is over 90% renewable leads to a very low carbon footprint for its food production, and the amount of carbon emitted by shipping product halfway across the world is about the same as that emitted by driving between the supermarket and one’s home. There is an opportunity for New Zealand agriculture to tell this story as consumers become more conscious of climate change impacts.

Because the country is so interconnected with the international economy, the Royal Society of New Zealand report states that “New Zealand cannot chart its response to climate change based on impacts in New Zealand alone.” Since your time as Minister Responsible for Climate Change Issues, what have been some highlights of the New Zealand Government’s work with other countries in this area? How do you see international cooperation reducing the impact of climate change on New Zealand?

As a resource dependent and export dependent economy, New Zealand needs an effective global response to climate change.

The Paris agreement last December was an historic step forward and serves New Zealand’s interests well. It was the first truly global agreement on climate change. All countries are committing to take ambitious action. We can’t underestimate the significance of 185 countries making emission reduction pledges over the course of this year. The Paris Agreement banks these. While they collectively won’t solve global warming in one hit, the new agreement sets up a process for regular, 5 yearly, updates. This sets the world on a clear pathway to a lower-carbon future.

New Zealand’s 2030 target, to reduce emissions to 30 percent below 2005 levels, is a strong contribution to this global effort. At the Paris Conference, Prime Minister Key announced New Zealand would provide up to $200m in climate finance, particularly for Pacific Island countries, over the next four years.

Since 2013, we have been working closely with Pacific Island countries as they transition to renewable sources of energy. At the latest Pacific Energy Conference in Auckland in June, donors committed more than $NZ 1 billion to renewable energy projects in the Pacific. This investment will support Polynesia to achieve more than 50% renewable energy by 2024, provide access to electricity for an estimated 1 million people in Melanesia and support other countries in the Pacific to double their renewable energy generation.

Of conservation efforts, the creation of marine sanctuaries, reserves and national monuments are an essential method to restore fisheries and protect local industries in the United States and across the Pacific. Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key announced significant, new marine reserves. How has the New Zealand Government engaged with locally impacted parties to decide on the scope its conservation efforts?

Prime Minister Key’s announcement last year of the creation of the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will lead to one of the world’s largest and most significant fully protected areas. It includes the second deepest ocean trench at over 10 kilometres and an arc of 30 underwater volcanoes, the largest anywhere on earth. It is home to six million seabirds of 39 different species, over 150 species of fish, 35 species of whales and dolphins, three species of sea turtles, and many other marine species like corals, shellfish and crabs unique to the area.

We continue to see news stories where the ‘largest’ or ‘one of the largest’ marine reserves and sanctuaries are announced, for example in Palau, Chile, and New Zealand. Why do you think governments have embraced policies that institute ever-larger marine reserves?

Oceans are the new frontier for environmental protection. They make up 72 per cent of the globe and are home to half of the world’s species, but currently only two per cent is protected. There is increased pressure from over-fishing, mining and pollution. Just as earlier New Zealanders set aside significant areas of our land in National Parks, we need to protect special areas of our sea like the pristine ocean around the Kermadec Islands.

New Zealand is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and a party to the Convention on Biological Diversity. This means we have obligations to protect and preserve our marine environment. Under the Convention on Biological Diversity, we have committed to having 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas conserved by 2020. The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary contributes to these targets. New Zealand currently has 9.7 per cent of our territorial sea fully protected, but no full protection in our EEZ. The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will mean 15 per cent of New Zealand’s ocean environment will be fully protected.

In the past year, Pacific island countries have faced a number of devastating storms and damaging floods, including Cyclone Winston in Fiji and Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu. El Nino is taking a toll on Palau and other Pacific states, causing water shortages. What has been the New Zealand Government’s strategy in aiding its Pacific neighbors in the face of extreme weather events? Does the New Zealand Government have any plans to modify its approach, such as concentrating more on preventative, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation or humanitarian response efforts?

Disaster Risk Management, preventative measures, and humanitarian responses are significant parts of the New Zealand Defence Forces’ thinking and planning.

The New Zealand Government engaged extensively with neighbours in the south-west Pacific ahead of last summer’s El Nino weather event, with a particular focus on preparedness for forecast drought and water shortages. The New Zealand Defence Force’s response to Cyclone Winston in Fiji was one of our biggest peacetime deployments to the Pacific, with close to 500 personnel, two ships and six aircraft, involved in delivering hundreds of tonnes of critical aid.

The New Zealand Government has committed more than $15 million for relief and recovery activities to date. The reconstruction phase of New Zealand’s support to Fiji will focus on rebuilding schools, evacuation centres and medical facilities, as well as efforts to stimulate the local economy.

In an interview last year, Prime Minister John Key alluded to the idea that you were selected to be the next Ambassador to the United States in order to support U.S. ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. From your perspective, what is the current status of the TPP, and how has becoming Ambassador changed the role you’re playing in supporting it?

The current status of TPP is that it awaits ratification by the 12 member countries. This is a complex undertaking in every country, but as Ambassador to the United States my focus is on events in Washington. My role is to make the case for TPP as the mechanism for sustained US engagement in the Asia-Pacific, and for setting the rules of the road in the 21st century.

It’s certainly the case that the environment on trade in the United States is very complicated, with the two major Presidential candidates opposed to the deal in its current form. What I have found, though, is a real understanding in Washington of the risks to the United States’ economic and strategic future in the Asia Pacific if it fails to ratify the agreement. I am confident the United States will make the right decision, and my job is to continue to argue for the reasons why.

 


Tim Groser

Tim Groser was appointed New Zealand Ambassador to the United States in January 2016. He is also New Zealand’s Special Envoy to the Pacific Alliance. In 2005, Mr. Groser was elected to Parliament and from 2008 to 2015 was cabinet minister, most recently as Minister of Trade and Minister Responsible for Climate Change Issues. From 2002-2005 he was New Zealand’s Ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Chair of Agriculture Negotiations for the WTO. He also served as Ambassador to Indonesia from 1994-1997.


The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

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Spain’s Commitment to Responsible Fisheries and Sustainable Development – Román Oyarzun Marchesi

On June 5, 2016, the Port State Measures Agreement came into force, providing the international community with a valuable mechanism to combat illegal fishing and pursue the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The Government of Spain is an advocate for responsible fisheries policies, including its international engagement through the United Nations, maintenance of its own Vessel Monitoring System and sharing best practices. To further examine Spain’s role in combating international Illegal, Unreported and Undocumented (IUU) fishing and promoting sustainable development in the Pacific, Genevieve Neilson, Pacific Island Security Scholar, interviews Ambassador Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, H.E. Mr. Román Oyarzun Marchesi.


In October 2015, Spain hosted a celebration for the 20th anniversary of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The event goal was to “foster a debate on the need to adopt a future strategy that would guarantee the sustainability of fisheries.” Yet recently in February 2016, the United States added momentum to global efforts targeting illegal fishing by ratifying the Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing. Why are the Code of Conduct and the Port States agreement important to Spain? What are the next steps for these agreements?

Ending with the scourge of Illegal, Unreported and Undocumented fishing is a priority for the Government of Spain. Its adverse impacts on the conservation and management of fishery resources are unacceptable. Moreover, it represents an unfair competition of those operators that do not follow the rules. This is why already in 2002, Spain was one of the first countries to pass its National Action Plan against the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, within the framework established one year before by the FAO.

The fight against IUU requires a joint effort among all actors involved. Those who work outside the law do not respect borders neither national efforts to combat their activities, therefore they have to be confronted with all means at our disposal.

In this regard, the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries has supposed an unprecedented boost for the sustainability of the fisheries and indeed, we are proud to have hosted in Vigo, Spain, its 20th anniversary. It is the recognition of the global community of the good practices and prestige of the Spanish sector.

The strength of this Code of Conduct is that it comes after the consensus among Member States, Intergovernmental Organization, Private Sector and specialized non-governmental Organizations. Despite the fact that this is not legally binding, it is deemed an effective and indispensable tool to ensure the contribution of sustainable fisheries to poverty eradication, sustained economic growth, food security or creation of jobs among many other benefits.

We welcome the recent entry into force of the Port State Agreement. It is the first binding international treaty focused specifically on illicit fishing and constitutes a milestone in the fight against IUU.

What has Spain learned over the last two decades with the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries that it can share with the United States regarding sustainable fisheries?

The Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries has proved itself an essential tool to increase the awareness of Member States on the need to ensure availability of resources for present and future generations. It stresses the importance of applying a precautionary approach in conservation, management and exploitation of living resources of the sea in order to protect and preserve the aquatic environment. It also foster the cooperation between all parties at all levels including sub-regional, regional and global level. Furthermore, it contributes to the promotion and planning of responsible fisheries, and to have a legal and institutional framework that encourage all necessary measures regarding the conservation and the long-term sustainable use of fisheries resources, based on the most accurate scientific data available.

Spain cooperates closely with United States in various working groups at the United Nations and within Regional Fishing Organizations. When it comes to sustainable fisheries, we share same objectives and we know that only if we manage to join our efforts we will be able to succeed in this endeavor.

Following on from its fisheries policies, how does Spain manage its own national fishing fleet to ensure it has “the highest standards of monitoring and compliance in the world”? In what ways does Spain cooperate with international actors to maintain high standards?

Spain was the first Member State of the European Union to put in place a system of verification of private licenses. The largest number of countries adopting this system, the most effective tool will it be. Our country is also a pioneer when it comes to initiate infringement procedures to nationals enlisted in third country vessels, which are included in IUU lists. We work towards avoiding any space for impunity to those companies related directly or indirectly with vessels identified for its activities of IUU Fishing. Those measures are also accompanied by strict monitoring of imports control in order to ensure that the catch, regardless its origin has been obtain observing all rules applicable.

Our fishing activity is based on the best scientific knowledge available; this management ensure[s] the best efficiency in the use of the resources in the long term and guarantee[s] the strict enforcement of the control standards.

In this regard, it is necessary to highlight our Vessel Monitoring System. Through this state of the art mechanism, Spain has real time information on the location of its vessels, 24 hours a day. Together with the Electronic Reporting System that notifies its activity on a daily basis, constitutes the cornerstone of our control scheme.

Spain actively cooperates and shares its knowledge with other Member States and International organizations. Many of them come to our country to learn about our Monitoring System. On the multilateral scene, we support both technically and financially the Global Record of Fishing Vessels launched by the FAO.

In September 2014 and in collaboration with Italy, Luxembourg and Austria, Spain signed memorandums of understanding with Pacific Small Island Developing States to support cooperation projects funded by Spain and the UNDP Fund. These projects are aimed at attaining sustainable development goals. The countries engaged in MOUs with Spain include Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. What are some of your most valued or successful programs with these SIDs countries? For Spain, how has the signing of the MOU opened up avenues to promote Spanish foreign policy in the Pacific?

The signing of the MOU was a strong signal on our side that we consider our relations with the PSIDS as strategic and geared towards the long-term. Spain has a long history in the Pacific, dating back to the XV century, but it is true that since the late XIX century our presence in the region had waned. With the negotiating and signing of the MOU we wanted to signal that we are back…and we are back to stay. For that reason, we have devised some instruments to channel our renewed interest in the region. One, as said, is our participation in the MOU led by Italy, where Spain is contributing with 1 million US $. The countries that are at the moment benefiting from the Spanish contribution are Micronesia, Tonga and Vanuatu. Spain also opened up our recently created SDG Fund to projects presented by the PSIDS. Actually, three countries from the region- Vanuatu, Fiji and Samoa- are already benefiting from financing from the SDG Fund aimed at fostering the participation of youth in sustainable economic activities.

Most of Spain’s engagements with Pacific Island leaders takes place through the United Nations in New York. How often do you engage with the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) caucus at the United Nations? What are the benefits of engaging with the PSIDS for Spain?

We see our relations with the PSIDS as mutually beneficial. We also care about climate change and pursue the same sustainable development goals, though we are also aware of their particular vulnerabilities. We also think that Spain´s experience in a number of areas, like renewable energies, can be valuable to the PSIDS. As a token of our good relations with the PSIDS and of Spain´s interest and engagement in matters that are of particular relevance to them, we actively participated in the process that led to the III UN Conference on SIDS held in Samoa in September, 2014. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation attended the Conference and co-chaired the Interactive Dialogue on Climate Change and Disaster´s Mitigation. Since then, we have strengthen[ed] our relationship by becoming members of the Post-Forum Dialogue. Our Secretary of State for Foreign Policy has attended the 45th and 46th session of the Pacific Island Forum held in Palau and Papua New Guinea respectively. This Forum constitutes a unique opportunity to exchange and reinforce our partnership with Pacific SIDS.

Jesus Garcia, Secretary of State for Development of Spain, said at the UNSC Open Debate last July that the post-2015 agenda encouraged the international community to acknowledge the inter-connectedness between security and sustainable development. What challenges to international peace does Spain seek to address that are posed by climate change?

Climate Change is one of the greatest challenges of our time. All countries, but particularly developing countries, are vulnerable and are already experiencing increased impacts including persistent drought and extreme weather events, sea level rise, coastal erosion and ocean acidification, further threatening food security and efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development.

We know that, in particular, it is a matter of survival for many Small Island States as well as the low-lying coastal territories of numerous States, which are currently facing serious threats of permanent inundation from sea-level rise.

Since it is a global threat, we consider appropriate to deal with these issues from an international perspective. In this sense, we have to explore all means at our disposal, including today’s discussion, on the possible role of the Security Council in its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security.

This is why last year, together with the Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations, we convened an Arria-formula meeting of the Security Council on the role of Climate Change as a threat multiplier for Global Security. The aim of the meeting was to better identify the inter-connected threats to international peace and security related to Climate Change.

Without prejudice to the responsibilities conferred upon the UN General Assembly regarding Sustainable Development and Climate Change, it is necessary to explore and utilize all existing means at our disposal, including further discussion on the possible role of the Security Council over these issues as part of its primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security. The empowering of a preventive approach and the improvement of the response capacity are essential aspects to confront the new threats to global security.

 


Román Oyarzun Marchesi

Román Oyarzun Marchesi has been Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations since January 2014. Until this appointment, Mr. Oyarzun served as Ambassador to Argentina since 2012, before which he was Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York from 2008 to 2012. He holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from Deusto University and a Master in International Relations from the Diplomatic School.


The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

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Improving K-5 Education on the Big Island – Kimberly Castro

Kimberly Castro is the President of the Parent, Teacher, and Student Association (PTSA) of Waikoloa in Waikoloa, Hawaii.


Could you provide a snapshot of K-5 education in Hawaii, in general, and on the Big Island specifically?

Like many schools on the mainland, Hawaii has implemented Common Core Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics using a state adopted curriculum called Wonders and Stepping Stones Math. Students are monitored regularly for progress using STAR Universal screener, as well as annual Smarter Balance Assessments beginning in 3rd grade. Teachers are rated annually using the Effective Educator System which encourages highly qualified teachers in all classrooms.

On the Big Island, we have an ethnically and culturally diverse population. So, our teachers are trained to utilize a variety of strategies to best meet all students’ needs. Almost 15% of our students at the Waikoloa Elementary & Middle School are classified as English-Language Learners. These are students who are unable to communicate and fluently learn in English. 10% of our students are currently classified as Special Education. And another 9% were formerly classified as Special Education and are monitored. To help teachers reach ALL students, our administration therefore requires all teachers to take Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) training, which gives them techniques to use in the classroom to communicate effectively to students with English language barriers. Elementary grade level teacher data teams also meet weekly to assess data and implement intervention strategies to close the achievement gap.

There is a reported shortage of teachers statewide. Why? How does this shortage affect the Big Island verses Oahu?

There are many significant obstacles that affect teacher shortages in Hawaii. The school districts in our state serve 180,000 students at 290 schools. And, Hawaii Department of Education (HIDOE) will need to fill 1000 teacher vacancies for the 2016-17 school year across the state. Our Hawaii Island will have 82 of those vacancies of which 39 are specialized education. There are a limited number of Special Education (SPED) teachers nationwide. How do we recruit those specialized teachers to our island? Where do we even begin?

First, let’s get right to a major issue and discuss the average teacher’s salary. A first year teacher with a Bachelor’s degree and a Hawaii teaching license will have a beginning salary of $46,601. Let’s combine that knowledge with the fact that Hawaii is the priciest state in the nation to buy a home. Throw in salary, cost of living, home prices, electricity, food, gas, and the mix of culture shock plus thousands of miles of ocean between our teachers and their families, and this sets our teachers up for short longevity in their Hawaii teaching careers.

Unfortunately, our local college teacher education programs aren’t able to produce enough graduates for our needs in Hawaii. The remote islands, specifically our Big Island, feels the strain of this shortage more than Oahu. A few years ago our HIDOE was offering $6000 sign-on bonuses for teachers to work on the Big Island, specifically Kau, Keaau, Pahoa areas. These were considered low-performing / high poverty schools.

At Waikoloa Elementary and Middle School our Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA) has chosen to focus on the positive. We know that retention is the key. There is hope. Every teacher matters. We celebrate the amazing and dedicated teachers every day and just had a special week-long celebration May 2-6 for Teacher Appreciation Week.

Overall, what is the state of the facilities? What are there major challenges across the state? And, are there any unique challenges that you face on the Big Island?

While the average age of most school buildings on Hawaii are 65 years old, Waikoloa boasts fairly new facilities, recently celebrating our 20 year anniversary. There have been several expansions over the past 20 years to include adding a Middle School so that we could service K-8 students. Our challenge is adding classroom space quickly enough to meet the growing community needs.

Since we are a single-district jurisdiction, with offices headquartered on Oahu, it can be difficult to get our needs in front of the HIDOE where monthly meetings are held. We are still bursting at the seams. But, a recent letter writing campaign to our Senators and Congressional Representatives, spearheaded by the Waikoloa SCC (School Community Council) and supported by the PTSA, have culminated in an $11M award to expand our Middle School buildings to include two state of the art science classrooms, an art classroom, and other rooms and offices, to be completed during 2017-18 school year. So, even though we are challenged by being “remote,” we know that we can have a voice when we work together toward a common goal.

Air conditioning seems to be a major problem in elementary schools across the state. Is it a problem at your school? How does the lack of air conditioning affect students, and most importantly, does it undermine their test scores?

The heat abatement issue is certainly a ‘hot’ topic across the state. So much so that Gov. David Ige signed a bill last week that would allocate 100 million to cool Hawaii’s public schools. Unfortunately that money can only go so far. The estimated cost for all Hawaii public schools to have complete AC systems is 1.7 billion. 33 schools have been targeted as high priority to decrease classroom temps to 76 degrees. Of the 11,806 public school classrooms, only 38% currently have AC in place.

In the summer months classroom temperatures can reach highs of 84 to 100 degrees. These conditions can cause nausea, vomiting, heat exhaustion, muscle aches and dehydration for students and teachers. Higher temperatures can also influence neurotransmitters in the brain affecting serotonin levels which can lead to aggressive behavior. Heat definitely undermines test scores with solid proof that the brain does not function well in hot weather. Heat significantly impacts cognition and causes lower intellectual skills. Studies show that optimal learning temperatures are 68-74 degrees, with performance in Math and Reading compromised when the learning environment rose above 74 degrees.

At Waikoloa School, only 14 of our 41 classrooms have AC and currently we are not on the priority list set by the HIDOE. The Waikoloa School PTSA has started a ‘Cool Our Keiki’ program to address the heat abatement challenges at our school. The biggest expense we face is upgrading the electrical infrastructure that is needed to avoid blown circuits or potential fire hazards. It is our hope that with fundraising, grants and donations we can get AC into several more classrooms by the end of this calendar year.

Structured and unstructured play is an important part of K-5 education. How are the physical education and recess resources at your school? What improvements are needed?

Hawaii mandates 30 minutes of Physical Education (PE) per week in grades K-6, and requires recess daily. All required PE classes follow the Hawaii Content and Performance Standards. Our students have one PE class per week. As with most schools the PE equipment has been well-loved and the supplies dwindle as the school year comes to a close. There’s no gymnasium location for PE and all the classes are held outside. Fortunately, it rarely rains in Waikoloa.

Right now, our biggest problem is that our playgrounds desperately need updating. Wood chips, steel rebar, and children at play do not make a safe combination. I’ve been told that removing splinters is a daily routine for our health aid. Our PTSA has been working closely with our principal and Monica Kaui Baron from the HIDOE to come to an agreement to update our Kindergarten playground. Cost is an issue and we’re actively fundraising (have been for years) to make this dream a reality. The HIDOE has now informed us that we need to trim another $10,000 off the quote that we obtained if we want the playground updated.

 


Kimberly Castro is the President of the Parent, Teacher, and Student Association (PTSA) of Waikoloa.


The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

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Promoting Student Innovation in Science and Technology – Viet Tung Dao

This month, the Islands Society is proud to recognize Viet Tung Dao as Local Emerging Leader for excellence in science and technology. As a Hawaii Preparatory Academy junior, Viet Tung Dao received the Special Innovation Prize at the Junior/Senior High School Science Idea Competition at the Tsukuba Science Edge 2016. His project was “Brainwave Technology for Real-Time Driver Drowsiness Detection.” The competition, held March 25 and 26 in Japan, included 60 students from schools throughout Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States competing through presentations showcasing original research and technology ideas. Managing Director of the Pacific Islands Society, Keiko Ono, spoke with Dao about his achievements and aspirations which highlight the value of young people pursuing STEM subjects in Hawaii and the U.S. Pacific Territories.

How did your interest in science begin?

I have had a strong interest in science, especially Physics, since an early age. I really like Physics, it teaches me many useful lessons about things that happen around me. I believe these lessons will become important knowledge that I can apply in my work in the future.

Can you tell us about your winning project and how you came up with the idea?

My project “Brainwave Technology for Real-time Driver Drowsiness Detection” is to develop a system that connects a EEG (Electroencephalogram) headset to smartphone through Bluetooth. This EEG headset will record driver’s brain signals, and when the driver starts feeling drowsy his phone will ring and keep them awake. Moreover, the phone can turn on special music that makes them stay awake; with GPS connection, it can suggest the nearest coffee shop.
Drowsiness is one of the major causes of traffic accidents. In the U.S., drowsy driving is responsible for 100.000 crashes, including 6.000 fatal ones each year. Therefore, I wanted to do this project to save the lives of many people in the U.S, and other countries as well.

What were your thoughts entering the Tsukuba Science Edge event? Has your participation affected your future plans?

It was such an honor to participate and present my project at Tsukuba Science Edge. Tsukuba Science Edge is a big science event where many good projects from around the world were presented. Approximately 100 researchers and industry leaders serve as judges for the event, including Dr. Reona Ezaki. Since it was my first time presenting my project in front of a crowd in a science fair and I believe it was a good experience for me. I also had an opportunity to learn about other students’ projects and made new friends from different countries. Winning “The Innovation Special Prize” award, I am more confident about my independent project. I believe it will be easier for me to intern in a big technology company in the future.

Being chosen by a panel of judges including Dr. Reona Leo Ezaki, a former winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics, at the age of 17 is a testament to your talent. Closer to home, your project advisor Dr. Bill Wecking said that ‘this is the sort of work from students that makes me optimistic about the future’. In what ways do you think young people in Hawaii should be encouraged to create initiatives such as yours?

In my opinion, creating and doing a science project is not that hard. There are many problems that we are facing today, such as global warming, traffic accidents, drug/alcohol abuse, etc. We need to brainstorm and list all the solutions for these problems; then we choose the best one that can solve the problems effectively with a low cost to make a project. The main question is whether the young students in Hawaii are ready to spend much time researching and experimenting – turning this into their passion – and have the willingness to finish it.

What do you think are the main barriers facing young students like yourself in developing more innovative solutions to solve the problems our communities face today? How do you think they can be solved or improved?

I think the most common problem that prevents young students from following their science dream is lack of facility. In order to do a deep research for a project, you need suitable equipment. In my case, because I need to do research on drivers’ brainwave, the tool I use is EPOC+, an EEG headset that can read the user’s brain signals. I know there aren’t many schools in Hawaii that can afford expensive equipment. I am very lucky to do my independent research at HPA Energy Lab, which is a huge building that has all facilities for different study areas. Moreover, to do an independent science project, besides researching on the internet, you should get help from an experienced teacher who has wide knowledge about the area you are studying and who can help you use the research equipment. I would like to thank Dr. Bill, Director of HPA Energy Lab and also my mentor, for guidance and support.

Do you have any innovative ideas you are currently developing which you’d like to develop in the future?

For now, I just want to focus on my driver drowsiness detection project. I may have some ideas to improve the project’s performance in the future.

Finally, what advice would you give to young students like yourself in Hawaii?

I would tell the young students in Hawaii that, “Doing a science project costs much time, so it would be better for you to be ready if you really want to do it. Sometimes, you may feel bored, but when you turn your project into your passion, into your goal, you will love the way you do experiments. You will honor the time you spend doing research, and you will have the willingness to make your project work perfectly.”

 


Local Emerging Leader
Local Emerging Leader

Viet Tung Dao is a junior at Hawaii Preparatory Academy. He received the Special Innovation Prize at the Junior/Senior High School Science Idea Competition at the Tsukuba Science Edge 2016.


The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

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Combating Childhood Malnourishment Around the World – Cristie Deyro

The Islands Society is pleased to recognize Dr. Cristie B. Deyro as the latest Southeast Asian Islands Local Female Leader. Dr. Deyro currently works as a Representative in the Bacolod Philippines Area for the Liahona Children’s Foundation (LCF). Her work helping thousands of malnourished children receive medical attention has been recognized internationally. Prior to her work with LCF, Dr. Deyro studied Medicine at the University of East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City. Throughout her career she has been a female leader in both the nonprofit and medical realm as she has dedicated thousands of hours to more than a dozen nonprofits. The Community Engagement Manager of the SE Asian Islands Society, Rebecca Oden, recently took a moment to sit down and speak with Dr. Deyro about her accomplishments in both sectors and how women can benefit from higher education.


Can you tell us about your path to where you are now?

I am a farmer’s daughter and studied in public school from first grade to college. After medical school, I worked as a community-health-worker for a nonprofit organization called LIKAS, which means Care For The Health of the People. I was also employed as a company physician for a commercial center and I did private medical practice with volunteer medical work in a home clinic called The S.M.A.L.L. Clinic.

What influenced you to become a doctor?

My father had dreamed of becoming a doctor and passed this dream on to his children. One sister became a dentist, another a pharmacist and I became a medical doctor.

How has being a women in the medical field been beneficial?

The natural caring and nurturing qualities of a woman has been a big help in the medical field. The ability to listen and explore feelings and being sensitive to the needs of others has allowed me to help many patients.

In contrast, can you tell us about some obstacles you have faced?

It has always been a challenge to get the right balance between practicing my profession and caring for my family, but my priority has always been family. Earning money as a doctor and obtaining further training has always taken a backseat to my family.

Tell us about your work helping to solve the issue of child malnourishment in the Philippines?

We screen children 6 months to 4 ½ years old using height and body weight. Those who qualify are given food supplements on a monthly basis until they are five years old

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization shows 33% of preschool aged children in the Philippines are underweight for their age. How does this affect them long term?

The age from birth to 5 years is the critical stage for brain development so prolonged malnutrition at this age group would adversely affect their chances of leading full, productive lives as adults.

What do you think could be done to help encourage women in the Philippines to enter into both the nonprofit and medical field?

Formal education in primary and secondary schools should include an immersion/exposure to local communities to help increase women’s awareness of the social conditions surrounding them. Women in the community should be engaged in conversations/consultations to motivate them to be involved.

What advice would you give women in the Philippines looking to pursue a higher education?

Pursue an education that will harness your personal interests and talents. It is possible to work and study and have a family at the same time.

 


Cristie B. Deyro
Local Female Leader

Dr. Cristie B. Deyro is a Representative in the Bacolod Philippines Area for the Liahona Children’s Foundation.


The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

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Meeting the Needs of Latinos on Hilton Head Island – Eric Esquivel

Eric Esquivel is the president, publisher and managing partner of La Isla Magazine. Based on Hilton Head Island, La Isla is a national award-winning publication whose work helps Latinos integrate into American society, promotes cross-cultural awareness, and helps businesses increase their share of the local Hispanic market.


One of the guiding principles for Hilton Head Island Vision 2030 is “providing meaningful experiences that cherish our history, the arts, cultural diversity and enrich the lives of our residents and guests.” As publisher of La Isla Magazine, what does this guiding principle mean to you?

It means understanding the deep historical roots of Hilton Head and what we call the Lowcountry. If you don’t know the history, the complexities and who the players are, then you can’t move forward into the future. With that you develop the ability to understand the arts by understanding the diversity and who played that role in the arts.

I think the guiding principle is not only understanding it but also helping highlight the great diversity that doesn’t only exist culturally, but also on so many levels: the ecology, the history and the residents. What’s happening today, especially with mass development, if we don’t preserve and have guiding principles in all these factors we will lose that through the economic development and the drive to continue to do more business.

Currently, we not only have to know the guiding principle. We also have to speak to it and bring people together to understand each other. If we do not acknowledge the history, the arts, and cultural diversity we can’t enrich the lives of residents and guests because we don’t have a guiding principle behind it.

According to the 2010 Census data, the Hispanic or Latino population of Hilton Head Island makes up 15.8% of the population or 5,861 of the total 37,099 population. As the largest minority on Hilton Head Island, is enough being done to promote cultural diversity on Hilton Head Island? If not, what changes would you make?

I was the census chair for Beaufort and Jasper county in 2010. I’ll start off by saying that the 5,861 number is probably closer to 15,000. So, we don’t really understand how big our community truly is and its numbers. One of the reasons is that they do not indicate race as Latino or Hispanic on the census – and they’re supposed to defer to others – so that’s why there’s a high error rating.

I would say that while there are factors being done to promote cultural diversity, not enough is being done. Specific to Hispanics, we need more leadership and involvement civically and politically so we can move forward that recognition; not only culture diversity of the population but also of representation for the betterment of the Latino community as a whole and integration, common respect and understanding of what it means to be Latino or Hispanic-American in the deep South.

In many senses, there are two faces to Hilton Head, the one that serves our wealthy and tourists, and one that turns a blind-eye to our communities of needs. There needs to be more efforts no matter how hard the work is to engage the Latino community. You have to go to them and have to build the relationship before doing business.  Engagement is key because that engagement empowers them.  If you let them know what’s at stake, they will take ownership and be proud of it. They are a shadow workforce that has not been engaged and they are not being represented as well as they should be.

What role does the Latino community play in shaping the overall identity of Hilton Head Island?

We’re in the middle of it and that’s what so cool about it. It’s almost a message back to our Latinos, ‘here’s a soft piece of putty, what legacy and shape do we want to leave?’ The role is there to Latinos to shape the identity of Hilton Head. Serving as one of the founding members of what’s called the Santa Elena Foundation, we have proven that the first true settlement was not Plymouth Rock, but Santa Elena one hundred years before. I’ve used this as an example to create a sense of pride with the new Latinos saying we’ve got roots that go all the way back.

Where we are today, time will tell.  But my message to our Latino community is that the opportunity is there.  But, they have to be willing to take a risk, to step forward, and have their voice heard. To the non-Latinos, my message is to embrace what you don’t know, what’s different, because that what makes us stronger as a country of immigrants and will welcome and help the Latino shape their role and identity in the community. The sooner people feel a part of the community, the sooner they become more proactive to make the community better.

A recent article in the Island Packet highlighted the rapidly growing Latino population in Bluffton and the role that community organizations and religious groups are playing to meet their needs. Why are community organizations like these important to creating a strong community for everyone?

They are the foundation of our community, not just for Latinos but as support beams for integration for the people who don’t have the voice. Historically, without these organizations the new community’s success would not exist for immigrants. Community organizations like nonprofits, religious groups, and even businesses such our own and others are taking a risk by breaking the norm or going against the grain. There is no race, color, creed or religion in business; opportunity is opportunity. These organizations help reach down to the first generations and help them get established.

What is the purpose of the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition and what is your involvement with the organization?

When I came back to run La Isla, I knew the rule of journalism which was to tell the story and not be the story. But the stories I was telling weren’t okay with who I was, my religious values, my heart, my soul and the culture I loved.  My father is Hispanic and he was an immigrant who came here and was very successful. Seeing what was going on, I wasn’t okay telling the story. It wasn’t good for our community, our kids, our economy and our future. This is a place where I grew up and I had come back to make a career, but with a business representing Latinos. I wanted to not just talk the talk but walk the walk.

Because of what I saw happening locally, statewide, and nationally with very counter-intuitive and negative, discriminatory laws on local, county and state levels through grassroots, I helped found the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition and currently serve as co-chairman. Our roots go back to 2006 when Beaufort County tried to implement a copycat law of Hazleton, Pennsylvania. A Lawful Employment Ordinance put the burden of immigration enforcement on small business.  But the way they originally wrote the law and wanted to pass it was that anybody could call the county and report that they thought a certain business had someone illegal working there based on how they looked. In Hazleton, this was already happening. It brought a negative ambience with it to a community who depends on Latinos for a workforce.  People become deathly afraid to stand up for their rights and speak the truth.

Since then our mission has become to be a human and civil rights advocacy group and stop violations on local levels. We put on educational forums for Latinos on how to be better citizens.  We do citizen workshops, health fairs, rallies or protest prayer vigils.  On the flip side, we run voter registration, development and educational forums and speak to our extreme counterparts on immigration reform.  We also reach out to our opposites to education them and bring them closer. We have served, fought and defeated many local anti-immigration laws. We helped defeat the “show-me-your-papers” South Carolina Senate Bill 20; about 80% of that law. It’s in the law books as Lowcountry Immigration Coalition and plaintiffs versus governor Nikki Haley. We’re currently are part of the amicus brief  for the supreme court hearing, that started taking place on April 18th for the DACA and DAPA expansion hearings.

It has been reported that 20.7% of the Beaufort county Hispanic/Latino population is living below the state poverty rate. What needs to be done to decrease this percentage of those living under the poverty rate?

I think when they take these numbers it’s just a general study of everybody else. To fix this on the local level we need comprehensive immigration reform. We have a lot of people living in the shadows, that have chosen to live here even though they may have come legally but overstayed their visa or work permits. They feel life is still better here than their home countries. In many ways, it creates scenarios of a mild form of indentured servitude that the shadow world takes advantage of. We need more outreach and education and also we need to look at the unintended consequences of laws we are creating.

We need to get more proactive on how we welcome and embrace, and how we get new immigrants into the system and integrate them into our community instead of putting up laws and creating obstacles. The example I use now is DACA, which gives kids the ability to process in and look like a citizen two years at a time. The intent of it was was the Dream Act which would allow these kids to join the military or go to college, and the state of South Carolina created a piece of legislation that says if you’re DACA:  1) you have to pay out of state tuition and 2) if you’re DACA and you go study for a career that needs a state license, we’re not going to give it you. We have kids graduating with nursing degrees and other degrees and go find out they can’t use it in a state that has a shortage of labor and workforce. Ultimately these kids of Latino descent are going to be a product in our community one way or another. Do we want them to be successful or do we want them to be a drain on our community?   It starts at the state legislature; these state laws need to stop countering federal law.

In a Pew research poll conducted last fall, 58% of the Hispanic population characterize racism as a “big problem” in the United States. What can be done to create a more open and culturally sensitive environment here in the Lowcountry?

I think some of the things La Isla is doing is groundbreaking and I think we’re a role model for the state of South Carolina as a bilingual publication. Not because they need to learn English, but because isn’t it smart to help people who don’t know the language to know the laws and how to be a part of our community. We do more outreach to both families and adults, more interactions, for example our festivals that we do twice a year such as the  festival de Mayo and Latin music festival. We bring out around 8,000 people a festival; it’s about 60% Hispanic 40% non-Hispanic.  It’s an appreciation of the culture and a respect and celebration.

So, I think seeing that Hispanics are the fastest growing minority not only nationally and now South Carolina being the fastest growing emerging state, we need our leaders to get on board and be progressive in the sense that we’re welcoming and helping others. A lot is accomplished with our leadership, our outreach, infrastructure, logistics, and bilingual materials. If we’re not willing to reach a hand out and welcome and help integrate, we are postponing and prolonging the inevitable but making our situation worse. It has to be a partnership of public and private and it has to be scaled throughout a business and community along with our adults and youth.

Finally, what is your vision of Hilton Head Island in 2030. And, how do we get there?

I have a vision that it’s a beautiful island, a first class destination that understands how sensitive and balanced it is to not just serve the economically fortunate and tourist but also has a balance and importance of the people that serve that beautiful place with a respect and cultural diversity that exists here. My vision includes a belief that the kids of 2030 grow up color blind, but know the history we’ve had to fight for to pave the way to a new and different existence.  I want them to know  that it isn’t an issue what skin tone you have – that everyone should have an equal opportunity and that everyone has a voice in development and economics. When we can understand and do what’s right for all we will be so much stronger and will not be fighting unintended consequences whether its workforce or housing or everything else.  These are big issues that we have to deal with now. They’re not going away – we either deal with them now or they fester, and stay with us.

I therefore envision a place where all can be successful and fully integrated – where being Latino isn’t assumed that you’re Mexican or you’re illegal, but another part of our community. Also, that we’re holding very delicate and true that the history of those challenges – just like the people who came before us, the enslaved Africans – these examples should enable us to learn from them.   We don’t want to continue to commit the same errors so that when the next generation of immigrants comes, we know how to do this already and don’t make the same mistakes.


Eric Esquivel

Eric Esquivel is the president, publisher and managing partner of La Isla Magazine.


The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

Image Credit: George Lezenby via Flickr CC

Inspiring Children with Art in Charleston – Lisa Estes

This month, the Islands Society is proud to recognize Lisa Estes as our latest “Sea Islands Community Leader.’ Estes is the founding director of Art Goes There – a nonprofit that provides children with programs that enrich their participation in the arts. A Charleston, S.C. native, she graduated from University of South Carolina School of Law. Later, she opened Estes Law Firm, LLC, in Beaufort where she practiced until returning to Charleston in 2010. A life-long supporter of the arts, Estes has served and advised non-profit boards since 2001. James Carroll, Managing Director of the Sea Islands Society, therefore sat down with Lisa to learn more about Art Goes There and some of the challenges nonprofits face in the Lowcountry.

What motivated you to start Art Goes There?

“Art Goes There” promotes and creates connections among artistic, cultural, and educational collaborators to provide inspiring and challenging programs for children that broadens, deepens, and diversifies participation in the arts. I had spent many years representing nonprofits as an attorney and working for several non-profits. I had seen best practices and also how things can be improved in the inner workings of a non-profit organization. I wanted to be able to create a vehicle that would allow me and others to collaborate and connect to bring arts education to areas where programs don’t exist or are hard to maintain. I saw a need in McClellanville and Awendaw, S.C. and decided to use that area for a pilot program.

Why is it important for local communities to support art programs?

Arts programs help build strong economic communities. Charleston is a perfect example of a community that benefits from a rich artistic history. Additionally, the advantages of arts education have been routinely studied and proven to enhance educational programming. Students whose educational opportunities include art components routinely have lower dropout rates, score higher on standardized tests and have better overall educational experiences. Art programs opportunities, both in and out of the school setting, are especially crucial in rural and island areas where programs are irregular or non-existent.

From your point of view as a lawyer and as the director for your nonprofit, what are some of the challenges of running a nonprofit?

Nonprofits are very unique organizations and many people don’t understand the organizational model. As an attorney representing nonprofit organizations since 2001, I’ve helped organizational leaders to understand the responsibilities of their employees and board members. I’ve also worked for nonprofits and founded “Art Goes There,” so I have detailed knowledge of day-to-day best practices. I used all of these experiences to build “Art Goes There” as an organization that can withstand the many challenges nonprofits face. Funding is always a challenge and I see a lot of nonprofit leaders and boards that don’t understand the detail required to maintain a healthy and legally sound organization.

In the Lowcountry, nonprofits have access to many grants that provide basic services but not as many grants for long term capacity building. What are the other issues nonprofits are facing in the Lowcountry?

When founding “Art Goes There,” I focused on creating collaborative relationships. I was born and raised in Charleston. If you live here all your life, you get to know many people. Charleston’s population has changed but it has also added to the opportunities to connect and work together. Many nonprofits in the area work together but long term collaborative relationships could help to spread critical services. The Lowcountry has many nonprofits providing similar services to similar populations. Cross-collaborations are key for longevity.

Why do you feel it’s important for the Lowcountry to promote more women, minorities and young people in nonprofit leadership roles?

Nonprofits must be diverse to survive. The Lowcountry’s population is always changing and nonprofits need to be sure that leadership is reflective of that diversity. We also need to be sure that young people learn the landscape of the nonprofit world so that they can grow into future leaders in the important work that area nonprofits provide.

Finally, what does it mean to be a leader in Charleston?

Charleston has become an international hub. It’s interesting to travel outside of the state and the country and find that people actually know about Charleston, S.C. Being a leader in the Lowcountry allows me to connect with opportunities locally and all over the world and I hope to show those opportunities to some of the children served by “Art Goes There.”

 


Lisa Estes

Lisa Estes is the founding director of Art Goes There of Charleston, South Carolina.


The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

Image Credit: Kwong Yee Cheng via Flickr CC

Supporting the Asian Community in Charleston, South Carolina – Joyce Menon

The Islands Society is proud to recognize Dr. Joyce Menon as the Sea Islands Female Leader for the month of March. Since 2008, she has been studying lung cancer in a research lab at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). Separately, Dr. Menon has volunteered with the India Association of Greater Charleston (IAGC) for the last eight years, and has provided executive leadership in organizing and hosting India Fest for three consecutive years in Charleston in an effort to promote understanding and appreciation of Indian Arts and Culture. In addition to her work with the IAGC, she has been involved with a fundraiser for Mitchell Math and Science Elementary, a local school in Charleston; a summer educational program for inner city kids at St. Julian Devine Community Center; and the installation of the bust of Mahatma Gandhi in Liberty Gardens at Pinewood Elementary, the first in the state of South Carolina. The managing director of the Sea Islands Society, James Carroll, therefore reached out to Dr. Menon to discuss her accomplishments and her efforts to promote cross-cultural awareness through her work with the IAGC.

What are you currently researching at the Medical University of South Carolina?

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. More people die of lung cancer than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer and the current chemotherapy drugs used to treat it have only limited efficacy. One of the reasons of this resistance is because the cells are undergoing Epithelial to Mesenchymal (EMT) transformation and this is currently being studied in our lab.

Please tell me about your involvement with the India Association of Greater Charleston. Why do you feel it’s important to highlight Indian arts and culture in Charleston?

I have been involved with India Association of Greater Charleston (IAGC) since 2005. I have been a Secretary (4 yrs) and a President (2 yrs) and am now the co-chair for its Events Planning Committee. One of the aims of IAGC is to promote an understanding of the culture and heritage of India within the Charleston community. We believe that strong bonds of friendship are built when mutual respect is borne as a result of this exchange.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the Asian population of South Carolina is only 1.5% of the total population. This is far lower than the national average of 5.4%. Do you feel that South Carolina is an unattractive place to live for immigrants from East Asia, Southeast Asia, or South Asia?

Most immigrants from the Indian subcontinent to United States are either medical or IT professionals. Since South Carolina offers a limited number of industries and institutions in these fields, the percentage of that demographic is also low. Now that we have large industries like Boeing and BMW openings plants in this area, we should see an increase in this population. Moreover, I have seen a steady increase in the hiring of professionals of Indian origin at MUSC.

Have you ever faced challenges because of your ethnicity or gender?

I have been blessed that ethnicity and gender has not played a part in my life as a working woman and later a working mom in South Carolina. However, I am very well aware about the challenges women (regardless of their ethnicity) face in this country. But, the great thing about being an American is that you have the freedom of speech to voice your opinion, and bring about changes through grass root awareness.

A recent study found that South Carolina ranks 50 of 51 states (including the District of Columbia) in women’s well-being. What do you think needs to be done to improve this dreadful ranking?

There is a high correlation between poverty and the level of education amongst women in our society. Investing in educational programs for women – whether it’s for young girls, mothers or grandmothers – would be the best “Return On Investment.” Giving vocational training to women would go a long way in improving the situation. I am a firm believer that while educating a man will save a family, educating a woman will save the world. Including women in strategic and long-term policy making decisions would be a step in the right direction.

What advice would you give to young women and girls from island communities who want to pursue a career in medicine?

As our population gets older, we will need more medical professionals to join the ranks. The recent emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs at high schools is certainly going to help. But, pursuing a medical profession requires a significant commitment and individual sacrifice. As a society, we should provide an environment that is supportive to the challenges women will face in balancing personal life and work. This is where I believe society can help by providing certain benefits that will help alleviate the load on women. One good example of this is the recent campaign to provide maternal and child care benefits to working mothers.

 


Local Female Leader
Local Female Leader

Dr. Joyce Menon at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). She is also the past president of the India Association of Greater Charleston.


The views expressed represent those of the respective contributors. Alternative viewpoints are always welcomed. Please send any responses to pr@islandssociety.org. Our editors will consider any and all responses for future publication.

Image Credit: sandeepachetan via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)