Bula Vinaka from Fiji and thank you for having me here to speak about leadership, and specifically ocean leadership.
Leadership is a never-ending journey and sometimes we come across challenges and bittersweet breakthroughs. I would like to share my journey across our vast oceans, highlighting reminders and discoveries of my own views about leadership and what it means to me, the realities of leadership in the Pacific, and lastly what leadership should look like for the safety and health of our Ocean during this Decade of Ocean Science for sustainable development.
As I set sail on my Vaka (traditional voyaging vessel) through our vast ocean of leadership, to me true leadership starts with a selfless passion for the betterment and empowerment of others. It is about impacting and empowering communities, as they are always going to be the first in line of any impact of change or destruction, whether natural or anthropogenic. It is about being innovative in applying intricate studies of science to everyone and anyone. Leadership is the journey of getting out of your comfort zone, speaking firmly yet humbly about your passions, and sometimes walking in the direction that isn’t favoured by society.
Being part of the Early Career Ocean Professionals informal working group under the Decade, it has been wonderful to be a mentor and be mentored by other ocean leaders and to bring that knowledge to the communities in my nation.
We in the Pacific view our oceans more than just a dollar sign, but food, security, and history. I have set out to bring together young people of the Pacific by creating an Oceans and Biodiversity working group under Pacific Youth Council. I am dedicated to mentoring and empowering them through spaces and linking in science and traditional knowledge at all levels.
As I continue to navigate my way through new oceans of leadership, I find building solidarity among and within US leaders is of most importance. Because, when there is unity among leaders, there is unity among their nation and people and the next generation can see that unity and be unified moving forward.
In the Pacific region right now, it is saddening to see our leaders in a dispute. Where politics and ego have torn apart the unity of pacific island states, where a gentleman’s agreement was not kept which led to our leaders in the Micronesian region stepping down from the Pacific Island Leaders Forum because trust and solidarity were no longer present.
As I come near to my destination, strong winds test my Vaka, I feel and see our Oceans undergoing immense pressure. Reminding me of the hardships our Oceans have gone through to sustain us and that now it’s time for the next generation to understand there is no room nor time for ego or politics or selfish ambitions. That this is the time for the building of solidarity and active engagement with young people, the next generation of ocean leaders. Mentoring and equipping them to become leaders and pass their knowledge down, ensuring what is said in global and regional spaces links back to their own communities
It will be tough with many mental and emotional challenges but the reward at the end for a safe and healthy ocean will be worth it.