The National Party MP for Botany, Jami-Lee Ross.

MP for Botany, Jami-Lee Ross.

I’m delighted that our nomination of Member of Parliament Jami-Lee Ross for the prestigious 2013 New Generation Seminar (NGS) has been accepted by the Hawai’i-based East-West Center. For two weeks in October, Jami-Lee will join at the Center a select group that includes rising political leaders from Japan, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and the U.S.

Launched in 1988 to help create a better-informed and more interconnected generation of regional leaders, the impressive NGS program has already hosted 324 young political stars from 27 Pacific nations including the United States. Alumni include current heads of government, cabinet members, and corporate and media leaders. The valuable networks created among participants continue through digital means and peer-to-peer engagement.

The core purposes of the NGS are to deepen understanding of regional issues and challenges and to create relationships that could contribute to successfully addressing those challenges. Each NGS has a theme, this year’s being ”Social and Economic Transformation in Asia-Pacific.” Participants will explore the impacts of rapid but uneven economic development, modernization, globalization, and movement of capital, people, and information across the region and how various policy choices might play out locally, regionally, and globally.

The first week of the intensive two-week NGS usually consists of detailed briefings by East-West Center and outside experts on the broad range of issues relevant to the program’s theme. The second week is weighted heavily toward dialogue among the participants about how those and related issues manifest, play out, and are being addressed in their respective countries. Jami-Lee will be able to share his own perspectives and experiences based on his work in his community and as a New Zealand parliamentarian. Throughout the program there is an emphasis on leadership skills, analytical skills, and networking.

The grounds of the East-West Center in Honolulu.

On the beautiful 21-acre Honolulu campus of the East-West Center.

Established by the U.S. Congress in 1960, the East-West Center promotes closer relations and mutual understanding among the peoples of the Pacific, which of course includes the two American continents. Over its 53-year history the Center has become perhaps the foremost strategic policy and research institution in the region. It has a global network of 60,000 alumni, more than 750 partner organizations, and a plethora of exciting programs each year. As I described in a prior post about the University of Hawaii, Honolulu is a perfect site for such an institution, sitting at the heart of the Pacific, halfway between North America and East Asia.

We at Embassies Wellington and Apia are avid consumers of, as well as partners in, East-West Center programming. The East-West Center enthusiastically participated in our first annual Future Leaders of the Pacific Conference earlier this year in Pago Pago. Of particular interest to us is the Pacific Islands Development Program, established more than 30 years ago at the request of Pacific islands leaders to assist in advancing their economic and social policy objectives. There is also the valuable Pacific Islands Report, a daily round-up of key news from around the region.

Glorious Waikiki, viewed from Diamond Head. Click through for image source.

Glorious Waikiki, seen from Diamond Head, walking distance from the E-W Center.

Jami-Lee, currently New Zealand’s youngest Member of Parliament, is an excellent choice for the New Generation Seminar. A graduate of the University of Auckland and the Manukau Institute of Technology, he began his political career at the age of 18 by winning election to the Manukau City Council. He was first elected to the New Zealand Parliament as the National Party candidate for Botany two years ago, at the age of 25. His particular policy interests include industrial relations, transportation, and local governance.

I know that Jami-Lee will make excellent use of the NGS opportunity and will contribute in meaningful ways to the experience of the other participants. I very much look forward to chatting with him about his impressions when he returns from Honolulu.

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