Advancing U.S. Engagement in the Pacific

Posted by Brian Asmus
October 14, 2011
Residents Fish on Papua New Guinea

Earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton published an op-ed on America's Pacific century. Serving in Papua New Guinea, I am honored to be part of a team that is advancing U.S. engagement in the South Pacific, and want to share with readers a few events in which U.S. Embassy Port Moresby has recently participated.

Recognizing Pionie Boso: A Woman of Courage in the Solomon Islands

This year, Embassy Port Moresby recognized Pionie Boso for her dedication to ending violence against women at our International Woman of Courage ceremony on August 5. Bryan Hunt, Deputy Chief of Mission, presented the award.

In 2008, Pionie began working under the auspices of the Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and Family Affairs to research violence against women. Under her leadership, a team of 55 interviewers were trained to conduct a nation-wide survey to document the prevalence and types of violence against women and related child abuse in the Solomon Islands.

Managing nine provincial teams, Pionie led her researchers through challenges and dangers to record the voices and stories of women in the most remote parts of the country. Pionie's work led to the Solomon Islands Cabinet adopting two vital national policies: the Gender Equality and Women's Development Policy and National Policy to Eliminate Violence Against Women.

"This is an amazing achievement and would never have occurred without the evidence base and advocacy that Pionie led," Hunt said.

During our visit to the Solomon Islands, Deputy Chief of Mission Hunt and our team met with Prime Minister Danny Philip and Foreign Minister Peter Shanell. We also participated in a ceremony at the Guadalcanal Monument in Honiara for the 69th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Remembering Guadalcanal

Deputy Chief of Mission Hunt, Regional Security Officer Dan Bleakmore, Public Relations and Protocol Assistant Carolyn Ive and I arose well before 5:30 a.m. to attend a sunrise ceremony at the Guadalcanal Monument. Also attending the event were Governor General Frank Kabui, Prime Minister Danny Philip, Colonel Robert Loynd of the United States Marine Corps, members of the diplomatic corps, and government ministers as well as U.S. and Solomon Islands veterans and their families. Somehow Keithie Saunders, our superstar consular agent who arranged all of our travel in Honiara, also managed to chase away the rain to deliver a picture-perfect morning with the sun's golden rays shining gloriously through billowing, silver-gray clouds.

After the playing of the Solomon Islands and U.S. national anthems, Hunt saluted the sacrifices made by our courageous Marines 69 years ago. "Their bravery and valor on Guadalcanal, along with that of their comrades-in-arms from the United States Navy and Coast Guard, stand as a testament to the willingness of the men and women of the American Armed Forces to sacrifice on behalf of the cause of freedom wherever and whenever called upon to do so," Hunt said.

Hunt also recalled the sacrifices and contributions made by our allies and friends in Solomon Islands. "Without their bravery, assistance, and equal commitment to freedom's cause, victory over the forces of imperialism in the Pacific would not have been possible. The friendships between Americans and Solomon Islanders forged in those difficult days endure today and are the bedrock of the relationship between our two countries."

Following the ceremony, everyone moved to downtown Honiara for the unveiling and dedication of the Pride of the Nation Memorial and then to the Point Cruz Yacht Club for a wreath-laying ceremony for Douglas Munro, a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. Munro received the Medal of Honor -- the U.S. military's highest decoration -- after he died evacuating a detachment of Marines. Munro's final words were: "Did they get off?"

No one can listen to the achievements of our men and, really, boys -- some of whom were only 16 years old -- and the terrible conditions that they faced to feel a sense of awe. These soldiers truly were heroes and that is something for which we should be grateful. My colleagues and I returned to Papua New Guinea mindful of the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make each and every day.

U.S. Agency for International Development Opens Regional Office in the Pacific"This is a region where thousands of U.S. troops sacrificed their lives to preserve peace and democracy in World War II. We remain committed to their memory and to the region. We forged ties with Papua New Guinea long before its independence and now that close relationship is maturing," U.S. Ambassador Teddy Taylor said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the new U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Pacific Island Regional Office in Port Moresby on October 5, 2011.

The USAID office will manage regional environment and climate change programs, disaster assistance programs for the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and an ongoing HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment program in Papua New Guinea.

USAID maintained a mission in Suva, Fiji, and a satellite office in Papua New Guinea, from 1978 until 1994. Since that time, USAID has remained engaged in the region's most pressing development issues through its Regional Development Mission in Asia. Secretary Clinton announced the re-opening of a USAID office in the Pacific to Pacific leaders at the 2009 United Nations General Assembly as part of U.S. government re-engagement in the region.

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