‘Akilisi Pohiva address at UN 70th session

24 September, 2016: Prime Minister, 'Akilisi Pohiva at his first address at UN since he became Prime Minister, December, 2014, said that Tonga continuously advocated for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and its natural resources.  Tonga attached great importance to Sustainable Development Goal 14 and believed it could be attained through set targets and indicators. 

In that regard, Tonga looked forward to the first United Nations conference on Goal 14 as an opportunity to see where the international community stood in terms of conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources. 

Regarding the exploitation of biological diversity, he said that regulation of areas beyond national jurisdictions was yet to be realized.  In accordance with the 2014 decision of Pacific Island Forum leaders, Tonga supported the ongoing process of preparatory meetings.

He said that his country paid close attention to the interaction of  the ocean with climate, noting that Tonga had signed and ratified the Paris Agreement.  “We cannot face the challenges of climate change alone,” Prime Minister said. 

Calling attention to his country’s clear and unambiguous links to international peace and security, he called upon the Special Representative on Climate and Security, as well as the Security Council, to raise the issue in the necessary platforms.  “Tonga is the third most vulnerable country in the world to the adverse impacts of climate change,” he said, stressing that their seriousness could not be underestimated.

Noting that the maintenance of international peace and security would be determined by the issue of disarmament, he said the proliferation of weapons in all their forms not only threatened international peace and security, but demonstrated the sheer waste of financial resources.  Those funds might be better spent on international sustainable development initiatives and improving people’s lives, he pointed out. 

Part of the challenge of ensuring equitable development was preventing unfair economic dominance by one country over another, which had resulted in the suffering of innocent people, and was not acceptable.  In that regard, he congratulated the United States on its incremental easing of restrictions on its economic interactions with in Cuba. 

Among other things, he expressed concern about the welfare of the Pacific peoples in West Papua Province of Indonesia.  Regarding human rights abuses in that province, he called for an open and constructive dialogue with Indonesia on the status and welfare of West Papuans.


The prevailing theory about the "rediscovery" of the American continents used to be such a simple tale. Most people are familiar with it: In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Then that theory was complicated when, in 1960, archaeologists discovered a site in Canada's Newfoundland, called L'Anse aux Meadows, which proved that Norse explorers likely beat Columbus to the punch by about 500 years.

Now startling new DNA evidence promises to complicate the story even more. It turns out that it was not Columbus or the Norse — or any Europeans at all — who first rediscovered the Americas. It was actually the Polynesians.

All modern Polynesian peoples can trace their origins back to a sea-migrating Austronesian people who were the first humans to discover and populate most of the Pacific islands, including lands as far-reaching as Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island. Despite the Polynesians' incredible sea-faring ability, however, few theorists have been willing to say that Polynesians could have made it as far east as the Americas. That is, until now.

Clues about the migration patterns of the early Polynesians have been revealed thanks to a new DNA analysis performed on a prolific Polynesian crop: the sweet potato, according to Nature. The origin of the sweet potato in Polynesia has long been a mystery, since the crop was first domesticated in the Andes of South America about 8,000 years ago, and it couldn't have spread to other parts of the world until contact was made. In other words, if Europeans were indeed the first to make contact with the Americas between 500 and 1,000 years ago, then the sweet potato shouldn't be found anywhere else in the world until then.

The extensive DNA study looked at genetic samples taken from modern sweet potatoes from around the world and historical specimens kept in herbarium collections. Remarkably, the herbarium specimens included plants collected during Capt. James Cook’s 1769 visits to New Zealand and the Society Islands. The findings confirmed that sweet potatoes in Polynesia were part of a distinct lineage that were already present in the area when European voyagers introduced different lines elsewhere. In other words, sweet potatoes made it out of America before European contact.

The question remains: How else could Polynesians have gotten their hands on sweet potatoes prior to European contact, if not by traveling to America themselves? The possibility that sweet potato seeds could have inadvertently floated from the Americas to Polynesia on land rafts is believed to be highly unlikely.

Researchers believe that Polynesian seafarers must have discovered the Americas first, long before Europeans did. The new DNA evidence, taken together with archaeological and linguistic evidence regarding the timeline of Polynesian expansion, suggests that an original contact date between 500 CE and 700 CE between Polynesia and America seems likely. That means that Polynesians would have arrived in South America even before the Norse had landed in Newfoundland.

The findings show that the technological capabilities of ancient peoples and cultures from around the world should not be underestimated, and that the history of human expansion across the globe is probably far more complicated than anyone could have previously imagined.

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