Through a wealth of health-sector policy experience and a desire to learn more about international relations, Agnes Pawiong earned a front-row seat in for the 2018 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation activities.

“I have been involved with APEC since 2013,” Agnes explains, “But that was from a health policy perspective. I had no real idea about international relations at the time and the real reason behind APEC.”

“One of the biggest lessons I learned from the course was to critically review and analyse why other countries come up with their foreign policies— what do they mean to them and what do they mean to me.”

As the Manager for Policy, Planning and Economics with the National Department of Health, Agnes’ work inspired an interest in international relations.  This quest for a deeper understanding, lead her to apply for an Australia Awards Fellowship to obtain a Graduate Certificate in International Relations at the University of Queensland— a course designed to augment the contributions of senior government officials the 2018 APEC Summit. A central contributor to the two Australia Awards Fellowships aimed at strengthening APEC 2018 efforts is Ambassador Ivan Pomaleu – a key figure in Papua New Guinea’s APEC planning. He helped design the courses and identify suitable participants.

Applied Learning

“One of the biggest lessons I learned from the course was to review and analyse why other countries develop foreign policies critically – what do these policies mean to them and what do they mean to me and my country,” she says. “I can now see how PNG might benefit from [these policies] and how these may affect our relationship with other countries or how we can negotiate to protect our country.”

After the fellowship, Agnes’ professional responsibilities grew. Implementing her new understanding of international relations, she was appointed to the PNG APEC Secretariat to oversee work on health-related policy, safety and security while she continued performing her roles at the National Department of Health.

Read to Host Other Nations

Invigorated and confident in her grasp of the issues, Agnes has become more prepared for the part she would assume because of the experience our focus to a broader, more outward perspective. Normally we do things the way Papua New Guinea has always done.  This is our first chance to host meetings of this magnitude and this experience, for me, is something that brings everybody together, especially the public sector agencies, private sectors, academia and SMEs. The experience also capacity to build many, especially the younger generation of professionals. I have seen them grown in critical thinking and dealing with issues in a matured and professional manner,” Agnes concludes.