APLPJ holds “Unpacking the Compacts of Free Association” symposium, March 23-26

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law’s Asian-Pacific Law and Policy Journal (APLPJ) will be holding its 16th symposium, “Unpacking the Compacts of Free Association,” from March 23 – 26. 

The symposium will include panels with experts and emerging leaders on the latest pressing legal issues in climate resilience, immigration, health, and international relations. 

Panel discussions will explore the impact of the Compacts of Free Association (COFA) for the Pacific region and beyond; the COFA defines the relationship between the United States and the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau – collectively, the Freely Associated States (FAS).

Programming will include film screenings and panel discussions, welcoming remarks by Richardson Law School Dean Camille Nelson, and a keynote by council member and vice chair of Honolulu City Council Esther Kia’āina.

Council member and vice chair of Honolulu City Council Esther Kia’āina

Council member Kiaʻāina is currently the executive director for the Pacific Basin Development Council; she previously served as Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas in the U.S. Department of the Interior under former President Obama, overseeing federal policy for the U.S. territories and financial assistance for the Freely Associated States of Micronesia.

The event kicks off on Thursday, March 23, with a screening of feature film Island Soldier, and a discussion with the film’s director, Nathan Fitch. The documentary follows Micronesian solders serving in the U.S. military as they journey from remote islands to the front lines of war in Afghanistan.

Filmmaker Nathan Fitch

The symposium has been organized by the Asian-Pacific Law & Policy Journal and its team of 17 students from the William S. Richardson School of Law. 

APLPJ faculty advisor and Professor Mark Levin noted the impact of the journal at Richardson Law School and its symposia in years past: “Richardson’s APLPJ is now in its 24th year of publication, having provided learning and leadership opportunities for hundreds of our students, scholarship outlets for several hundred authors, and new insights and understandings for countless readers around the world.” The journal’s first symposium was held in 2002.

However, this year’s symposium is of particular significance due to its scope and timing. APLPJ editor-in-chief Keoni Williams ’23 said, “We have been told by practitioners and subject matter experts that this is the first time in recent history that a symposium of this scale has been convened to discuss the Compacts of Free Association in an interdisciplinary way.” Its relevance now is also notable: some provisions of COFA will soon expire.

The three days of programming include participating faculty from Richardson Law School as well as within and outside of UH Mānoa, community leaders, and multiple organizations, such as We Are Oceania, Chuuk Youth Council, and the Micronesian Health Advisory Coalition. Panelists include those representing Hawai’i and across the Pacific region – including Guam, Palau, and Micronesia.

“The speakers and moderators we have curated are well-established in their respective fields and this would be the first time they are curated together in one forum,” said Williams.

Dr. James Viernes, deputy director of the Pacific Islands Development Program at East-West Center, who has been involved in the symposium’s planning, also underlined the importance of the communities represented. “The symposium is significant in the sheer number and diversity of voices and perspectives of Micronesian COFA communities being convened, representing a rare and impressive assemblage of community organizers, elders, artists, youth, scholars, professionals, and more.”

Events will be held at the William S. Richardson School of Law in Classroom 2; they will also be available via live stream through Facebook Live

The symposium is supported by the Pacific Islands Development Program, the Hawai’i State Bar Association – International Law Section, Young Pacific Leaders, Pacific-Asian Legal Studies at the William S. Richardson School of Law, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Center for Pacific Islands Studies, Student Activity & Program Fee Board, and UH Mānoa SEED.

For more information and to register, visit: https://bit.ly/cofaevent.