SUVA – The United States Ambassador to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu Joseph Cella convened more than fifty representatives from Fiji’s private sector, including business leaders, business associations, and civil society, for a Fiji Forward Business and Economic Roundtable entitled “Building Bridges Between Civil Society, Business, and Government.”
Three speakers from Ambassador Cella’s home state of Michigan who have been engaged in different capacities throughout their careers in civil society, business, and government, and presently work as professional government relations advisors, shared anecdotes and best practices about how businesses, civil society, and government can work together.
Ambassador Cella said, “We discussed how challenges can be turned into opportunities and successes. These gentlemen have been on the front lines in Michigan of many debates for decades and shared their insights and experiences of interest to civil society, business and government leaders in Fiji. The event helped showcase how to effectively build bridges between all sector and strata to achieve a particular objective.”
During the first session, the attendees heard from Mr. Dennis Cawthorne, a partner and founding member of the Michigan government relations firm Kelley Cawthorne, and Mr. David Palsrok, an advisor with the Michigan office of the national government relations firm Dykema. Among other items, they discussed a campaign to preserve Michigan’s sand dunes which in turn spurred a tourism boom.
The presenter in the second session was Mr. Rob Fowler, President and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan, which serves a wide variety of needs for over 28,000 Michigan small business in all 83 counties since 1969. Mr. Fowler talked about the powerful voice of small businesses when they band together.
The event was the first Fiji Forward program in 2021. Previous Fiji Forward events in 2020 have focused on collaboration, women’s entrepreneurship, importing and exporting from the United States, and finance.