Enele Sopoaga

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The Right Honourable
Enele Sopoaga
Enele Sopoaga 2014.jpg
Prime Minister of Tuvalu
Assumed office
1 August 2013
Acting: 1 August 2013 – 5 August 2013
Monarch Elizabeth II
Governor General Iakoba Italeli
Deputy Vete Sakaio
Preceded by Willy Telavi
Member of Parliament
for Nukufetau
Assumed office
16 September 2010
Serving with Elisala Pita
Preceded by Elisala Pita
Personal details
Born (1956-02-10) 10 February 1956 (age 58)
Nukufetau, Tuvalu
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Salilo Enele
Alma mater University of Oxford
University of Sussex

Enele Sosene Sopoaga (born 10 February 1956)[1] is a Tuvaluan diplomat and politician who has been Prime Minister of Tuvalu since 2013.

Sopoaga was elected to Parliament in the 2010 general election. He served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Environment and Labour in Prime Minister Maatia Toafa's short-lived government from September to December 2010. Following an unsuccessful bid for the premiership in December 2010 (with Toafa's support), he became leader of the Opposition to Prime Minister Willy Telavi's government.[2] He became caretaker Prime Minister on 1 August 2013 following Telavi's removal by the Governor General, in the context of a political crisis.[3] A day later, on 2 August 2013, the opposition successfully voted out Telavi's government in a no confidence vote.[4] Following this, a ballot was cast to elect the new prime minister of Tuvalu and Sopoaga won with 8 votes to 4. He was sworn in on 5 August 2013, and created his ministry the same day.[5][6]

Personal life and education[edit]

Sopoaga received a Certificate in Diplomatic Studies from Oxford University in 1990 and a Master's degree from the University of Sussex.[1] Sopoaga and his wife, Salilo Enele, have three children.[1][7]

He is the younger brother of Saufatu Sopoaga, who was Prime Minister from 2002 to 2004.[8]

Career in administration and diplomacy[edit]

From 1980 until 1986, Sopoaga served as an Education Administrator within the Ministry of Social Services.[1] He became the Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of Social Services in 1986.[1]

Sopoaga was the acting officer within the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Economic Planning from 1991 until 1992.[1] He then served as the Permanent Secretary and European Union National Authorizing Officer within the Tuvaluan Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1992 to 1995.[1]

Additionally, Sopoaga served as Tuvalu's High Commissioner to Fiji.[1] He also simultaneously served as the Tuvaluan High Commissioner to both Papua New Guinea and Samoa.[1]

He subsequently served as his country's Permanent Representative to the United Nations,[1][9] and as Vice-Chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States.[10] He has been described as "Tuvalu's climate change negotiator",[11] tasked with raising the profile of the dangers posed by climate change to Tuvalu and other small island nations. He served as the main spokesman for these nations at the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, and was one of the chief negotiators for global action on climate change,with Tuvalu receiving attention for its strong advocacy on the issue. He proposed amending the draft climate treaty so as to require all countries to limit the rise in global air temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This proposal was subsequently rejected.[12]

Simultaneously, he served as Permanent Secretary (the highest civil service position) in the Tuvaluan Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Political career[edit]

In 2010, he decided to go into politics, and stood for Parliament in the general election in September. Sopoaga, who was elected to Parliament for the Nukufetau constituency was expected to pose a strong challenge to Ielemia for the office of Prime Minister during the formation of a new government. In the event, however, neither Ielemia nor Sopoaga stood for the premiership, and Maatia Toafa was elected Prime Minister. Toafa formed a cabinet composed largely of first time MPs who had given him their support, and appointed Sopoaga as deputy prime minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Environment and Labour.[13][14]

Sopoaga, who had described the outcome of the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen as unsatisfactory,[15] led Tuvalu's delegation at the 2010 Conference in Cancun in December, and said of it that he had been "[s]ort of encouraged by the turn around of things. It could have been worse, but I think goodwill prevailed [...] despite a lot of issues still sticking out".[16]

Leader of the Opposition[edit]

A few days later, on 21 December, Toafa's government was brought down by a motion of no confidence in Parliament, by eight votes to seven. The motion was reportedly due to MPs' concerns about the budget, and in particular possible restrictions on the government's funding of Tuvaluans' medical costs abroad.[17] With a new Prime Minister due to be chosen on 24 December, Toafa announced that he would not be standing for the job, but that he hoped Sopoaga would be chosen by Parliament in his place.[14] Sopoaga stood for the premiership, but lost to Willy Telavi by seven votes to eight.[18]

Sopoaga thus became leader of the Opposition. He continued to call for international initiatives to tackle climate change, including "adaptation techniques", a transfer of affordable sustainable technologies to vulnerable developing nations. This would enable sustainable living, he said, and address the issue of Tuvalu's dependence on donor countries. He told Radio Australia that Tuvalu was now suffering from "long, serious" periods of drought, affecting crops. (See: 2011 Tuvalu drought.) He has also stated that, to respond to the overcrowding of Funafuti, Tuvaluans on the outer islands should be given the economic means to live on their home island rather than move to the capital. One other issue he raised during a talk on Radio Australia was the need for independent media in Tuvalu, presenting news in an accurate rather than "rosy", 'pro-government' manner. He stated that Tuvaluans' "right to correct information is curtailed by censorship".[2]

The latter concern led him to set up, with two other people, the Tala o Matagi newspaper company (meaning "Story of the Wind") in June 2011. Emphasising the people's right to "reliable information" on politics and other issues, for the betterment of themselves and of the nation, he explained that the newspaper would begin as a short, bilingual weekly newsletter in Tuvaluan and English, issued in one or two hundred copies.[19]

In early 2012, he criticised the Telavi government's decision to establish formal diplomatic relations with "countries that have unsettled political issues of concern to the international community" – namely, namely, Abkhasia, South Ossetia, and Armenia (the latter in the context of its territorial dispute with Azerbaijan). Sopoaga suggested that the establishing of diplomatic relations with specific foreign countries should be decided by Parliament, not solely by the Cabinet.[20]

Prime Minister[edit]

Sopoaga became Prime Minister in a caretaker capacity following the dismissal of incumbent Willy Telavi by Governor-General Iakoba Italeli on 1 August 2013.[3] In a secret ballot held during an extra session of parliament three days later, Sopoaga was elect as Prime Minister of Tuvalu by 8 votes to 4. He was sworn in by Italeli on 5 August 2013,[21] and created his ministry the same day.[21] He promoted a number of high profile Tuvaluan politicians back to cabinet, including Vete Sakaio who was appointed the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Public Utilities; and Maatia Toafa, who was appointed Finance and Economic Development' Maatia Toafa was previously the Prime Minister of Tuvalu from 2004 to 2006 and again in 2010.[21] However, the High Court has yet to decide whether Telavi's removal was lawful.[22] A day after being sworn into office, Sopoaga said he would ensure the country was given a strong voice in the fight against climate change.[23]

In September 2013 Enele Sopoaga said that relocating Tuvaluans to avoid the impact of sea level rise “should never be an option because it is self defeating in itself. For Tuvalu I think we really need to mobilise public opinion in the Pacific as well as in the [rest of] world to really talk to their lawmakers to please have some sort of moral obligation and things like that to do the right thing.”[24]

Enele Sopoaga made a commitment under the Majuro Declaration, which was signed on 5 September 2013, to implement power generation of 100% renewable energy (between 2013 and 2020). This commitment is proposed to be implemented using Solar PV (95% of demand) and biodiesel (5% of demand). The feasibility of wind power generation will be considered.[25]

On 16 January 2014 Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga established the National Advisory Council on Climate Change, which functions are “to identify actions or strategies: to achieve energy efficiencies; to increase the use of renewable energy; to encourage the private sector and NGOs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to ensure a whole of government response to adaptation and climate change related disaster risk reduction; and to encourage the private sector and NGOs to develop locally appropriate technologies for adaptation and climate change mitigation (reductions in [greenhouse gas]).”[26]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "H.E. Ambassador Enele Sosene Sopoaga". New Century Institute. Retrieved 15 October 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Tuvalu needs sustainable agriculture to cut import bill – Sopoanga", ABC Radio Australia, 18 May 2011
  3. ^ a b Matau, Robert (1 August 2013). "GG appoints Sopoaga as Tuvalu’s caretaker PM". Islands Business. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  4. ^ "Tuvalu opposition votes out government", Radio New Zealand International, 2 August 2013
  5. ^ "Enele Sopoaga sworn in today as Tuvalu's new PM", Islands Business, 5 August 2013
  6. ^ "Tuvalu Parliament elects new Prime Minister Sopoaga", Radio New Zealand International, 5 August 2013
  7. ^ "Tuvaluan Student Receives Top Honours in Canada". Tuvalu News. 14 June 2002. 
  8. ^ "Tuvalu’s former PM Sopoaga has another shot", Islands Business, 10 June 2013
  9. ^ "Statement by His Excellence Enele Sosene Sopoaga", United Nations General Assembly, 27 September 2006
  10. ^ Bureau of the Alliance of Small Island States, United Nations
  11. ^ "PRNGO’s propose a new definition for climate refugees", Pacific Islands News Association, 29 October 2009
  12. ^ "Palamene o Tuvalu (Parliament of Tuvalu)". Inter-Parliamentary Union. 2010. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  13. ^ "New-look government for Tuvalu". Radio New Zealand International. 29 September 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  14. ^ a b "Tuvalu's deposed PM seeks majority to vote in his deputy". Radio New Zealand International. 22 December 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  15. ^ "Interview with Hon. Enele Sopoaga, Minister of Environment, Foreign affairs and Labors", Tuvalu News, 23 November 2010
  16. ^ "Tuvalu's views on Cancun climate change talks", ABC Radio Australia, 15 December 2010
  17. ^ "Nominations open for new Tuvalu PM". Radio New Zealand International. 22 December 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  18. ^ "Willie Telavi the new prime minister in Tuvalu". Radio New Zealand International. 24 December 2010. Retrieved 29 September 2011. 
  19. ^ "The Organization of the Local Newspaper company “Tala o Matagi", Tuvalu News, 21 June 2011
  20. ^ "Tuvalu opposition wary about diplomatic ties with Caucasians", Radio New Zealand International, 3 April 2012
  21. ^ a b c "Enele Sopoaga Sworn-in Today as Tuvalu’s New PM". Islands Business. 5 August 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  22. ^ "New Tuvalu government waits on a legal decision", Radio New Zealand International, 6 August 2013
  23. ^ "Confident Tuvalu PM voice for climate change", Australia News Network, 6 August 2013
  24. ^ "Relocation for climate change victims is no answer, says Tuvalu PM". Radio New Zealand International. 3 September 2013. Retrieved 3 September 2013. 
  25. ^ "Majuro Declaration: For Climate Leadership". Pacific Islands Forum. 5 September 2013. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  26. ^ Lalua, Silafaga (22 January 2014). "National Advisory Council on Climate Change launched in Tuvalu". Islands Business – From FENUI NEWS/PACNEWS. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Willy Telavi
Prime Minister of Tuvalu