Elise Huffer – New SPC Human Development Adviser
Introducing Elise Huffer – SPC Human Development Programme Adviser (culture)
Culture essential but often ignored
Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Noumea, Tuesday 22 January 2008: The new Adviser for culture at SPC’s Human Development Programme (HDP), Elise Huffer, says despite its essential role, culture is an area that is often neglected or marginalised in governance and development policy.
Dr Huffer says her position at SPC gives her the opportunity to actively promote culture and address this ‘deficit’. Before joining SPC, she worked for 11 years in the Pacific Studies Program, formerly known as the Institute of Pacific Studies, as a Senior Lecturer and then Associate Professor at the University of the South Pacific.
She says the main cultural issues in the Pacific today are developing a regional cultural strategy, promoting the role of young people in culture, creating greater respect for Pacific people’s cultural values, and protecting cultural heritage and traditional knowledge and expressions of culture.
It is also important to highlight the essential role of women who are sometimes neglected in discussions about culture, she says. ‘Women are strong actors of culture and yet they are also portrayed as being discriminated against by culture. We need to collect and disseminate a lot more data on women’s roles in this sector and promote their rightful place.’
Dr Huffer, who has an American mother and a French father, says this background has given her a broad perception of culture. ‘Speaking different languages and understanding different perspectives help instil an appreciation of culture and the importance of its diversity.’
This mixed background together with the fact that she has visited and worked in most Pacific Island countries and territories during the course of her tenure with the University of the South Pacific makes her well suited to the role of Culture Adviser at SPC. Particularly impressive is her experience in dealing with culture as a cross-sectoral issue relating it to youth, gender and community-based education and training.
Dr Huffer’s ties with SPC go back to the late 1980s when she lived in New Caledonia. As an interesting anecdote, before the organisation moved premises in 1995, her house stood where SPC is now located. Over the years she has worked as an SPC consultant – most recently, on culture and gender-related projects. As well as working with other SPC programmes in her new job, she looks forward to working with regional associations, organisations and institutions, and international partners.
After six years at SPC, the previous Cultural Affairs Adviser, Rhonda Griffiths, returned to her native Norfolk Island to take up a consultancy role.
Elise Huffer studied in the USA and France and was based at the IRD (formerly ORSTOM) in New Caledonia where she undertook research on the Pacific for her doctoral thesis in political science and international relations. Her areas of expertise include culture, gender, politics, international relations and governance.
Dr Huffer is a competitive sportswoman and has played rugby at top international level, representing the USA (in 1991and 1994) at Women’s Rugby World Cup tournaments. She has been competing in outrigger paddling in Fiji since the 1998 Suva World Sprints
She is married and has two daughters.
In addition to English and French, her two mother tongues, Dr Huffer speaks Spanish and basic Fijian.