Ziena Jalil and Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i on joining Asia New Zealand Foundation board

The Asia New Zealand Foundation has made three new appointments to their board — and two of which are members of our Global Women Community!

Congratulations to Global Women Member Ziena Jalil and Breakthrough Leaders Programme (click to see Programme) participant Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i on the appointment to this incredible role.

Established by the New Zealand Government in 1994, the Asia New Zealand Foundation is New Zealand’s leading authority on Asia, providing experiences and resources to help New Zealanders build their knowledge, skills and confidence to thrive in Asia.

Tupe and Ziena will play a pivotal part in shaping the Āotearoa-Asia relationship and opportunities for New Zealanders in the post-covid landscape. This comes at a prosperous time, considering Aotearoa is geared to be a super diverse country in the near future and kiwis are increasingly placing importance on developing ties with Asia is important for the country’s future, — with 73% of recent respondents feeling this way, as shown in the latest New Zealanders’ Perceptions of Asia and Asian People survey (click to view survey).

We are a country that is dependent on international trade and investment. A global outlook is not an option, it’s a necessity,” says Ziena, who brings a raft of information and experience to this role as a prominent and engaging keynote speaker, facilitator and commentator on a range of topics including diversity and inclusion, Asian business, nation branding, leadership and politics. With a rich tapestry of a background in promoting New Zealand trade and education in Asia (click to view her profile) and being recognised as one of 40 outstanding women in Campaign Asia Pacific as part of its 2020 Women to Watch.

“Having the world take notice of us in a positive light is invaluable in a significantly interdependent, yet increasingly fragile world economy. That comes from ensuring we have good awareness and understanding of what is happening beyond our borders. It comes from ensuring we remain relevant to the rest of the world – whether that’s through the products, services and technologies we develop, or our political and public diplomacy efforts. It comes from building and maintaining meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships.”

Tupe also draws on a deeply multi-faceted career in this board appointment, as the chief philanthropic officer of the Michael and Suzanne Borrin Foundation, the co-founder of a media company dedicated to telling Pacific stories, and as a former diplomat with over 10 years’ experience in the Greater China region.

Tupe will also be adding to the multicultural outlook and fabric that makes the Asia New Zealand Foundation inimitable, by harnessing her perspective as a Pasifika woman.

In addition to my strong connections to Asia and proven track record of working with and in the region, I also bring my perspective as a Pasifika woman with me,” Tupe shares. “My Pasifika heritage is part of what makes me effective in the boardroom — the competencies I bring from my culture include building relationships of trust, listening with the intention of understanding, and consensus based decision-making. Being inclusive of a range of different perspectives and ways of operating helps us to advance the mission of the Foundation, which is to better equip all New Zealanders to thrive in Asia.

With such multidisciplinary, deep and lateral and outlooks and experiences in the international and local landscape, it’s clear Tupe and Ziena are poised — both in professional and personal acumen — to be assets to the foundation and the overall Asia New Zealand relationship. To celebrate their appointments we caught up with both wahine to see what inspires their future outlook and to talk about the importance of global lenses in today’s landscape:


  • What are you most looking forward to contributing in your role on the board?

I am thrilled to be joining the board of New Zealand’s leading authority on Asia, the Asia New Zealand Foundation. My passion for the Asian region has had an enormous impact on what I studied, the career I pursued, and the lifelong friendships I have made. The ten years my career was focused on the region and the eight years I lived there was an amazing period of personal and professional growth. Through my role on the board I’m looking forward to helping more New Zealanders do the same!

The Asia New Zealand Foundation provides experiences and resources to help New Zealanders build their knowledge, skills and confidence to thrive in Asia. A lot of the Foundation’s programmes have been experiential in nature – for example, taking young leaders, tertiary students and entrepreneurs to Asia.

As a result of Covid-19, the Foundation has had to look at how it still enables people to grow their knowledge about Asia and deepen Asia connections, without being able to travel as they could before. It’s a challenge – but also an opportunity to look at new ways to deliver on our vision – for example by leveraging technology, and exploring the role diaspora communities in New Zealand can play to help build knowledge and understanding. The Foundation also has a focus on young people, and I’m looking forward to bringing that younger perspective (relatively speaking) to the Board.

  • What does the Asia New Zealand Foundation represent for you?

The Foundation provides experiences and resources to help New Zealanders build the knowledge, skills and confidence to thrive in Asia. It works in partnership with individuals and organisations in New Zealand and Asia to provide forums, cultural events, international collaborations, school programmes and professional development. When I was working in the region I met a lot of New Zealanders taking part in such opportunities which enabled them to build personal connections, and experience first-hand the dynamism and diversity of the region.

The Foundation is New Zealand’s leading authority on Asia: through its wide range of programmes across arts, sports, business, media, leadership and entrepreneurship, research and education, it has enabled thousands of Kiwis to become more Asia savvy. Given Asia’s significance to New Zealand, the importance of this work cannot be underestimated.

Personally, I’m pleased to have had a long association with the Foundation, as a member of its Leadership Network for some 14 years, and also as a stakeholder during a 10-year career working in Asia in senior leadership roles for the New Zealand government. Joining the Board now is an honour and opportunity I don’t take lightly.

  • How do you see the NZ-Asia dynamics progressing in the future?

New Zealand’s future — economically, politically, socially and culturally — is inextricably linked with Asia. I was heartened by the Foundation’s latest research, which shows that more New Zealanders are of the view that developing political, social and economic ties with Asia is important for New Zealand’s future. The region remains as critical as ever, and especially so in terms of our Covid-19 recovery. Several of our top 10 trading partners are in Asia, and the economic outlook for many Asian countries remains strong. While the region is made up of many diverse countries and territories, there are some trends including increasingly urbanising populations, rising middle class, and growing digitalisation, which bode well for New Zealand businesses seeking to engage with the region.

Some of the world’s fastest-growing and most powerful economies are in Asia. Its economic prosperity, and population represent huge potential for New Zealand. The latest New Zealanders’ Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples survey shows that there is growing recognition that developing political, social and economic ties with Asia is important for New Zealand’s future (73 percent of respondents felt this way, up from 67 percent in 2019). Despite the current disruptions to travel New Zealanders remain interested in learning more about Asian food, music, and art. Until borders reopen, we have to work harder to maintain connections with the region, and the Foundation’s research shows there is a clear willingness to do so.

  • What does a truly equitable and diverse Āotearoa look like to you?

To me, an equitable society is where the rich diversity of cultures and communities in Āotearoa New Zealand feel a sense of belonging, are included, and experience a level playing field and equal opportunities.

It is a country where all our people have access to opportunities and outcomes that enable them to live to their full potential; where they feel included and valued regardless of their gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical ability, age, beliefs, socio-economic background, or education.

It’s a country that’s not just known as one of the most diverse in the world, but one that is recognised for being the most inclusive. It’s where no one is left behind.