Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I feel so fortunate today that I may join with my able colleagues from Oceania to elaborate more on the complex issues of climate change, sea-level rise, sustainable economic development, sustainable energy, clean energy, health and education, the high rate of unemployment, youth problems and human trafficking…

In my country, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, these challenges are compounded by our very limited natural resources, isolation, the economy of scale, the adequate training of our labor force, the lack of modern basic infrastructure, and the legacy of the United States’ nuclear testing in our country during the late 1940s and 1950s. As a consequence of the nuclear-testing program, the Marshallese population has the highest rate of thyroid cancer in the world, and for many of our families, their homes have been rendered unsafe for resettlement for many years to come as a result of high concentrations of radioactive materials.

Of all the challenges that we face today, global warming, most particularly climate change and sea-level rise, bring the most destruction to our fragile environment and our traditional ways of life.

Scientific measurement devices have confirmed that the sea level in the Marshall Islands is rising at an alarming rate, and therefore our very existence as a people and our culture and heritage are constantly under threat. In fact, we may be the first of many to be known as environmental refugees of the Pacific…

In order to find solutions to these problems, the government of the Marshall Islands on a national level, with the help of numerous civil society organizations, has developed a number of strategic plans that are currently being implemented to either minimize the impact of, or to eradicate, these problems completely. In this endeavor, we have received technical, financial and professional support from numerous regional and international organizations, as well as our traditional development partners.

On a regional level, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is an active member of the Pacific Island Forum and its various agencies. As you may know, the Forum is comprised of all the independent and some non-independent countries in the Pacific. The Forum, through its specialized agencies, has created various plans and guidelines to deal with these problems.

On the international level, of course, like other countries that are represented here today, the Republic of the Marshall Islands has been actively involved in numerous agencies of the United Nations that are directly dealing with the challenges and issues that affect our lives today. We have also participated in and supported various international and regional nongovernmental organizations that have been established to address these challenges of our time.

One of the most important accomplishments of all of these deliberations is the so-called Paris Agreement on Climate Warming, previously known as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The Paris Agreement encompasses a series of steps and opportunities for action on sustainable developments and climate change, as well as socioeconomic issues. For our situation, the most important outcome on all this is the creation of funding sources for our small island countries…. Such funds empower and enable us to begin to address our needs for conservation, restoration and rebuilding our communities….

These are some of the steps that have been taken on national, regional and international levels in our common goal to address the issues and challenges that we face on our road to peace.

I want to close by reminding my parliamentary colleagues and lawmakers here today of our most important responsibility: to ensure that our national governments do comply with and implement the various regional and international protocols and agreements that have been established to save our lives and our planet. With that, I thank you so much.

The Honorable Kessai Note served as president of the Republic of the Marshall Islands from 2000 to 2008. These excerpts are taken from his address to the July 28-31 International Leadership Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal.

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