Christopher J. Loeak, President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, addressed the general debate of the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly, in New York, on September 26, 2013. The following is a submitted statement of his speech:
Mr. Secretary-General, President of the General Assembly, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,It is my honor to convey to you the warm greetings of Yokwe from the government and people
This January, the UN Secretary-General outlined two key political priorities for leaders addressing
climate change risks, and the growing insecurity within Syria. As Autumn sets in, it
is evident that efforts are falling short.
This year, Leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum expressed strong concern at the use of chemical
weapons by the Syrian government, and called for leadership by Security Council members to
resolve this threat. While I am optimistic over recent diplomatic developments, the common
international voice may come too little and too late for what could have been already prevented.
This is only one example, of a growing list, of the tragic human costs of in action.
How many more mistakes will the world make in distant conference rooms?
For how long can we tum a blind eye to realities and headlines?
Pacific nations are now dedicated to change the pace. This month, Pacific Island Forum leaders
adopted the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership. Though many of us are small, the
common responsibility to act escapes no government, and no person, no matter how different we
are. The Marshall Islands is well on track to achieve complete solarization of our outer islands a
goal we are meeting with the assistance from Japan's Pacific Environment Community funds,
as well as assistance from the European Union, Taiwan, Italy, France and other donor partners.
The entire region is also aggressively cutting our own emissions through a Pacific New Energy
Drive - and the message for our partners, the world's largest emitters, is clear - if we can do it,
so can you.
Climate change is a risk that demands direct political ownership, and it is well time that other
Leaders stand alongside the Pacific in creating the statesmanship so urgently needed. Simply
repeating well-worn negotiation slogans will get the world nowhere - it is time for new
solutions. I strongly urge my fellow Leaders to engage "eye to eye" at the Secretary-General's
climate summit next year - never has the need been so dire for true statesmanship.
Global efforts on climate change are falling short - and low-lying island nations such as mine are
already paying the earliest costs of what is fast becoming a global crisis. In every sense, the
world must build for future risks, and too often, we are still setting course for current conditions.
It is the seas that are rising - not the islands that are sinking. I will not concede my own land or
my nation; but nor will I rest until my fellow world leaders have signed onto to act, not just out
of economic convenience, but out of a common responsibility of all to strive for upward
Our Pacific legacy is not as small island states - but large ocean nations. We are stewards of
what is a truly global resource - our oceans and fisheries. Even a casual glance of a map reveals
a world of deep and vast blue, and not only scientists, but our own local communities, see our
own waters at change. Local and global ocean impacts affect not only every region, but global
food security. I join with other Pacific Leaders in urging dedicated treatment of Oceans as a
Post-20I5 UN Sustainable Development Goal.
Pacific nations, including the Parties to the Nauru Agreement, are leading the world in changing
fisheries. We are leading the world in advancing not only sustainable fisheries, but at the same
time, boosting our own economic growth. Perhaps no other effort and region is such a strong
textbook example of sustainable development in action.
But for all of the "plenary sympathies", common international responsibility - and existing legal
commitment - to safeguard fisheries too often falls victim to the short-term trade interests of our
partners. Pacific leaders will not sacrifice our resources, nor our growth and livelihood for quick
returns; our future generations are not for sale. The threat of harmful fisheries sanctions from
distant fishing nations - perhaps punishment for our own conservation efforts - is hardly a
helping hand either to our regional development or to international food security.
Next year's international meeting on small island states and development partnerships, to be held
in Samoa, offers our political partners a moment for careful reflection; is the global thirst for rare
earth minerals beneath our waves, and is the hunger for our vast fisheries -so great as to outstrip
our own rightful economic development, and our own conservation efforts?' Perhaps it is due
time island leaders set forward our own Island vision of partnership, and collaborate accordingly.
We cannot forge progress through political will alone. Here, Pacific Island Forum Leaders have
forged a ground-breaking mutual dialogue to enhance and improve effective UN partnership in
our region. These are no isolated words; already, the UN, together with our bilateral partners, is
playing a valuable role in working with the Marshall Islands to recover from a climate-driven
drought and coastal flooding emergencies.
But we need not wait for disasters; in every sector of basic development and environmental
efforts, our door is open for increased collaboration between the UN, our regional resources, and
bilateral partners. The plenary statements of sympathy are too often not translating into effective,
island-tailored results. Our in-country UN presence still has a long way to go in truly "delivering
as one" and better addressing pressing threats. I encourage a direct discussion between the UN
and our region in practical efforts to enhance in-country effectiveness and collaboration. No one
people and nation can be passed over.
Even as the UN enters into a new discussion in crafting the post-20I5 sustainable development
agenda, improved progress towards the Millennium Development Goals remains no less a
priority. I would also like to recognize the contributions that Taiwan has made in helping my
country in efforts towards the MDGs.
Pacific Island Forum leaders have for the first time recognized the role of the United Nations in
authorizing nuclear weapon testing during the Cold War, and welcomed the recommendations of
the UN Special Rapporteur's recent report. Nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands is no mere
historical event - but an international legacy which will stay with us for generations.
While unmet responsibility still rests with our historical administering power, the United States,
the UN itself can no longer ignore it's own role during the Trusteeship era. I am strongly
encouraged by the UN Secretary-General's commitment to address the ongoing impacts of
nuclear testing in the Pacific, and look forward to practical efforts in this regard.
My government is gratified to note that - with solid international support and cross-strait
coo~er~tion - the .Republic of Chi~a (Taiwan) h~s incre~sed it's meaningful pa~i~fk~~ion in ~
specialized agencies and mechanisms. We WIll continue to encourage pOSItIV€li interaction
between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait in the international arena.' .
Too often, despite our own aspirations, we struggle to move inches when urgency demands
miles. Our own political will is before you, Mr. Secretary-General, and our hands are open for a
Thank you and kommol tata.
-- Christopher J. Loeak, President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands