Iokwe! “Wa kuk wa jimor.” I know that is sometimes translated as “We’re all in the same boat,” but if I understand my Marshallese teachers correctly, it is more like we are all responsible for this boat. We are not passively riding along together, we are making sure the boat is sea worthy, traveling the right direction and in good repair. Climate change is somewhat new to us, but Life is change, and in that respect humanity has been coping with change for a long time. The Marshallese navigators looked at all the available signals to determine the changes coming. The waves, the birds, and the sky were all part of the picture. For climate change today, we also need to look at all available signals. The science, traditional knowledge, and the wisdom of children, like yesterday’s powerful young speaker who described her experience, seeing the water rush into her home during the March 3rd inundation in Majuro.
The RMI is going about this subject the right way. When people think of the RMI, they don’t say, ‘that is the country that is going under.’ They say ‘the RMI is the country leading the way.’ The U.S. contributes in a number of ways. We provide funding for projects through the climate change fund for projects like aquaculture development. We fund a full time climate change advisor who is seconded to the RMI. And, we provide relief in climate emergencies like inundations and drought, for which we contributed $5 million for the recent drought in the north.
I am honored that the UN has selected Kathy Jetnil Kijiner as the Civil Society speaker for this year’s Climate Summit in New York. She will represent the RMI to the world. And the focus is on climate now. We can’t say people are not paying attention. They are. This is your moment to give your message loud and clear. And I know you will find support in the international community from your partners like Japan and Taiwan, and Mr. President, I know your strong message will be well received in New York too by the international leaders.
Meanwhile, in the Embassy our work on education, health and environment continues. A healthy, educated populace is needed for climate resiliency no matter what. Finally, a tool in the climate fight is optimism and courage. There were dark times for the U.S. and I’m sure for the Marshall Islands as well during the Cold War, and during World War Two, but we got through those times and we’ll get through this.
Both countries can say, “Je tut im pin. We’re still here!”