DAVID KABUA, President of the Marshall Islands, warned against forgetting the mistakes that had led to the last century’s open military conflicts, which otherwise were doomed to be repeated. “Leadership must come from all who are committed to act — small and large nations alike,” he said, drawing attention to an emerging security threat of the geopolitical competition with the world’s largest Powers faced by the Pacific islands. “Are we again to be caught in the middle of a tug-of-war?”, he asked, underlining his country’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and praising the recent Japan-Pacific lslands Defense Dialogue as a key confidence-building measure against an authoritarian influence.
The Marshall Islands remains committed to building a stronger Pacific islands region through institutions, which place its voice and leadership aspirations equal among others, he continued. “We cannot take a backseat to our own affairs,” he said, welcoming the strengthening of the Micronesian Presidents Summit in the North Pacific. He further voiced support for the Secretary‑General’s firm commitment to advancing discussion and action on United Nations system reform and to soon opening the new United Nations Multi-Country Office in the Federated States of Micronesia, dedicated to serve the five North Pacific island countries.
Despite his country’s “robust success” in vaccinating nearly every eligible person, he noted with regret that its borders remain largely closed due to the lack of capacity to address even small pandemic outbreaks and called for stepping up efforts to address social and economic impacts of COVID-19 on small and remote island nations. Turning to the threat posed by climate change to the security and well-being of the Pacific region, he said “the world, especially the most vulnerable, could not afford a failure to hold temperature rise to below 1.5°C”. He further called for an appointment of a Special Rapporteur on climate change and declared: “The world simply cannot delay climate ambition any further.” Against that backdrop, he reminded the international community about the legacy of nuclear tests, which remain “a very contemporary threat in our waters, our lands and our bodies”, and emphasized that “no effort should be spared to move towards a world free of nuclear weapons and nuclear risk”.
As a nation comprising many islands, he pointed to the need for a comprehensive approach to addressing a multitude of issues faced by ocean nations, noting that “yet, far too often, nations seek to avoid accountability and try to hide behind political muscle or use […] colonial legacies or development challenges as excuses for forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings or to suppress basic political expression”, and expressed a strong concern over the human rights issues in the Xianxing region of China, as well as recent developments in Hong Kong. He went on to underline that “Taiwan” should be allowed “to participate in an equal and dignified manner within the United Nations system”.