LIONEL ROUWEN AINGIMEA, President of Nauru, said that, in a year marred by disasters, conflict and untold human suffering — all amplified by COVID-19 — “we must remain hopeful”. Today’s obstacles in many ways mirror the history of Nauru, which has survived epidemics, recovered from world wars and overcome exploitation, persevering in the knowledge that “an outbreak in one corner of the world can produce a ripple of destruction that touches us all”. As one of the smallest United Nations members, Nauru is committed to multilateralism. He called for “opening our eyes” to current failures to act, and to implement historic agreements, notably on climate change. Policies to avert catastrophes are left to “sit idly on bookshelves and in hard drives” while the world battles new crises.
He therefore welcomed the “Our Common Agenda” report, as COVID-19 has only exacerbated Nauru’s isolation from the global community. Thanks to a whole‑of‑Government approach to fighting the virus, Nauru is one of five countries to remain COVID-19‑free today. However, emergency measures and costs are growing unendingly, and supply accessibility is a stark challenge. Nauru needs access to vaccines, a prerequisite for reopening the economy, as well as to COVID-19 prevention, mitigation and treatment interventions. Thanking Australia, India, Japan and “Taiwan” for their ongoing assistance, he said “Taiwan” aspires to join the World Health Assembly and should have the right to participate as an equal partner in implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. It should also be part of the “Our Common Agenda” vision.
He went on to stress that the United Nations resident coordinator system in the North Pacific should be backed by predictable and adequate funding and noted more broadly that Nauru’s recent reclassification as a high-income country renders it ineligible for concessional financing. If the unique vulnerabilities of small island developing States are not considered, the goals of the Samoa Pathway — and achievement of the 2030 Agenda — will remain compromised. He welcomed work on the multidimensional vulnerability index, so countries like Nauru can access concessional financing.
Turning to climate, he cited “the harsh truth” that funding for the causes of climate change is exponentially greater than that for the global response. Leaders everywhere must act swiftly to close the emissions gap and keep temperature rise below 1.5°C. He advocated for the creation of a Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Climate and Security, pressing the Group of 20 to phase out all fossil fuel subsidies by 2023, and accelerate the transition to low emissions, climate-resilient economies, in line with article (2)(1)(c) of the Paris Agreement.
As a big ocean State, Nauru has enjoyed the benefits of its large exclusive economic zone and sustainably managed, highly migratory tuna stocks, he said. He drew attention to the Naoero communiqué, adopted at the Micronesian Presidents’ Summit, noting that Nauru also has invoked section 1, paragraph 15 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, initiating the process to complete the Exploitation (Mining) Code within the next two years, allowing it and other developing nations to participate in a new industry and access the polymetallic nodule resources critical to building a clean energy transition.
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