Tommy E. Remengesau
Good Afternoon everyone. Let me begin by saying that I am humbled by this opportunity to address so many of our world's great leaders. It is truly an honour - Yet it is not only an honour. It is also a responsibility, to my country and to my people. I would be remiss if I did not directly confront the problem at its core. And the problem is one of global greed versus global need. Realistically, if we do not come together, now, here in Johannesburg, and solve the issue of the distribution of wealth and opportunity, the world, as we know it will rapidly slip from our grasps.
As a way of introduction, my Country, the Republic of Palau, is a small island developing state. We are a nation renowned for its exceptional biodiversity, with, by area, the largest number of endemic species; coral reef, fish and other invertebrates to be found anywhere on the planet.
Palau, as a Pacific island nation, is proud of and humbled by the splendour with which we have been graced. However, we find ourselves increasingly isolated and vulnerable to the impacts of globalization. Like most small, developing island nations, we are working diligently to take our place as a member of the global economy. However, we lack the tools and the capacity that larger nations have to bridge the gap from developing to developed status. This vulnerability is further intensified by the adverse- impacts of climate change. As an additional challenge, we are, by our very nature, economically isolated from the global community and have limited access to the resources needed to bridge this gap.
Mr. Chairman, the Pacific way has always been that the more skilled fishermen provide the fish for the entire community. We would therefore ask that the donor nations, as the world's great fishermen, share their plentiful catch with the weak and the less fortunate.. However, in this modem world, the ultimate contribution must be to teach others to fish for themselves. This is all that we ask -- the opportunity to provide for ourselves.
Clearly, there has been some progress over the past few years in the international community to recognize the unique challenges and vulnerabilities of the small island developing countries, to move away from the fictional notion that economies such as ours operate under the same conditions as those of the developed world. We have been studied, analysed,: dissected, and finally reported on to higher bodies. We are thankful. We are now defined. It is now time to move forward, and put into place the appropriate mechanisms to allow us to fully implement the recommendations that have been made. What we need are no longer suggestions and recommendations. What we need are tools - opportunities that only come about through real partnerships.
Mr. Chairman, the challenge before us is loud and clear. Live up to the principles of Agenda 21 as agreed upon by all of us during the Earth Summit in 1992 by fulfilling our agreed upon obligations as augmented by the Millennium, Doha, and Monterrey declarations. Words are no longer sufficient. Instead of developing financial ceilings, let us create foundations for unlimited and sustainable financial growth for the developing island nations. Instead of avoiding realistic timelines, let us embrace them. Instead of struggling against the acts that are necessary for our global survival, let us move forward, together, with aggressive responses to the challenges we all face. Let us provide real and effective broad-based partnerships that are necessary for developing countries to further implement the principles of Agenda 21.
Mr.- Chairman, we are not seeking a handout. What we offer you is eventual self sufficiency, equity and equality. We will achieve this by establishing principles of good governance throughout our political processes. We cannot expect, nor should we receive, something for nothing. Nor can we expect that performance should not be a factor in our own destiny.
It is well past time for the developed nations to recognize that their industrial activities have had, and will continue to have, a great and real impact on others. In the very simplest terms, take responsibility for your actions. In 1997 and 1998, Palau lost at least one third of its coral reefs due to climate change related weather patterns. We also lost most of our agricultural production due to drought and extreme high tides. Please do not tell us that these were theoretical scientific losses. They were the losses of our resources and our livelihoods. Eventually they will be the loss of our cultural existence, as well.
Long ago, Palauans understood that the sea's bounty must be preserved for future generations. This role as stewards over our precious heritage and the sea's magnificent resources are an integral part of our rich culture. Traditional conservation methods, such as the 'Bul', which banned fishing in certain designated areas during spawning season, are still practised today. I am very proud that my ancestors understood their unique role as guardians of Palau's natural environment. Yet in this modem world, traditional conservation alone is not' sufficient to stem the tide of global expansion. We are no longer in total control of our own destinies.
Yet our destinies may very well be the window to your own future and the future of our planet. Listen to us. Hear our alarm. We are under attack not by our enemies, but by our friends. We do not blame you. We only seek your assistance, for your own good as well as ours.
For our path is ultimately the path of all nations. We are, indeed, the last paradise on Planet Earth. Do not cause us to be a paradise lost. For surely, you will follow us to our mutual destiny. Let us underline our efforts here in Johannesburg not because the eyes of the world are upon us, but because there is a genuine love of the earth In all of us. Standing here together, today, we can change and better our destiny. We can overcome the greed of past centuries and fulfill the needs of all of our children.