"We know that we must protect the natural beauty of our islands and the ecosystems that our livelihoods depend on to ensure a future for our children and our way of life. Our Micronesian neighbours share this vision," says Hersey Kyota, Palau Ambassador to the US.
In Palau, nature’s beauty can take your breath away: marine lakes where you can swim with jellyfish, coral reefs that are every scuba diver's dream, thick mangrove swamps, undisturbed upland forests, Micronesia’s largest freshwater lake, and of course the famous “rock islands” - beautiful tree-topped limestone outcrops that are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Almost a fifth of our species are unique to Palau, and our islands are home to many rare, threatened, and endangered species like the Golden Jellyfish, Saltwater Crocodiles, Dugongs, and Micronesian Megapodes.
We know that we must protect the natural beauty of our islands and the ecosystems that our livelihoods depend on to ensure a future for our children and our way of life. Our Micronesian neighbors share this vision. We believe that together, as one Micronesia, we can make a greater impact than on our own.
Micronesia encompasses three countries and two territories: the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), as well as the US Territory of Guam and the US Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). During the CBD COP 8 in 2006, the chief executives from the five Micronesian jurisdictions launched the Micronesia Challenge a commitment to effectively conserve 20% of terrestrial and 30% of near-shore marine habitat by 2020 at a high level event hosted by the Global Island Partnership.
This year, we celebrate the ten year anniversary since the Micronesia Challenge was launched. Ten years of collective effort and action to protect the extraordinary biological diversity found in our region of the world. Under the Micronesia Challenge, we have come together to create and improve more than 150 protected areas, strengthen management and networks and to share our experiences and lessons across the region.
The Micronesia Challenge Endowment is the most important financing mechanism, with an endowment of $17 million as of 2015, and a goal of $56 million by 2020. The Endowment is hosted by the Micronesia Conservation Trust, the first regional trust fund of its kind with expertise in financing conservation, climate adaptation, and sustainable livelihood projects. The countries and territories of the Micronesia Challenge have generated financing to contribute to the Endowment and support conservation activities by a range of sustainable financing mechanisms such as the Palau Green Fee (a departure fee that supports state protected areas and conservation groups), tuna licensing fees, and local endowments.
As we now work to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and build a resilient future for our island and global economies, the framework of the Micronesia Challenge is an example to the world of how to motivate local and national action toward long-term goals. It is a model that can be expanded to motivate action toward broader sustainability goals. Established financing mechanisms such as the Micronesia Conservation Trust can also be adapted to more rapid channel sustainability and climate change financing to achieve multiple goals.
The Micronesia Challenge has inspired other challenges around the world, such as the Caribbean Challenge Initiative and Hawaii’s own Aloha+Challenge. The Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), has provided a platform for us to share our success story and catalyze the political will we need to inspire regional challenges in other islands and regions of the world. Led by my President, H.E. Tommy E. Remengesau Jr. of Palau, alongside the President of Seychelles and Prime Minister of Grenada, the Global Island Partnership is a platform of island leaders from around the world that promotes action to build resilient and sustainable island communities.
At the upcoming World Conservation Congress, we look forward to determining how our regional island solution can be expanded and adapted to support broader sustainability and resilience goals. We also look forward to sharing our approach, exchanging lessons learned, and recognizing successful initiatives that can be replicated.