Fourteen years ago, five Pacific island leaders united for a better Pacific islands region, committing to the Micronesia Challenge, an agreement to effectively conserve at least 30% of the near-shore marine resources and 20% of the terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020.
Since then the commitment from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands, the Republic of Palau and the Governments of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, is a globally relevant example of what can be achieved by setting ambitious, long-term goals supported by strong partnerships for significant impact.
“A better world is not something we ask for. A better world is something we build. We define a better world through consensus, with a foundation of empathy and love for other human beings. We construct a better world by acknowledging that we are who we choose to be, and then choosing to take responsibility for both ourselves and our communities,” said His Excellency David Panuelo, President of the Federated States of Micronesia during the Grand Opening of the 2020 Virtual Island Summit in early September.
Since 2006, the Micronesia Challenge has leveraged USD 82 million for conservation efforts. It has placed over 70 new areas under conservation across all jurisdictions, and there has been an improvement in science-to-management decision-making with 20 new fisheries management policies enacted based on marine data.
The Micronesia Challenge has also led to over 70 management plans or climate change adaptation plans developed and 65 socio-economic assessments completed, and it does not stop there.
Over 95 college certificates, degrees and internships for youth and staff have been achieved through support of the Micronesia Challenge which has worked towards building the capacity of people in local communities. The Pacific island Micronesian region has also standardised marine and terrestrial monitoring protocols and developed region-wide databases through the creation of three Measures Groups (marine, terrestrial, and socioeconomic).
President Panuelo shared that “more than 3,000 people have been trained in management, planning, marine and socioeconomic monitoring, climate change adaptation, communications and behavior change, and/or enforcement. All told, we are protecting more than 1,300 species of fish and more than 480 species of coral.”
“If the issues of global warming and sustainability have taught us anything, it is that there are very few areas of the world that are not somehow connected with other areas. We as human beings thrive on interconnectivity. It is how we trade and negotiate, how we work out our differences, how we help each other, and how we benefit from each other’s knowledge, consideration, and generosity,” said Governor Lourdes Leon Guerrero of Guam as she presented at the 2020 Island Innovation Virtual Island Summit.
“We know that as an island community, we must act now in order to sustain and thrive, and leave our grandchildren, great grandchildren and future generations with an island that is as beautiful and abundant as the one we inherited from our ancestors.”
While this phase of the Micronesia Challenge has seen commitments achieved by 2020, it has also opened the door to greater commitments and a stronger, united vision ahead for Micronesia, having seen the benefits through the many successes.
The five islands jurisdictions of the Micronesia Challenge will continue to work together, strengthening partnerships to lay down an even bigger challenge during the Our Ocean Conference in December this year, hosted by Palau.
“We must all congratulate Micronesia for their leadership in sustainability – their vision of nearly 15 years ago, is now coming to fruition. This commitment from Micronesia and the hard work of our five islands has led to immense benefits for their people, and our environment as a whole,” said Mr Kosi Latu, Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
“We are proud of the accomplishments of the Micronesia Challenge, led by five island countries and territories within our SPREP membership. We look forward to being part of the journey with Micronesia as we enter the next phase of the Micronesia Challenge and all the opportunities this will bring for our planet. Malo lava Micronesia Challenge! Onwards and upwards!”
Working in partnership with the Micronesia Challenge, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), will bring you more news on this Pacific islands success story.