From rising sea levels to reduced access to natural resources and increased severity of natural hazards, the impacts of climate change on sustainable livelihoods and human security are already a reality for the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).
A collection of 34 low-lying coral atolls, RMI is among the most vulnerable country in the world to the impacts of climate change. The nation is home to more than 53,000 people, living in 22 of the atolls and four islands, with almost 70 percent of the population living in the two urban centers of Ebeye on the Kwajalein Atoll land Majuro on the Majuro Atoll.
The islands average six feet in elevation, and at their lowest points, the atolls sit just above sea level.
In RMI, climate change is a cross-cutting issue that affects every aspect of the Marshallese communities and exacerbates existing socio-economic vulnerabilities.
Food insecurity and water access are among the most evident climate-related security risks already experienced in the Marshall Islands.
According to the “Current and future climate of the Marshall Islands” report, by 2030, the islands’ surrounding sea level will rise by nine (9) centimeters, drastically increasing the frequency and the impact of storm surges and coastal flooding. Moreover, annual rainfall will intensify while, at the same time, warmer temperatures and drier periods will persist. The impacts of droughts can include the ‘islands’ wells become brackish or run dry, making water supplies unusable for consumption and agriculture. During floods, saltwater and dirt creep into and contaminate freshwater reserves and damage infrastructure. Over the past decade, thousands of island residents have experienced water and food shortages due to these climate change impacts.
To address these climate-related security issues, the UN Climate Security in the Pacific Project is taking decisive risk management actions to build resilience and secure a sustainable future.
Funded by the UN Secretary-General’s Peacebuilding Fund (PBF), the initiative proposes concrete assessment and actions at all levels to tackle climate-related security risks in RMI, Tuvalu and Kiribati. The project will help set the direction to manage the described risks and strengthen the capacities of low-lying atoll nations. The project also supports Pacific governments to increase their advocacy and presenting climate change as the most significant security threat for the Pacific region in the global fora.
In close partnership, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UN Development Programme are working on this project to ensure that gender dimensions and the needs of vulnerable groups like women, disabled people, and youth are taking into consideration. For each country, climate-security profiles will be developed, allowing for better planning at the local level and scaling resilience-building initiatives at the community level.
From January to date, the project has engaged in a series of informative workshops in RMI involving national actors, civil society, non-governmental organizations, and vulnerable groups (especially women and youth) in the project planning and equipping them with the knowledge and skills required to engage in an effective and informed dialogue on climate security.
The workshops presented an in-depth analysis of Climate Security and its significance for the country and the Pacific region and highlighted the project plan and expected outcomes, namely:
Empowering atoll states and regional actors in the Pacific to address climate-related security risks.
Strengthening the overall understanding and risk management of critical climate-related security risks and challenges.
Enhancing advocacy and related capacities of Pacific Island Nations to combat climate change, focusing on the climate impact on peace and human security.
Coordinated by the IOM team in the capital Majuro, the workshops have successfully reached out to key stakeholders, agencies, and organizations, including the Ministry of Health and Human Services, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Natural Resource and Commerce, the Climate Change Directorate, the Public School System, the Banking and Postal Service and the Environmental Protection Authority.
The informative sessions also included non-state actors such as the Marshall Islands Red Cross Society, the University of the South Pacific in RMI and the Marshall Islands Council of Non-Government Organizations to hear the voice of civil society and academia.
The NGOs that actively contributed to the informative sessions include Jo-Jikum – “Your Place” – which focuses on youth development, women empowerment and climate change awareness and MICS – Marshall Islands Conservation Society.
UNDP and IOM will continue to work on strengthening RMI’s capacity to plan and tackle climate security challenges at the community, national and regional levels, thereby providing an inclusive approach to building resilience.
(Source: UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji)
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