The UN in RMI, the nuclear legacy, climate justice and the way forward


A year ago, on 1st October 2021, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appointed the first Resident Coordinator Micronesia, Jaap van Hierden, to head the UN’s newest Multi-Country Resident Coordinator’s Office. Based in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the UN Multi-Country Resident Coordinator’s Office Micronesia (UNMCO Micronesia) covers the five Micronesian countries including Palau, the Republic of Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), Nauru and Kiribati.

Since it became a member state of the United Nations in 1991, RMI has been active on matters such as climate security, human rights and the nuclear legacy as well as joining the other Micronesian countries to lobby for the appointment of a dedicated Resident Coordinator for Micronesia for over a decade. Although the UN system has been active in RMI for many years, the establishment of the new UNMCO provides RMI with an entry point to the full resources of the UN system. In line with the setting up of the new UNMCO, in addition to the agencies already present in country, UN agencies providing remote support, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) scaled up.

Most importantly, over the past year the UN system in Micronesia has been working with the Government to address some of the major socio-economic and human rights challenges including responding to the nuclear legacy, climate security, food security, health and education and economic recovery.

While nuclear testing stopped in 1958, the impacts of it are still being felt 64 years on. Earlier this month the UN Human Rights Council adopted the resolution entitled “Technical assistance and capacity building to address the human rights implications of the nuclear legacy in RMI.” An important milestone, this step challenges the UN in Micronesia to step up and address all aspects of the nuclear legacy building on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) programmes supporting the National Nuclear Commission aimed at building capacity on monitoring and analysis of artificial radionuclides in marine, terrestrial and coastal environments and putting the foundations in place for the establishment. national nuclear regulatory framework.

This year also marks the one-year anniversary of the right to climate security being designated a human right. This is nowhere as pertinent as RMI, where, as a small island atoll state, climate change poses an existential threat to the lives of the Marshallese people. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) have been implementing a number of complementary initiatives focused on addressing various aspects of climate security and UNDP supported the Government of RMI with representation at the COP-26 negotiations in bringing climate security as a national priority to the global forum.

The joint IOM and UNDP “Climate Security in the Pacific Project” funded by the Peace Building Fund and implemented in RMI, Kiribati and Tuvalu have adopted a holistic and people-based approach to addressing the challenges of climate security. This includes the engagement of youth female activists and communities. Over the past few months, IOM held a series of workshops targeting the youth, to address several development challenges such as climate change, gender discrimination and migration decisions.

The UN is supporting the Government in addressing human trafficking. IOM has been training law enforcers, enabling them to investigate human trafficking and provide the necessary support to the victims. The newly established UNMCO Micronesia was developed at a time when the world was grappling with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic which was further exacerbated by the ongoing hyperinflation and fuel price rises.

RMI had its first case of community transmission in August 2022, this gave UN agencies and partners close to two and half years to support preparedness, plan and refine its strategies in responding to the pandemic. Similarly, the COVID-19 response in RMI was multi-faceted as UN agencies came together to respond to the pandemic. For example, the World Health Organisation (WHO) was able to swiftly activate the “COVID-19 Community One-Stop Shop” for testing and early treatment. UNICEF trained public health staff and other COVID-19 task force members in Majuro and Ebeye on effective risk communications and community engagement. The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Human Services to procure more than US$5.3 million worth of medical supplies, personal protective equipment, and laboratory resources to support the country’s COVID-19 response. Meanwhile, IOM was at the forefront of the COVID-19 response activities including risk communication, coordination, & technical support across key sectors.

Food security and the increased food prices on small island developing states are fundamental development challenges linked to non-communicable diseases. With the support of the UN, RMI was a leader in the preparations for the Food Systems Summit. This is in addition to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) food security initiative launched this year, the joint UN “Response to the Global Crisis on Food, Energy, Finance” which aims to improve the understanding of the impact of the global food, energy and finance crisis on the national food system and what approaches could be adopted to address this.

With access to land being scarce, IOM and UNDP partnered on a pilot project in Mejatto’s communal garden. The climate-smart agriculture technologies will allow the community to grow short-term crops using solar-powered vertical aeroponic gardens.
To respond to the growing crisis, UNOPS and the India-UN Fund partnered to support the people of Mili Atoll to install solar-powered chest freezers – a sustainable and environmentally friendly solution that will allow local communities to freeze food obtained from subsistence farming and fishing and store it for longer periods of time.

The Government of RMI has been a leader in the human rights and climate security in SIDS discourse.

The UNMCO Micronesia wishes to extend its gratitude and congratulations to the RMI for strengthening the conservation of biodiversity efforts through the increased terrestrial and marine protected area coverage by 77.5 hectares.

The UN system has provided significant support to RMI , however, the UN Resident Coordinator appreciate the need to reinforce the UN’s engagement in RMI and to ensure a concerted effort to address the impact of the nuclear legacy…..PACNEWS