Speaking to the UN General Assembly in New York recently, Mr Aingimea said “After an economic collapse followed by many years of stagnation, far too many Nauruans have been left behind and they are hungry for improvements in the quality of their lives.
“It is the highest priority of my administration to restore to them what has been lost. To return what has been taken and deliver on the promises that have gone unfulfilled for too long.”
Mr Aingimea said the immediate focus for his government was reforming the health and education systems.
“Teacher retention is a persistent challenge and student truancy has risen to alarming levels,” he said.
“Also, the lack of good job opportunities that require a diploma has led some families to question the value of a quality education.”
He stressed that too many people are being lost to non-communicable disease like diabetes.
“We are losing our loved ones and their expertise,” he said. “We are losing our history. We will require multi-lateral assistance, or we risk losing our future as well.”
Mr Aingimea also warned of the potential economic impact in the Pacific on tuna fishing.
“Sea level rise is not only about an existential threat to our small and low-lying island. Climate change also threatens an economic Armageddon if tuna fishery disappears,” he said.
“Nauru supports a proposal for the Pacific small island-developing states to appoint a UN special representative on climate and security, whose work must begin with an assessment of the UN’s capacity to respond to climate disasters.”
Mr Aingimea said work being carried out by the International Law Commission, established by the UN General Assembly, on the issue of rising sea levels and international law, was of “tremendous importance to the Pacific”.
“The issue around baselines and rising seas is critical, and we believe it is in the interests of all states to give serious consideration to the impact of sea-level rise on the livelihoods of their people,” he said.
“Security for our oceans is a problem which must be tackled by everyone. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a great threat and economic loss for our small economy.”
Mr Aingimea said “reasons for optimism” included the major redevelopment of the nation’s port and the country’s higher ground initiative, which aims to move housing and critical infrastructure.
“The new port has the potential to become a hub of commerce for our island and the wider Pacific. Value-added services for fishing and shipping vessels will become viable in Nauru,” he said.
“The new port facility and the high ground initiative, along with an aggressive push on renewable energy and efficiency, serve as the major cornerstones of a sustainable major development strategy that has the potential to create good jobs, generate new revenue streams and radically improve our fiscal situations.”
Photo UN Caption: President of Nauru Lionel Rouwen Aingimea