H.E. Anote Tong, Former Kiribati President give the Congratulatory Address during the Sunhak Peace Prize Award Ceremony.
As is customary in my country, allow me to share with you all our Kiribati traditional blessing of “Kam na bane ni mauri,” “May we all be blessed with good health.”
It is with great pleasure that I covey warm greetings to all who have gathered for the 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize Award Ceremony, and I congratulate this year’s laureates on receiving this prestigious and much deserved award. On behalf of all those who have gathered here today, thank you, Dr. Gino Strada and Dr. Sakena Yacoobi, for your life long dedication to the wellbeing of refugees and war victims.
I am particularly honored to recognize these laureates, as their accomplishments are very much in the spirit of the vision of the founder, Rev. and Mrs. Moon, to build “One Family Under God,” and compliments their global work for peace and development. I am convinced that they will go on to make even greater strides toward peace for future generations.
Today we have gathered here, not only to celebrate the great achievements of these extraordinary people, but also to participate in this discussion and to exchange views on one of the major global issues of our era. The world continues to be affected by major forced displacements. Rising sea levels and serious food insecurity, currently worsened by Climate Change and other calamities, is particularly affecting refugees. Indeed I also have dedicated my life to addressing this issue, to ensure that the rights of my people, and those in similar situations at the frontline of this global calamity, are upheld. We face a very real possibility that our islands, our homes, our identity as a people, may not exist within this century, rendering us all the more vulnerable to becoming climate refugees.
These are not easy times for any of us. The challenges are truly unprecedented. At the same time we know that it is our moral obligation and duty to help the refugees coming to our shores. These people are not fleeing their homes by choice. They are fleeing because they were forced to. Migration must be recognized as a shared responsibility of countries of origin, transit, and destination. We need to strengthen the resilience of both the host and the refugee communities by investing in job opportunities, education, infrastructure and social protection. The refugee crisis requires a global response, and therefore we must enhance the global effort through cooperation and coordination between all actors.
All of this reminds us that we need to work together. Collective action is not a luxury. It is a prerequisite for effective policies. Being a co-recipient of the inaugural prize in 2015 gave me great hope, that the world has taken heed of my people’s struggles. I am glad that the Sunhak Committee recognizes the importance of the oceans in food security, environmental integrity, and overall socioeconomic development, not just for refugees but the world over, as essential pre-requisites for a peaceful society. Since then, I have been given numerous opportunities to speak at events organized by the Universal Peace Federation, and through their network, I have been given a new window by which to spread my message. This has encouraged me all the more, to pursue my life-long goals of peace and tranquility through addressing issues related to Climate Change.
To that end, I am certain that you will find this experience most rewarding, and wish to close my message by expressing my best wishes for a memorable event and stimulating convention, by sharing with you all our traditional blessings of “Te Mauri, Te Raoi, and Te Tabomoa; health, peace, and prosperity.