"Digital will be a key tool. We have seen other countries leverage tools like the Cloud to effectively ‘backup’ their countries. But we will need to go beyond this, and potentially even conceptualise what our countries could look like – in-part – as digital entities."
In this exclusive interview, His Excellency Mr. Kausea Natano, Prime Minister of Tuvalu,highlights how digital is central to support SIDS though the Rising Nations Initiative, helping ensure Pacific nations maintain their livelihoods and cultural heritage in the urgent face of the climate change crisis. Digital will enable a "globally-distributed diaspora", while in parallel supporting local climate resilience.
Q: Excellency, you’ve contrasted the climate-driven uncertainty of the future for people in most parts of the world with the uncomfortable certainty of the future for people of Pacific Atoll island countries. How urgent is the situation for your States and what does that mean for your people?
A: Indeed, it is an extreme urgency for us. As mentioned in my remarks during the UNGA, saline intrusion is affecting our drinking water, while higher tides, stronger storms and frequent floodings are devastating our villages, slashing our crops yields and destroying our infrastructure. Marine ecosystems, on which our ancestors relied for centuries, are perishing due to ocean warming and acidification impacting food security, tourism and our cultural identity. A recent review of climate projections for the Pacific published by the ADB last July indicates that not only is a 1m sea-level rise conceivable during this century, but that a 2m rise could also be exceeded by 2100. This means that many islands will be inhabitable or faced with the bold reality of submersion. The question will not be if, but when, communities will be displaced.
Q: How do you intend to communicate the extreme urgency that the Pacific Atoll countries are facing to the international community?
A: It is paramount that countries, international organizations, civil society, philanthropy, the private sector and all stakeholders grasp the urgency we are living in. The Rising Nation Initiative is therefore structured around three complementary pillars of action: Knowledge, Partnerships and Advocacy. The first pillar will focus on Knowledge. It will aim at developing a White Paper studying the climate impacts on Pacific Atoll countries and presenting recommendations. The partnership pillar will elevate the goals of the RNI on the international agenda and inform all relevant fora of the extreme and immediate urgency that we are facing. Finally, the Advocacy Pillar will focus on effectively informing policymakers, climate action movements and global citizens on the unprecedented urgency facing the populations of Pacific Atoll countries. This will mobilize the adequate political momentum for action.
Q: During recent years, we have seen SIDS increasingly taking advantage of digital tools to transform their challenges into opportunities. Can you tell us what role will the digital play in the Rising Nations Initiative?
A: The short answer is that digital will be a key tool. We have seen other countries leverage tools like the Cloud to effectively ‘backup’ their countries. But we will need to go beyond this, and potentially even conceptualise what our countries could look like – in-part – as digital entities. Emerging concepts such as the Metaverse may be useful, but we’ll also need to use digital to engage our globally-distributed diaspora. The RNI aims to establish a blueprint for a transformational and climate-resilient “Digital Nation State,” which will ensure our hopeful continuity in the digital space – and also allow a connection to the offline space. Economically, we can continue to support ourselves, including through the sustainable use of our Exclusive Economic Zones. Digital will allow that by making distances irrelevant, and through providing a payment architecture. This will ensure that our people can maintain their livelihoods and citizenship. Culturally, we want to establish a secure digital repository of Tuvalu’s geographies and history so as to ensure that all future generations will be able to experience the richness of their cultural heritage. But digital will not be a panacea. We must not sever the physical connection we have built amongst our people – this is a key part of our national sovereignty and identity.
Read more in SIDS bulletin issue 64 here.