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Kiribati Honorary Consul Discusses Challenges of Relocating the Country

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2013-03-12 20:55:35 -

(LONDON – 12 March 2013) – The Pacific island nation of Kiribati is making progress on contingency plans for the day it may no longer be inhabitable for its population, according to the nation's Honorary Consul to the United Kingdom, Mr. Michael Walsh.

Mr. Walsh elegantly laid out a personal account of existential issues for the future of Kiribati in an event hosted by the Pacific Islands Society at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London yesterday.

Kiribati has proven a resilient, peaceful, and democratic nation, despite the inherent difficulties of being spread across more than 30 islands in all four hemispheres of the Pacific Ocean. Today, however, the more than 100,000 "I Kiribati" citizens are on the front

lines of climate change. Rapidly rising sea levels, water shortages, drought, food security, public health, and physical protection from increasingly strong storms and 'king' tides are existential threats to the population.

"These are just as fundamental to people’s security as are the threat of foreign invasion, or of a terrorist attack," Mr Walsh said.

The nation is now bracing for the inevitable relocation of its people-- a move the government insists should be done with dignity.

"Kiribati migrants should be sought after by the countries to which they wish to relocate," Mr. Walsh said. "For this to happen Kiribati people must be in a position to provide the skills needed in receiving countries. This will create a ‘win-win’ situation, where both Kiribati and the receiving country benefit."

Students, journalists, and doctorate researchers in attendance were captivated by the personal account of such a dramatic, and tragic situation. Not often are the voices of these micro states heard in Western forums, as they are naturally limited by the lack of diplomatic and media resources, or "bandwidth" as Mr. Walsh referred to it.

"It was a tremendous and rare opportunity to hear from the Honorary Counsel," Omar Zaki, one of the founding members of the Pacific Islands Society, said. "These talks need to be encouraged. Hearing that Kiribati does not even have a permanent mission to the United Nations greatly shocked me and brought the reality of how little diplomatic support and awareness Kiribati has."

Mr. Walsh was the third speaker in inaugural Pacific Ambassador Speaking Series presented by the Pacific Islands Society at SOAS. The series draws together top diplomats from around the Pacific region to offer their first-hand perspective on traditional and non-traditional security issues in the Pacific region.

The next event in the series will be a speech by Her Excellency, Mrs. Winnie Anna Kiap, the Papua New Guinea High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. The event will be held Tuesday, March 19, at 7:15pm in Room 4418 of the SOAS Main Building in Russell Square, London.

Mrs. Kiap will be closing out the first half of the series, which will begin again in mid-April. The second half of the series will involve nations external to the Pacific, but which play major roles in regional development and cooperation.

All events in the series are free and open to the public-- although priority will be given to students and faculty of U.K. universities.

About the Pacific Islands Society at SOAS: The Pacific Islands Society is a registered society of the SOAS Student Union. The society aims to increase student and faculty awareness of the importance of Pacific affairs within the SOAS community and the broader U.K. higher education system.

For more information on the 2013 Ambassador Speaking Series:
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The Pacific Islands Society at SOAS

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Contact Person:
Miles McKenna
Director of Marketing and Communications
Phone: 02078984106
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