Anote Tong Announced as Hillary Laureate 2012
EMBARGOED MIDNIGHT 17 September 2012
GLOBAL MEDIA RELEASE
The Hillary Institute of International Leadership today announced its 2012 global Hillary Laureate; His Excellency, Te Beretitenti, (President) Anote Tong of Kiribati.
The Institute’s international board, the Hillary Summit, has selected President Tong as its 4th annual Hillary Laureate awardee and the first for Leadership in “Climate Equity”, which is the Institute’s Leadership focus until 2015. Former Hillary Laureates are Jeremy Leggett (UK-2009), Peggy Liu (China-2010) and Aimee Christensen (USA-2011). Ms. Liu also won the Hillary Step prize earlier this year.
Says Institute Chairman David Caygill: “No nation symbolises more dramatically than Kiribati both the impact of climate change and the inequity of that impact on different nations. President Tong has been tireless in his efforts to draw these concerns to the attention of the world. We hope this award assists his endeavours."
Hillary Summit Governor and IPCC* Chair, Dr Rajendra Pachauri adds; “I am truly delighted at the selection of President Anote Tong. I cannot think of a more deserving person for this recognition and honour."
The Hillary Summit selected President Tong from a global watch-list the Institute has built on Leaders in mid-career whose leadership on Climate Equity issues is exceptional and inspirational.
Says a spokesperson for President Tong , “His Excellency Te Beretitenti is most delighted and honoured to have been considered as the recipient of this award and would be extremely pleased to accept such honour on behalf of his people and his nation and others similarly affected by climate change”.
President Tong is the recipient of many awards and recognition for his leadership, the most recent being the Peter Benchley Ocean Award for Excellence in National Stewardship of the Ocean (Huffington Post, 12/8 2012).
Given the stark sea-rise realities confronting his nation however, in what could be the world's first climate-induced migration of modern times, the Kiribati President has recently been in talks with relevant authorities in Fiji to buy up to 6,000 acres of freehold land initially as an investment option and a food security safety net in response to increasing challenges posed by climate change. Some of Kiribati's 32 pancake-flat coral atolls, which straddle the equator over 1,350,000 square miles of ocean are already being seriously affected requiring the relocation of some village communities.
The Hillary Institute will work with President Tong, to enhance his work, both within his home community and internationally. He will also lead the Institute’s 5th Annual Symposium on Climate Equity in Christchurch, in November.
PRESIDENT ANOTE TONG;
Is in his third term as President of Kiribati. In 2008, under his leadership Kiribati made a grand gift to the world: it declared 150,000 square miles of its Phoenix Islands marine area a fully protected marine park, making it off limits to fishing and other extractive uses.
This ocean wilderness (the size of California), has been designated a UN World Heritage Site. It has been described as one of the most pristine parts of our blue planet, with rich biodiversity including an abundance of healthy corals, sharks, grouper, tuna, giant clams and other species that have been depleted in much of the rest of the world.
Most of Kiribati’s 113,000 people are crammed on to Tarawa, the administrative centre, a chain of islets which curve in a horseshoe shape around a lagoon. "Our people will have to move as the tides have reached our homes and villages."
President Tong says that “part of the worst case scenario adaptation strategy to the challenge of climate change would be to upskill our people in order to better equip them for relocation and integration. This would not only enable them to migrate with dignity but also to make a positive contribution to their destination country's economy”.
Five years old, the New Zealand-based Hillary Institute was launched with Sir Edmund Hillary and its patron, former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark in 2007.
In honouring Sir Edmund’s legacy (who passed in 2008), its mission is to recognize exceptional international leadership in mid-career through selecting one global Hillary Laureate annually, and awarding the four yearly, NZD100K, Hillary Step prize.
(*Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)