A new era of development assistance for Marshall Islands
MAJURO, November 29, 2008— A new era of development assistance has now begun for the Republic of the Marshall Islands, as the United Nations flag flies in the capital Majuro, beside the country’s national flag - a symbol of a presence and strengthened partnership.
The President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands H.E. Litokwa Tomeing launched the United Nations Joint Presence with Representatives from three UN agencies: UNFPA – the United Nations Population Fund; United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on the 26th of November. The historic event was attended by senior Government officials, Diplomats, UN delegates, members of civil society and other invited guests.
In his opening remarks President Tomeing said, “from the moment the Marshall Islands became a member of the United Nations in 1991, it had always been our wish for a tangible, permanent presence of the UN here in our capital.”
“We unite in jubilation as we celebrate the realization of our vision as we open the UN office here in the Marshall Islands. We are grateful for the vision of our past leaders and that of His Excellency Ban Ki Moon, and those both from RMI and the UN who’ve worked countless hours and overcome various challenges with sheer determination and genuine cooperation to make this joint presence a wonderful, living reality,” said President Tomeing.
The launch of the office is a step towards further coordinating and harmonizing development assistances for the Marshallese people. It comes in response to the development challenges that the small island state faces, especially in its progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 with current progress indicators calling for greater commitment and action. It is feared that the country may fall short of reaching the targets unless serious efforts are made.
According to UNFPA, the Joint Presence initiative is a show of the commitment from both the UN and the Government’s side and a positive move that will strengthen relationships, programme implementation and coordination to speed up the achievement of the MDGs.
“UNFPA is honoured in taking a leading role on behalf of UNDP and UNICEF in setting up and operationalising this Joint Presence in the Republic of Marshall Islands. This launch is the fourth of seven such offices that our three agencies will be opening in the Pacific by early 2009. This is in response to direct appeals by Pacific Island Countries to the UN Secretary General for greater operational presence. I wish to express our sincere thanks to His Excellency the President and the Government of Marshall Island for providing the office space free of cost to the UN,” said Mr. Najib Assifi, Director Pacific Sub-Regional Office and UNFPA Representative.
“The Joint Presence of UNFPA, UNDP and UNICEF in the Marshall Islands will be headed by our Country Development Manager, Ms Jane Ishiguro who will be working closely with Government and NGO counterparts to strengthen the drive to achieve the development goals necessary for a life of health and equal opportunity for the Marshallese people,” said Mr. Assifi.
UNICEF Representative, Dr Isiye Ndombi explains that the Joint Presence is a unique partnerships between the Pacific Island Governments and the three UN agencies who have previously operated independently.
“Inline with UN Reform we all have committed to come together and Deliver as One through the Joint Presence. This is a practical and a streamlined way to work with our Government and civil society partners to achieve better progress for the Marshallese people,” said Dr Ndombi.
“The Government of Marshall Islands must be commended for developing a Strategic Development Plan 2003-2018 , however, we urge the Government to address the needs of children in the Plan- this will help the country steer its way towards achieving the MDGs.As children are the embodiment of the future of the family, the community, the country and indeed the world – one should be able to recognize how the country’s future will be by looking at the state of the children,” said Dr Ndombi, UNICEF Representative.
UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Mr. Toily Kurbanov said that this partnership of the three agencies will result in the drive to achieving development results and support the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in line with the Marshall Islands Strategic Development Plan.
“The Joint Presence initiative of UNFPA, UNDP and UNICEF is the result of extensive consultations undertaken in response to clearly articulated operational needs by the Government of RMI,” said Mr Kurbanov.
“If we just take a step back from today’s event and look at the world around us, it is impossible not to recognize tremendous challenges faced by the global community of nations. Long-term challenges of poverty eradication and impacts of climate change have now become compounded with, first, escalation of the international food and fuel prices and, more recently, with global financial crisis. As Small Island Developing State, Republic of Marshall Islands is particularly vulnerable to the effects of these crises,” said Mr Toily Kurbanov, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative.
“The MDGs tell us where we need to go, but we won’t get there quick enough without essential partnerships. Through the Joint Presence, UNFPA will work closely with UNICEF and UNDP to collaborate in joint programming initiatives that will reduce poverty, promote gender equity and empowerment of women, reproductive rights and health and healthy population. We also need the political commitment of the Governments to promote women’s health and status and to allocate sufficient funds to health and gender equality interventions and to develop appropriate policies,” said Mr. Najib Assifi, Director Pacific Sub-Regional Office and UNFPA Representative.
Over the last few months, UNFPA, UNICEF and UNDP have established joint presences in the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Tuvalu; and Nauru will be launched next year. The team will proceeded to the Federated States of Micronesia and then to Palau to launch the Joint Presence there in the upcoming days.