Anote Tong


Anote Tong

Anote Tong

Anote Tong

Born June 11, 1952
Country Republic of Kiribati
Awarded for Improving global awareness of the severity of climate change and seeking for action by the international community for its solution.
His Excellency Anote Tong, the President of Kiribati, is a global leader whose dedication and passionate leadership helped to bring about a consensus by the international community concerning climate peace.  He dedicated himself to raising public awareness of the severe impacts of the climate crisis to the international community in order to address its impacts on his country of Kiribati, which is gradually being submerged due to rising sea-levels caused by climate change.
Also, he worked for the rights of climate refugees to make sure his country’s citizens who are at risk of being the victims of this climate crisis, will be able to keep their dignity if they are forced to migrate.  Furthermore, he is leading the cause to designate a large part of the Pacific region as an environmentally protected area, while forgoing immediate financial benefits to his country for the climate peace of future generations.

Educational Background

  • 1971 ~ 1974 University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • 1987 ~ 1988 Master of Science (Economics), LSE University of London, UK

Professional Background

  • 1974 ~ 1976 Assistant Secretary (Development), Economic Planning Office, Ministry of Finance
  • 1976 ~ 1977 Senior Assistant Secretary, Ministry of Education
  • 1978 Director of Economic Planning, Ministry of Economic Planning
  • 1978 ~ 1980 Project Officer, South Pacific Bureau for Economic Cooperation (SPEC)
  • 1980 ~ 1982 Secretary for the Ministry of Communications & Works
  • 1982 ~ 1983 Secretary for the Ministry of Natural Resources Development
  • 1983 ~ 1992 Director, Atoll Research and Development Unit, University for the South Pacific (USP)
  • 1993 ~ 1994 Administrative Secretary, Pacific Air-Services Alliance Corp (PASA)
  • 1994 Elected Member of Parliament for Maiana
  • 1994 ~ 1996 Minister of Natural Resources Development
  • 1996 ~ 2003 Member of Parliament (Boutokaan Te Koaua party)
  • 2003 Elected President of Kiribati
  • 2007 Re-elected President of Kiribati

Major Awards

  • 2008 David B. Stone Award (New England Aquarium Foundation)
  • 2009 Order of Brilliant Jade with Grand Cordon (President of Taiwan) 
    Medal of Honour (Speaker of the Legislative Yuan)
  • 2012 Peter Benchley Ocean Award (Blue Frontier Campaign) 
    Hillary Award (Hilary Institute of International Leadership)
Led the international community to act on climate change
His Excellency Anote Tong, President of Kiribati, actively informed the international community about the climate crisis facing low-lying Pacific small island states due to rising sea levels, and led the international community to actively embark on addressing this issue.  Even though immediate assistance and cooperation was needed by the international community to achieve climate peace for the future generations by reducing carbon emissions and adjusting negative developments that threaten the environment, conflicting interests among countries made for a sluggish show of pace.

Thus, in order to raise international awareness on the climate crisis issue, Pres. Tong invited world delegates to Kiribati and held the Tarawa Climate Change Conference (TCCC) on 12 Nov. 2010, which adopted the Ambo Declaration.  This is an 18-point resolution calling upon major economies including China and vulnerable nations to address the causes and adverse impacts of climate change, and urging them to embark upon immediate and concrete action.  This agreement between the nations was presented at the larger international climate change summit, the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) COP (Conference of Parties) 16 in Cancun, Mexico, and became the basis for the economically developed countries to support countries such as Kiribati that are vulnerable to climate change.  Furthermore, he played a core role in gathering support so that the major economies and developed countries can actively cope with climate change.
Led the protection of marine ecosystems by sacrificing for the future generations
In order to protect the ocean from pollution caused by human greed and intemperance, Pres. Tong let go of his country’s immediately profitable assets in order to protect the marine ecosystem.  He led the world’s largest marine protection and ocean management initiative by area in the ‘Phoenix Islands Protected Area’ designation, ‘Pacific Oceanscape Network Initiative’, etc., and took the lead for the conservation of the Pacific Rim as the resource repository for the future generations and the basis for peace.

Efforts to conserve the Pacific Rim started with first relinquishing his own country’s real profitable assets.  In 2006, Pres. Anote Tong worked with CI (Conservation International) and the New England Aquarium to create the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), encompassing some of the most pristine and coral-rich waters on the planet. Upon its full legal establishment in 2008, PIPA expanded to include more than 400,000km² of ocean prohibiting fishing and other exploitations, making it the world’s largest marine protected area at the time.  Two years later it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The area’s rich biodiversity includes an abundance of healthy corals, big sharks, groupers, tuna, giant clams and other marine animals that have been depleted in much of the rest of the world.  The Phoenix Islands is also a major source of revenue for the people of Kiribati with its beautiful environment and rich species of fish.  Therefore, prohibiting fishing activities and conserving the area also means that the Kiribati economy has had to endure a substantial blow.  Yet despite all this, Pres. Tong passed a law prohibiting all commercial fishing within the Phoenix Islands Protected Area explaining that, “These efforts are a significant contribution to the world community in the hope that they would also act.”

Going further, Pres. Tong conceived the Pacific Oceanscape framework, an unprecedented effort among 23 Pacific island nations to collaboratively and sustainably protect, manage, and sustain nearly 40 million km² of ocean.  The Pacific Oceanscape concept was introduced to the Pacific Islands Forum by Kiribati in 2009.  The Framework for the cooperative stewardship of their combined ocean territories was presented a year later, receiving unanimous endorsement by the heads of state and governments of 15 participating nations.  Together, the nations of the Pacific Oceanscape have responsibility for some 10% of the world’s ocean surface, an area four times the size of the United States.
Committed to ensuring the dignity of human rights for climate refugees
Pres. Tong is devoting a significant amount of his energy into defending the rights of his citizens, and contributed greatly in building awareness among the international community on the protection of human rights for climate refugees.

Pres. Tong is establishing a systematic migration policy so that his country’s citizens, who will be forced to leave Kiribati within the next 30 years due to rising sea levels submerging their country, can migrate with their dignity intact.  First, he worked diligently to secure funds to buy land for the resettlement, purchasing 24.28 million m² of land in Fiji, and is running the ‘migration with dignity’ vocational education program so that they will not be treated as unstable ‘refugees’ but as valuable members of the work-force with competitiveness and marketability.  Even as hope seemed to diminish as his country’s citizens faced the possibility of losing their homes due to climate change, Pres. Tong’s warm love for humanity shone brightly as he strove to safeguard human dignity, and established various expert vocational training programs such as nursing, seamanship, horticulture gardening, etc. as well as linguistics.  These efforts by Pres. Tong contributed to the international community urging for higher cooperation for the human rights of climate refugees and cooperation among countries regarding migration.

Awarding of Medal and Plaque to President Anote Tong

  • Founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon awards Kiribati President H.E. Anote Tong with the medal.

    ⓒ 2015. Sunhak Peace Prize

  • Committee Chairman Dr. Il Sik Hong awards Kiribati President H.E. Anote Tong with the plaque.

    ⓒ 2015. Sunhak Peace Prize

A commemorative photo shoot following the awarding of the medal and plaque (from left to right : Founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, laureate Kiribati President H.E. Anote Tong, Committee Chairman Dr. Il Sik Hong)

ⓒ 2015. Sunhak Peace Prize

Video of the awarding

Acceptance Speech

Kiribati President H.E. Anote Tong giving his Acceptance Speech during the Inaugural Sunhak Peace Prize Award Ceremony.

ⓒ 2015. Sunhak Peace Prize

Video of Acceptance Speech

Acceptance Speech

Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, our gracious host, Dr. Il-Sik Hong, the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, together with distinguished excellencies and delegates who are present here this morning, president and members of the Universal Peace Federation, distinguished members of the Sunhak Peace Prize Committee, my colleague and co-recipient of the award, Dr. Modadugu Gupta, and of course my wife, who is here to join me on this occasion, friends, ladies and gentlemen, as is customary in my tradition, allow me to share with you our Kiribati traditional blessings ‘Kam na bane ni Mauri’ meaning ‘May you all be blessed.’

I wish to begin by taking a moment to pay very special tribute to the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon and to Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon for their life-long mission and work, underpinned by the ultimate goal of achieving global peace for all.

Indeed had the global community embraced these visions of promoting reconciliation, coexistence and cooperation, the world would certainly be a much better place and a more peaceful place today.

I also wish to congratulate Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon together with the Chairman and the members of the Committee for this inaugural Sunhak Peace Prize Award Ceremony, an initiative of immense international significance in order to continue Rev. Moon's legacy of "One family under God." For my part, I am truly honored to be a co-recipient of this inaugural award, the Sunhak Peace Prize for 2015.

The last twelve years have been filled with a lot of challenges, starting from when my people elected me in 2003 to guide them towards a safe, secure and prosperous future.

Upon accepting that honor, I also accepted the responsibility that came with it, one of which is to ensure that their voices, their issues would be heard, especially within the international arena.

In receiving this most prestigious award, it is indeed my fervent hope that it will lend greater force to the urgency of the message which I have over the years been trying to communicate to the global community about this existential threat posted by climate change to the survival of future generations of my people and those in similar situations.

Climate change affects all of us in varying degrees of severity, but for my people and all those living in low-lying atoll islands, we are at the front line of this global calamity, with the very real possibility that our islands, our livelihoods, our homes, our identity as a people and as a culture may indeed cease to exist well within this century.

As leaders, we all have a duty to protect and safeguard those people for whom we are responsible. As parents and grandparents, it is only natural, and instinctive that we would do so with our lives if necessary, for those who rely on us for their security and I do believe it is the moral obligation of all humanity to ensure that all future generations be guaranteed a safe and secure future.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is against this background that I honour and acknowledge the most notable contribution of my fellow awardee Dr. Gupta, whose lifelong work will forever remain an inherent feature of the ongoing work on global food security.

It is an honour to be considered alongside a worthy fellow awardee, such as Dr. Gupta.

Let me also take this opportunity to acknowledge the one person who has supported and tolerated me throughout the years especially in those dire moments of frustration and despair when I felt a deep sense of futility that no one was listening to me.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to acknowledge my wife, Meme.

This award is as much for her as for all our dozen or so grandchildren, as well as those grandchildren whose voice we have tried to represent over the years.

For their sake, let us do what is right for them. In closing, let me share with you all our traditional blessings of “Te Mauri," "Te Raoi," and "Te Tabomoa," meaning health, peace, and prosperity be upon us all.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen.

Statement upon laureate announcement

“We have and will continue to protect and preserve this Earth, our one and only home.”

It is indeed an honour that I accept with the greatest humility this award on behalf of our future generations and the people of Kiribati, for it is on their behalf that I have waged this campaign to ensure a secure and safe future for our children, our grandchildren and their children.

This award from an organization outside the formal authority of the United Nations (UN) sends a very positive signal that there are those in this global community who are as equally committed to finding a solution to a globally destabilizing threat such as climate change.

It has not been a journey without challenges. I remember the time when I used to talk about climate change and being faced with the challenge of not being taken seriously and at times having to justify my concerns against scientific and expert opinions skeptical about climate change. However, more recently, science and the world at large are coming together with the underlying message that climate change is a reality and that there are no other options but to work together as a global community to address this calamity. It has indeed been very gratifying to witness such a momentous and positive change with particular credit to the strong stewardship of my fellow leaders.

Kiribati, is but a small nation, nevertheless, we are as much part of the global community as any other nation and we have and will continue to protect and preserve this Earth, our one and only home. This award complements and enhances the voice of my people and those at the frontline of climate change with the underlying message that the fate of small island states captures the essence of what global warming might mean at its most severe. The urgency now is in translating such global support to tangible benefits on the ground into action.

Again, I am very humbled and honoured to have been considered as one of the first recipients of the award particularly with a very worthy fellow awardee, Dr. Modadugu Vijay Gupta, whose work will go a long way towards strengthening global food security for all humanity. It is my sincere hope that this award will signal a path towards greater global peace and security for all.
June 8, 2015
Anote Tong
Planning Sunhak Peace Prize Secretariat
Edition New national edition, 320 pages (English / Korean version)
Issue February 1, 2016
Category Political and Social
ISBN 978-89-92289-80-1(03800)
Price 15,000 won

Table of Contents

  • -English version
  • -Korean version
  • Preface. A global leader of climate peace
  • Prologue. Climate Change
  • - Anote Tong’s climate peace activities
  • - Born in beautiful Kiribati
  • - Submerging Kiribati 
  • - Island countries at risk of disappearing from the world map
  • - Global warming, the main cause of sea level rise
  • - The Copenhagen Climate Conference ends in failure
  • - Holding the Tarawa Climate Change Conference
  • - Leading the international community to agreement at the Cancun Conference
  • - Pursuing “Migration with Dignity”
  • - Giving up self-interests and protecting the ocean environment
  • - Addressing the issue of climate change
  • - Accepting the 2015 Inaugural Sunhak Peace Prize
  • - Sunhak Peace Prize 2015 acceptance speech
  • - World Summit 2015 plenary speech
  • Appendix.
  • Speech at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly
  • Speech at the 3rd Monaco Blue Initiative
  • Keynote speech at the 16th session of Conference of Parties to UNFCCC

From the Book

“I met a boy when I visited Kiribati. He was scared to go to bed at night for fear of being drowned in his sleep.”
“Climate change is a serious threat to the survival of many low lying countries.” Climate change will have a serious, extensive and irrevocable impact. Climate change threatens the hard-won peace, prosperity, and opportunity for billions of people. Today, we must set the world on a new course.”
“The 2009 Copenhagen Climate Change Conference ended in failure without any clear position on how to counter global rising temperatures. President Tong made a firm decision that he would consolidate with the South Pacific countries to rally for more substantial action. He felt that more aggressive action was necessary to finalize a new convention on climate change for the future of the Earth.
President Tong didn’t want the Kiribati people to become climate refugees. He was worried that they might become refugees without dignity and rights as human beings. He also felt there was still an opportunity and time to do something about it. President Tong stressed that the crisis was not because of the inability or idleness of the Kiribati people but because of the difficulties at the global level to reach agreements. He thought that their mother country could be given up if it was inevitable but the dignity of their people could not. He gave the first priority to his people. He thought that the most important duty of a president was to protect and serve his people. “I want to keep my people’s ‘dignity.’ I want them to be treated as ‘human beings’ and not ‘refugees’.” he says.

Publisher’s Review

What kind of legacy do you want to leave for our children and future generations? We must take responsibility for the uncomfortable truths faced by the planets, the environment, the oceans, and the earth.”
This publication is in commemoration of the 2015 inaugural Sunhak Peace Prize laureate, Anote Tong, the President of the Republic of Kiribati, for his efforts to overcome the global climate crisis.
All across the world, extreme climatic behavior such as heavy snowfall, flood, drought, cold wave, etc. caused by global warming are increasing. Such anomalous climate phenomena produces massive damages and refugees worldwide and adversely affect not only the environment of developing countries, but also agriculture, forestry, fisheries, livestock, industries, drinking water, sanitation and health, education, and society in general. In particular, the destruction of land and industrial infrastructure is linked to the loss of livelihood, and changes in living conditions and migration, lead to social unrest and spread of disease, resulting in a decline in labor productivity. This problem is even more serious for low-lying coastal countries, especially island nations, where the rise of sea level is expected to submerge the entire country within a few decades; they experience climate change as a direct hit.

With an elevation of only 2 meters above sea-level, Kiribati is also facing the danger of disappearing from the world map within a few decades. President Anote Tong, who was born in Kiribati and became President, urged the international community to take practical action to solve the problems of his homeland and initiated long-term preparations for his people to move into new societies and live with dignity. He is committed to protecting and preserving the marine environment and marine ecosystem by aggressively promoting climate agreements and international conferences, as well as devoting himself to purchasing new land and migration education.

Introductory Video

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The People Creating Future Peace
Climate Crisis Theme – H.E. Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati, a country in danger of being submerged due to sea-level rise. Climate change and abnormal temperatures are threatening humanity’s survival in the 21st century.
Increasing numbers of island nations are in crisis of being deprived of their way of life by typhoons and floods, and seeing their islands being submerged due to rising sea levels from melting glaciers in the Antarctic and Arctic.
Meanwhile, people around the world are in agony from the food crisis due to drought.
Climate change is becoming an environmental disaster shortening the life of the Earth.

The inaugural Sunhak Peace Prize laureate announcement was held at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.
The first laureates, Kiribati President H.E. Anote Tong and Indian fisheries scientist Dr. Modadugu V. Gupta…

How did they contribute to world peace?
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