Building resilience of small island economies

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In the Marshall Islands, everything is climate change

If there’s one country that needs climate change to be addressed urgently, it’s the Marshall Islands. Comprising 29 atolls and five solitary low coral islands that stand at only three meters above sea-level at its highest point, the Marshall Islands is extremely vulnerable to climate impacts. “Almost everything we do here is related to climate change,” says Jim Hicklin who is the Head Grant Writer at the Republic of Marshall Islands’ Ministry of Finance. Working in the capital city of Majuro, Mr. Hicklin leads a small team of grant writers that helps national agencies, local governments, and NGOs in the Marshall Islands write compelling proposals to access funds from international and bilateral donors. “We always have a full set of ongoing projects from the national, the sub-national, through to the grassroots levels, and most of these projects are climate-related,” he explains. “In a way, our department acts as a de facto clearing house of sorts – we try to keep our fingers on the pulse as much as we can.”

The Marshall Islands, straddling midway between Australia and Hawaii, have become a disturbing reminder of climate change’s real and devastating impacts. Early last year, the country experienced tidal flooding that impacted the capital Majuro, breaching seawalls and flooding airport runways. At the same time a drought in the northern islands left thousands surviving on less than a liter of freshwater a day. “If I look out of my window, on this side of the office building, I see the atoll’s lagoon; and if I walk over to the other side of the building, I also see the ocean,” says Mr. Hicklin. “Our island is just about a quarter of a mile wide in most places and about 30 miles long.” Already the high incidences of drought and coastal flooding are hurting communities and economies – and, as a response, the Marshalls Islands dedicates nearly half of their external development funding towards addressing climate change.But while there are many climate change adaptation projects underway in the islands, including local-level activities to improve food and water security, Mr. Hicklin points out that national ministries in the Marshall Islands need to incorporate climate change adaptation into their strategic plans as well as develop concrete proposals for addressing adaptation for both urban and rural areas.


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