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K.H. Note: Address to World Summit 2017

Address to World Summit 2017, Seoul, Korea, February 1 to 5, 2017


Excellencies, distinguished guests, participants and ladies and gentlemen: At the outset, I wish to thank the Universal Peace Federation and the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace for the opportunity to be here in this beautiful city of Seoul, South Korea. My heartfelt thanks go also to the government of Korea for the courtesy extended to me upon my arrival in Seoul.

It is an honor and privilege to be among the distinguished parliamentarians and leaders representing many countries who have gathered here this week to deliberate on the most critical challenges of peace, security and human development facing the world today. For indeed, as leaders we would be abrogating our solemn responsibility if we collectively failed to address the critical issues of environmental degradation, violent conflicts, extremism and extreme poverty, and by nature human suffering, hunger and desolation.

I do believe that these issues have to be dealt with on the global stage, as well as on the national level. That is why I am so encouraged by the establishment of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace in the world. It is certainly a praiseworthy undertaking, and I do hope that at the conclusion of this conference the IAPP can bring a more focused and aggressive approach to understanding the complex and severe impact of these extreme conditions on human lives. Furthermore, as parliamentarians and leaders, I believe that we can develop a strategy for establishing a vision for lasting peace and prosperity in the 21st century.

My country, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, is still coping with the remnants of colonization, having been governed by Spain, Germany, Japan and the United States for more than 200 years.

Although the Marshall Islands became a duly constitutional government in 1979, it was not until 1986 that the United States and the United Nations finally agreed to terminate the Trusteeship Agreement that had designated the Marshall Islands as a U.S. Strategic Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

The United States took over administration of the islands right after World War II and immediately turned some of the islands into nuclear testing grounds for the U.S. military at the beginning of the Cold War.

As a legacy of the U.S. nuclear testing program during the 1940s and 1950s, the Marshallese population has the highest rate of cancer in the world. The hydrogen bomb called Bravo, which was detonated in 1954, was one thousand times more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. Many of the islands have been rendered uninhabitable due to the high concentration of radioactive materials.

In addition to the disastrous legacy of nuclear testing, the country is made up of mountaintop coral atolls, which are extremely vulnerable to environmental degradation. Global warming, climate change and sea level rise are causing havoc in our community even as we speak.

Unusual climate conditions and wave actions, like king tides and high tides, already are causing tremendous damage to our fragile ecosystem, our culture and our traditional way of life.

Aside from post-colonialism syndrome and global warming, I am convinced that our young and emerging governments were poorly prepared for the onslaught of globalization during the latter part of the 20th century. The new world governance, the shifting market paradigm and technology-based economies required modern infrastructure facilities, critical in-depth skill training and capacity building in order for struggling underdeveloped countries, such as the Marshall Islands, to be able to reap the numerous benefits of globalization. But again, the globalization as a process has created sociopolitical demands and financial pressures on our meager resources and stifling our efforts toward attaining sustainable development at a faster pace.

I am sure that every country represented here today faces its own unique set of challenges and obstacles as it tries to provide vital services to its citizens.

With that background, here is what I think has to happen going forward:

  • Equitable distribution of wealth among developed and underdeveloped countries. For instance, Pacific island countries provide about 80 percent of tuna consumption in the world, which is worth hundreds of billions of dollars, and get only 10 percent in return.
  • More cooperation and integration of the world market economy to provide more opportunities for developing countries. Public and private sector partnerships have to be established if we are to realize meaningful value-added commodities and services.
  • International financial institutions like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank have to cut back on policies and regulations to ensure that funding is more easily available for economic development.
  • Providing and increasing access to good education to all will reduce and even eradicate poverty.
  • Decrease dependency on fossil fuels and increase usage of renewable energy. Modern technology has been perfected to utilize solar, wind and ocean thermal as sustainable sources of clean energy.
  • Better policies and infrastructure to increase and implement access to clean air and water.

World governments should continue to support the actions taken on global warming and climate change, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, later to be known as the Paris Agreement.

As parliamentarians and leaders, we should continue to demand that our respective countries strive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations. The objective of these goals is to provide equitable and non-discriminatory social and economic benefits to every citizen of the world, including women and children.

On the national level, governments must strictly follow and adhere to the principles of good governance, accountability and transparency; develop strategic plans toward achieving sustainable development and environmental conservation; and ensure that vital services in education and health are provided to the people.

Finally, I come from a peaceful society in the Pacific, and I don't profess to be an expert on conflict resolution, but I do believe that tolerance and compassion are the vital ingredients for lasting peace and harmony. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “a policy of non-violence” is most effective in dealing with injustice and hatred. And Father Moon simply put it in these very powerful and courageous words: “Live for the sake of others.” Thank you and God bless.


Hon. Kessai Note, Senator and Former President (2000-2008), Marshall Islands

Hon. Kessai Note is a Senator and Former President (2000-2008), Marshall Islands. Hon. Note was the third President of the Marshall Islands. He previously was elected as Speaker of the Parliament from 1988 until 2000. The Honorable Note has a long record as a member of the Parliament and was elected its Speaker three times.

To go to the 2017 World Summit Conference Schedule, click here.