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Nowhere to Go

Rachel Kyte's picture
"Tell Them"
Tell them who we are, says young Marshall Islands poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner. Her video was shown during the Small Island Developing States Conference.


In the weeks running up to the 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States, out of frustration and a sense that they must look after themselves, a new alliance was born: the Coalition of Atoll Nations on Climate Change. Or, as President Tong of Kiribati called it, the "alliance of the sinking". The coalition comprising Tuvalu, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Maldives, Cook Islands, and Tokelau, with Micronesia associated as part of their territory, is atoll territory.
 
These nations have tried everything to bring their situations to the climate negotiators' and development organizations' attention and have their special situation recognized. With just 15 months until the Paris climate negotiations, they seek in a group to be able to support each other and to make themselves heard. 

For us in The World Bank Group, as we prepare to step up our resilience efforts, we will need to ensure that the atoll nations don't get pushed to the bottom of the list, as sometimes happens, because they are capacity constrained. We may have to adapt the way we work so that we can be of help. We have worked for many years on adaptation in Kiribati, for example, but we need extra effort, not necessarily extra money, to ensure that their resilience increases with a focus on their communities' resilience – this is not about poured concrete – there is, after all, no where to go. 
 
In plain language, the peoples of atoll nations require us to adapt to help them survive.

They may sometimes feel like they have little to have faith in – but they should have faith in our responsiveness. They are all or will soon be graduated from the list of least developed countries. They provoke a conversation that has already begun within the long-term working group on IDA, the World Bank's fund for the poorest, which is the relationship between vulnerability and poverty.


The development community now needs to internalize vulnerability into development instruments. If the majority of one's GDP can be lost in just minutes from an extreme event, or if a high tide can swill every building, fragility undermines all aspects of development – hence resilience. 
 
In the absence of higher ground, we are called to a higher purpose. 

​Rachel Kyte
World Bank Group Vice President & Special Envoy for Climate Change
www.worldbank.org/climate
Twitter: @rkyte365

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