October 30, 2019, Koror: First Lady of Palau, Debbie M. Remengesau, attended the Our Ocean conference in Norway last week where she gave the closing address to the Our Ocean Youth Conference; attended a series of side events; and met with NGOs, government officials and event organizers to promote the Our Ocean conference in Palau in 2020. First Lady Remengesau arrived in Norway on 22 October to attend a series of formal meetings before addressing the Youth Conference on 24 October.
In all her meetings the First Lady promoted the idea of highlighting Pacific Islands’ ancient culture of conservation to delegates attending Our Ocean in Palau. Her vision is to give them a unique experience of how conservation can be integrated into lifestyle. She also emphasized the traditional idea of leaving behind a healthy land and ocean as “inheritance” for the generations that follow. This was identified as a powerful theme for Palau to communicate to leaders from other nations.
As part of her official meeting schedule she met with Our Ocean Co-Founder, Secretary John Kerry, who congratulated Palau on the success and vision of the Palau Pledge. First Lady Remengesau also met with PEW’s Bertarelli Ocean Legacy Project team including Founder, Dona Bertarelli, who reiterated the team’s commitment to the Palau National Marine Sanctuary.
The First Lady and Ms. Bertarelli also discussed how Palau’s matriarchal / matrilineal culture has contributed to Palau’s conservation success. They talked about how this could inspire women world leaders, and female spouses of world leaders, to play an important role in Our Ocean 2020.
On 24 October the First Lady gave the closing address at the Our Ocean Youth Conference in front of hundreds of young ocean leaders from around the world.
The First Lady spoke to the young delegates about the important part that culture and education plays in conservation in Palau. She told stories from her own life to illustrate that Palauans have used the simple principle of “taking only what you need” to be custodians and guardians their oceans, for millennia.
She also spoke about the importance of conferences like Our Ocean, and initiatives like the Palau Pledge, in giving a voice to young people from around the world to share their concerns, hold leaders accountable, and come up with inspiring solutions to the environmental challenges their generation now face.
She talked openly and candidly about the environmental and social threats facing Pacific Island children. In particular, she spoke of how Palau’s culture, which is intrinsically linked to conservation, is under threat of erosion from globalization and outside influences. The First Lady expressed her concern that Palau’s identity was now at stake and how, if Palau loses its language and culture, the world will also lose a precious conservation asset.
The First Lady emphasized that the young leaders present were the hope for the future and said: “In this room there are future world leaders in conservation. There are future scientists, activists, inventors and social entrepreneurs who, with help, will find solutions to our most pressing environmental challenges.
Today I want you to know that Palau stands with you. We support every child’s basic human right to inherit a healthy planet and we are working to help make this happen.”
The First Lady concluded with a Palauan chant to emphasize that united we stand, divided with fall.
After addressing the Youth Conference First Lady Remengesau left Norway and flew straight to Japan to meet with First Lady Abe and the Japanese tourism industry.
• The Our Ocean Youth Conference is organized by the Sustainable Ocean Alliance, founded by Daniela Fernandez, who was mentored by Palau’s late UN Oceans Ambassador, Stuart Beck.