A year ago, on 1st October 2021, UN Secretary-General António Guterres appointed the first Resident Coordinator Micronesia, Mr. Jaap van Hierden, to head the UN’s newest Multi-Country Resident Coordinator’s Office. Based in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), the UN Multi-Country Resident Coordinator’s Office Micronesia (UNMCO Micronesia) covers the five Micronesian countries including Palau, the Republic of Marshall Islands (RMI), Nauru and Kiribati.

Since it became a member state of the United Nations in 1994, Palau has been active on matters such as climate change and environmental sustainability as well as joining the other Micronesian countries to lobby for the appointment of a dedicated Resident Coordinator for Micronesia. Although the UN system has been active in Palau for many years, the establishment of the new UNMCO provides Palau with an entry point to the full resources of the UN system. In line with the setting up of the new UNMCO, in addition to the agencies already present in country, UN agencies providing remote support, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) scaled up, including the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Most importantly, over the past year the UN system in Micronesia has been working with the Government to address some of the major socio-economic challenges including climate security, food security, health and education and economic recovery.

With the incidents of natural disasters increasing in the Pacific, disaster risk reduction and preparedness has been a priority for the IOM and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Palau. The UN system has been supporting the National Emergency Management Office (NEMO), specifically in early warning and response. Earlier this year an automatic weather station was commissioned which complements the existing capacity to monitor weather conditions and provide real-time data to support local weather forecasting and three national multi-hazard warning sirens reaching the entire population were operationalised. For a more effective response, two fire trucks were provided for the Fire Department in Palau.

In close coordination with NEMO, IOM has been supporting community-based Disaster risk reduction, recovery from natural disasters in affected communities and building capacities of relevant authorities through tabletop exercises and trainings.

Addressing the challenges of environmental sustainability and biodiversity within the context of climate security, UNDP continues to provide significant support to the Palau National Marine Sanctuary in collaboration with Japan.

Palau’s sustainable economic growth agenda, with renewable energy being at the center, central to Palau’ development agenda. UNDP collaborated with the Government to improve access to clean energy. The project ensured that three elementary schools in Palau were provided five-kilowatt solar systems. While showing his appreciation for the new solar power, the state governor of Tobi shared “This is a great relief to the challenges our teachers and students facing on intermittent access to electricity. As a result, the three schools can advance access to quality education with the use of computers.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and access to health care remained key challenges, with WHO and UNICEF having provided COVID-19 response. Community health centers are an important resource which link communities even from the outer islands to health care and when health centers suffer the brunt of disasters, these communities are essentially cut off from access to health care. The United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) partnered with the India-UN Development Partnership Fund to

rehabilitate three community health centers to improve community resilience against climate change. Furthermore, UNOPS ensured the mainstreaming of energy-efficient solutions and the use of construction materials suitable for extreme coastal weather conditions.

COVID-19, soaring inflation and fuel price rises have been impacting the economies of all countries globally, but small island states have been particularly impacted. To improve the understanding of the impact of the global food, energy and finance crisis on the national food system and thus better identify approaches to address these, the joint UN “Response to the Global Crisis on Food, Energy, Finance” project was launched. The UN system further provided support to the Ministry of Finance in analysis and planning.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has been collaborating with relevant partners to address human trafficking in Palau. Earlier this month IOM delivered a series of critical technical trainings to a diverse group of government agencies, including Law Enforcement and Customs & Border Protection on identifying victims of trafficking and referral pathways to ensure victims get the support they need.

Customs play a crucial role in supporting the economic competitiveness of a country, especially in small island states where customs make a significant contribution to national income. Customs revenues go towards supporting communities and environmental protection. To help make customs processes more efficient, the Government of Palau has adopted the ASYCUDAWorld, a customs management system developed by UNCTAD’s Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) Programme, to deliver the latest, cutting edge, customs technology.

While the UN has been providing support in key areas, like COVID-19 response and response to human trafficking, it is clear that this support needs to be significantly intensified. With the support of the UN MCO, the UN will be scaling up its support through the provision of technical expertise and partnerships, with the goal of achieving true equity and addressing the socio-economic development needs that will catapult Palau forward the UN will continue working around the clock.

Joint Op-Ed by

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