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Keynote address by the Marshall Islands Minister-in-Assistance to the President and Environment, Honourable Bremity Lakjohn, during the 5th Regional Steering Committee Meeting for the Managing Coastal Aquifiers project in Majuro

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To the Palau government and project representatives, Tuvalu government and project representatives, EPA General Manager, UNDP representatives, SPC Deputy Director for DCRP, SPC staff.

I am pleased to bring the warm greetings of Yokwe on behalf of the people and government of the Republic of the Marshall Islands.

It is an honour to open this 5th session for the Managing Coastal Aquifers Project (MCAP) Regional Steering Committee Meeting, where you are all working to build upon the understanding of our fragile fresh groundwater resources Water security across our region has been pulled into sharp focus throughout the with the intention to build better resilience of our communities into the future. north Pacific this year. Although we have received blessing rains in the past few weeks here in Majuro, the northern atolls of the Marshall Islands are not so blessed and still face the ongoing pressures of drought.

In our interconnected atoll islands, very few resource issues are separated from one another – in much the same way as the interdependency of our families and our connection to the land. As low-lying atoll nations, we share unique challenges. Our population is small, but our geographic area is vast and remote. Our economy is small, and logistical costs are high, which, when evaluated together, create serious barriers to investment at scale. Therefore many projects such as these play an important role to increase water security and resilience.

We are pleased to be working closely with SPC with the support of UNDP to address water security on our atolls. This project provides a framework for assessing what potential our fresh groundwater has for improving the resilience of our communities in each of the participating countries. It is closely linked to a further initiative that the RMIEPA is undertaking here in Marshall Islands with the UNDP (the ACWA project), to address water security with a particular focus on drought-related interventions in our outer island communities. Together, these strong examples of direct progress and partnership are part of what we need to achieve some of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

I hope that this steering committee meeting can help to highlight the progress we have all made to date, and equally as important, what is yet to be done to protect groundwater resources from deterioration as well as boost the resilience of the water supply in the outlying atolls and islands.

We cannot do it alone. We must continue with our partners to deliver not just studies and regional workshops, but also with visible results in local communities. Policies alone will not move us towards the Sustainable Development Goals. We are truly in a race against time. We have a unique opportunity with partners who may be able to serve as innovation hubs, and we can adjust strategies quickly while also meeting goals at national scale.

In closing, I wish you the best in your discussions this week and look forward to seeing the impact of your hard work in the months and years to come.

Republic of Marshall Islands