His Excellency Anote Tong is the fourth President of the Republic of Kiribati. He was first elected as President on 10 July 2003 and subsequently won two more elections in 2007 and in 2012. He is now serving his last term which will end in mid-2015. Under his leadership, President Anote Tong also holds the portfolio of Head of State and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration.
Anote Tong was born in 1952 on Fanning Island (also known as Tabuaeran) in the Line Islands and is a member of the Kiribati House of Parliament from the constituency of Maiana Island in the central Kiribati group.
Educated in New Zealand and in England at the University of Canterbury and the London School of Economics respectively, President Tong holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Economics under his belt.
Since the beginning of his presidency, President Anote Tong has become a strong climate change advocate and has built worldwide awareness of the potentially devastating impacts of climate change.
He has stated on many occasions that Kiribati may cease to exist altogether and that its entire population may need to be resettled not as climate change refugees but as citizens who migrate on merit and with dignity.
With one of the lowest carbon-emission footprints in the world, Tong has often described Kiribati as a “frontline country” that has been among the first to experience dramatic climate change impacts.
“Kiribati may have reached the ‘point-of-no-return’ and to plan for the day when you no longer have a country is indeed painful but I have to do it.” Tong added.
As an extraordinary measure to set an example for the rest of the world, President Tong created the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), one of the largest marine protected areas in the world with a size of 408,250 km2 which was inscribed as a United Nations World Heritage site in 2008.
Notwithstanding this historic milestone, Tong had bigger plans on his mind and in 2009 he created the Pacific Oceanscape concept designed to protect, large ocean areas, inclusive of island, coastal, open ocean, and deep sea habitats.
President Tong has won a number of awards and recognition that acknowledges his contribution and leadership on climate change and ocean conservation.
In 2008, President Anote Tong was presented with the David B. Stone Award from the New England Aquarium in recognition of his commitment to conservation and his leadership in establishing the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.
In 2009, President Tong received two medals from the Republic of China (Taiwan), one from the President of Taiwan called the Order of Brilliant Jade with Grand Cordon (Taiwan’s Highest Order of Decoration for non-military officials) and another from the Speaker of the Legislative Yuan called the Medal of Honour in recognition of his contribution to promoting exchanges between lawmakers of the two countries.
In 2012, President Tong was awarded with the Peter Benchley Ocean Award from the Blue Frontier Campaign for Excellence in National Stewardship of the Ocean and later that year was also awarded with an Honorary Doctorate Degree (Ph.D) in Engineering from the Pukyong Natonal University (South Korea) in recognition of his contributions to maritime affairs and nature conservation.