On the frontline of the climate crisis: the Chevening Alumnus amplifying Tuvalu’s voice on the world stage

As a small island nation, Tuvalu is advocating for ambitious climate action to save its beloved land. Chevening Alumnus Niuone Eliuta shares his experience in the campaign to secure Tuvalu's future.

Niuone’s story

I am from Tuvalu, a small but culturally vibrant Pacific Island nation. We have a rich tapestry of tradition, which has instilled in me a deep sense of pride in my heritage. However, beneath the surface beauty lies a stark reality. Tuvalu stands at the forefront of climate vulnerability, facing existential threats due to rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and extreme weather events. As a vulnerable small island nation, the impact of climate change looms large over every aspect of Tuvalu’s existence, from its economy to the daily lives of its people.

Tuvalu’s climate and surrounding ocean is central to our livelihoods – my fondest childhood memory is accompanying my grandfather on fishing excursions on his small wooden vaka (a canoe made from tree trunk), returning to sell our catch at the Motuloto fishing market. I am passionate about sharing Tuvalu’s experiences and perspectives on the global stage, as we all need to take urgent action to address the climate crisis.

My Chevening experience has been key in supporting me towards my career aim of addressing our national challenges in climate and sustainable development. My decision to apply for Chevening was influenced by its prestigious global reputation and its reputation for shaping young leaders. I pursued a Master of Science in Climate Change, Development, and Policy at the Institution of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex in 2019. This programme was a fitting choice for me since it aligns closely with the challenges we face in Tuvalu.

‘I gained a new, global perspective through my interactions with fellow Chevening Scholars from around the world.’

My Chevening year was a transformative experience, providing me with skills, knowledge, and networks that have been instrumental in shaping my career in Tuvalu public service. Through rigorous academic training, exposure to diverse perspectives, and immersive practical experiences, I honed my expertise in areas such as climate change, development policy, and international relations. I also developed a comprehensive understanding of the complex challenges facing Tuvalu and other small island nations.

I now work as a First Secretary at the Tuvalu High Commission in New Zealand. My role encompasses a diverse range of responsibilities aimed at representing Tuvalu’s interests and advancing cooperation between Tuvalu and New Zealand.

My favourite aspect of this role is the opportunity to serve as a bridge between Tuvalu and New Zealand, fostering understanding, cooperation, and friendship between our two nations. Being able to represent Tuvalu’s rich culture and heritage while working in a multicultural environment is a source of great pride and fulfilment for me.

‘I am committed to using my Chevening experience to make a meaningful difference in advancing Tuvalu’s sustainable development goals and ensuring a resilient future for generations to come.’

As a low-lying atoll nation in the Pacific Ocean, the climate crisis poses an existential threat to Tuvalu’s existence. Time is running short for us if we are serious about preserving our small island states. The thought of our homeland being submerged underwater, including the lands where our ancestors rest, is deeply distressing for Tuvaluans. Our connection to the land is profound, as it links us to our forebears and our cultural heritage.

Given the urgency of these challenges, addressing the climate crisis is an immediate and top priority for us. We have been active participants in international forums, advocating for ambitious climate action, increased support for adaptation efforts, and equitable climate justice. These efforts are crucial in safeguarding the well-being of our people, protecting our environment, and securing the future for new generations.

Every Tuvaluan is engaged in the battle against the climate crisis, confronting it on various fronts – be it physical, emotional, or mental. We are a resilient people, accustomed to adapting to diverse challenges. Regardless of where we find ourselves in the world, we remain steadfast in raising awareness about the impact of the climate crisis.

‘One crucial action we can take is to amplify Tuvalu’s voice on this issue.’

This forms the essence of our ongoing dialogue during my work here in New Zealand. We emphasise the importance of not only providing climate adaptation support but also ensuring that it is accessible to every Tuvaluan. By advocating for equitable access to resources, we strive to empower our people to withstand the challenges posed by the climate crisis and safeguard the future of Tuvalu.

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