How We Work: The Micronesia Challenge

Micronesia Challenge Update

The Micronesia Challenge jurisdictions have made considerable headway in the campaign to protect the waters and lands of Micronesia, and their work has inspired similar conservation efforts across the globe.

The Conservancy applauds the efforts made by Micronesia and has thus far donated $1 million to Palau and $500,000 to the Federated States of Micronesia for the Micronesia Challenge endowment. We’ll continue to provide the Challenge’s participants with the support they need to conserve the splendor of Micronesia. 

Life in Micronesia has been shaped by the islands’ remoteness and the rich resources of their lands and seas. Yet this dependence makes islanders especially vulnerable to environmental threats, such as rising sea levels, pollution, deforestation and unsustainable fishing.

The region’s life-sustaining natural systems have reached a critical tipping point that calls for immediate action and long-term support. If this call goes unheard, Micronesian island people will see continued damage to their natural diversity, to their way of life, and to their ability to provide for themselves and their families.

But these island communities are up to the challenge. They have demonstrated tremendous resolve and an ability to make rapid progress when provided with the resources and tools necessary to tackle their problems.

Protecting Micronesia’s Ecosystems and Economies 

The Micronesia Challenge — launched in 2006 — is an ambitious commitment by Micronesian governments to strike a critical balance between the need to use their natural resources today and the need to sustain those resources for future generations.

Five Micronesian governments — the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the U.S. Territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands — committed to “effectively conserve at least 30 percent of the near-shore marine resources and 20 percent of the terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020.”

This precedent-setting, region-wide initiative evolved from local, on-the-ground conservation projects across Micronesia. Today, it is a large-scale partnership between governments, nonprofit and community leaders, and multinational agencies and donors. The Conservancy is proud to be a key partner supporting the Challenge.

Spanning 6.7 million square kilometers, the Micronesia Challenge represents more than 5 percent of the Pacific Ocean and 61 percent of the world’s coral species. It includes 66 threatened species, more than 1,300 species of reef fish, 85 species of birds and 1,400 species of plants — 200 of which are found only in Micronesia.

The Challenge brings together more than 2,000 isolated islands, separated into five political jurisdictions, inhabited by nearly 500,000 people speaking 12 different languages — all working towards the same set of goals.

The Nature Conservancy is helping the islands reach these goals. Along with a start up pledge of $3 million, the Conservancy is assisting with:

  • Identifying the places with the most biodiversity, the biggest threats and that, if protected, will best preserve biodiversity and livelihoods.
  • Establishing protected area networks that are guided by science and developing management plans for the sites in those networks.
  • Training local conservation and community organizations how to best protect priority marine and coastal areas.
  • Developing sound governmental policies that will protect resources for the good of all.
  • Addressing two of the most pressing threats to the region’s biodiversity — invasive species and destructive fishing practices.
  • Increasing funding for conservation by helping governments include biodiversity conservation in their budgets and by establishing sustainable funding strategies on local, national and regional levels. 
From Commitment to Action 

In just two years, the Micronesia Challenge has yielded tangible results.

The government of Palau — a key driver of the Micronesia Challenge — along with partners, created a solid foundation for conserving Palau’s natural resources by designing a comprehensive Protected Areas Network (PAN). The first site to become part of Palau’s PAN is Lake Ngardok, which supplies vital drinking water to the nation’s capital, Melekeok State, and is the largest natural lake in all of Micronesia.

Communities from the island of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia created the Nimpal Channel Marine Conservation Area (MCA) to revitalize their marine resources based on technical assistance provided by the Conservancy, LMMA Network, Community Conservation Network and Helen Reef through our ongoing assistance to the Yap Community Action Program.

Each of the five jurisdictions in the Micronesia Challenge is developing sustainable finance plans and together they have endorsed the Micronesia Conservation Trust as a regional finance tool to ensure that the Challenge remains sustainable for generations to come. And they are sharing conservation knowledge gained. Regional learning networks have been created and are working to support conservation champions of the future.

Beyond the Micronesia Challenge 

The Micronesia Challenge has set a global example of collaborative, sustainable island conservation. It has been the most ambitious and promising outcome of the Global Island Partnership or GLISPA — a partnership that assists islands in protecting and sustainably managing the invaluable natural resources that support people, cultures and livelihoods in their island homes around the world.

Already, the Micronesia Challenge, along with GLISPA, has spurred more than 20 island countries to take more steps to conserve and sustainably use their natural resources.

The Conservancy is committed to using our expertise, relationships and resources to help the Micronesia Challenge succeed — and to export this and other successful conservation strategies to island groups around the world, including other island groups throughout the Pacific, the Coral Triangle and the Caribbean.

Help support our continued efforts in Micronesia.