Anote Tong, 2012 Hillary Laureate
His Excellency Anote Tong is the current Beretitenti (President) of the Republic of Kiribati. He won election in July 2003 and was re-elected in 2007 and again in January 2012. He went to St. Bede’s College for his secondary school education, graduated from Canterbury University with a degree in Science, and then gained a Masters in Economics from the London School of Economics.
Tong is originally from the island of Maiana, located in central Kiribati. He is a strong climate change advocate and has stated on several occasions that Kiribati may cease to exist altogether, and that its entire population may need to be resettled not as climate change refugees but citizens who migrate on merit and with dignity. In June 2008, he stated that Kiribati may already have reached "the point of no return"; he added: "To plan for the day when you no longer have a country is indeed painful but I think we have to do that. His government declared 150,000 square miles (400,000 km2) "of the Phoenix Islands marine area a fully protected marine park, making it off limits to fishing and other extractive uses". This was made as a United Nations World Heritage Site. Its "rich biodiversity includes an abundance of healthy corals, big sharks, groupers, tuna, giant clams and other critters that have been depleted in much of the rest of the world". Tong explained that it was intended as "a significant contribution to the world community in the hope they would also act"
President Tong has won a number of awards and recognition that acknowledges his contribution and leadership on climate change and conservation. Prior to being named the 2012 Hillary Laureate Awardee, President Tong was earlier awarded in June that year with the Peter Benchley Ocean Award from the Blue Frontier Campaign. He was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Engineering from the National Pukyong University in South Korea. President Tong also won the 2015 TED Prize.
President Tong led the 5th Annual Hillary Symposium in December 2012 and Institute Chair David Caygill and ED Mark Prain then travelled to Tarawa (Kiribati) in February 2013 to present him with his Laureate Award in his home community. Hosted by the NZ High Commission, the event enabled His Excellency to address his Climate Change agenda formally and directly to his own people, in the context of international support through the Institute.
President Tong is married to Bernadette Meme Tong and they have eight children.