Tuvalu’s Kofe quits UN Oceans summit in protest after China blocks delegates

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Tuvalu's Foreign Minister Simon Kofe
Tuvalu's Foreign Minister Simon Kofe ... nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Photo: Image: EyePress News/RNZ

RNZ Pacific

Tuvalu’s foreign minister and Nobel peace prize nominee Simon Kofe has withdrawn from a UN Ocean Conference in Portugal in protest against China’s decision to block Taiwanese participants in the island nation’s delegation.

Kofe was due to be the highest-ranking government representative from Tuvalu to attend the global forum.

He was en route to the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, for the summit that aims to scale up protection for the world’s oceans, but made a decision to not participate after China’s actions.

He arrived in Brisbane on Monday night instead of Lisbon.

The UN Oceans Conference is hosted by the governments of Kenya and Portugal and around two dozen heads of state and governments are expected to attend the event taking place from June 27 to July 1.

Representatives from 193 countries will also be joining the conference, including 938 civil society groups, 75 foundations, and 74 universities.

Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
Meanwhile, Kofe has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

He made headlines at last year’s COP 26 summit, when he addressed the summit while standing knee-deep in the ocean to highlight rising sea levels.

Kofe said he was surprised at the nomination but at the same time honoured to be considered.

He said the main message of the clip, which had gone viral online, was to recognise the plight of Pacific Island nations like Tuvalu in their fight against climate change.

Sir David Attenborough, the World Health Organisation, and Belarusian dissident Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Greta Thunberg, and Pope Francis are among the other nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ. An earlier version of this report said that the entire Tuvalu government had withdrawn from the UN Ocean Conference after China blocked three Taiwanese delegates. Simon Kofe is the highest ranked Tuvalu official not attending the event following China’s move.

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