Government of Tonga Lead on Strengthening Coordination for Enhanced Water Security

Government officials in a group photo after the signing with (Sitting L-R), Reverend Samuela Vivili, Acting CEO Ministry of Finance Mrs. Pisila Matafahi ‘Otunuku, Deputy Australian High Commissioner Ms Erin Gleeson, CEO MEIDDEC Mr. Sione Pulotu ‘Akua’ola, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Resident Representative Ms. Munhktuya Altangerel, British High Commissioner Ms Lucy Joyce and New Zealand First Secretary for Development Ms. Olivia Philpott.

Nuku’alofa, Tonga – The Government of Tonga and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji, have formalized their support for the Government’s efforts in aid coordination, in a Letter of Agreement (LoA) signing ceremony.  This support aims to foster collaboration and cooperation among central agencies and sectors, ultimately enhancing resilience and improving social and economic livelihoods in Tonga.

The project, which receives support from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and is currently administered by the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change, and Communications (MEIDECC), serves as a meeting point for collaboration.

As part of the LoA, UNDP – through the Ministry of Finance (MoF) – is committing TOP1,122,000 to the Tonga National Water Tank Project. This contribution extends beyond the provision of water tanks; it is aimed at facilitating collaboration between MoF and MEIDECC, to ensure the risk-informed enhancement of water tanks.

Speaking on the occasion, the Acting Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Finance, Pisila Matafahi ‘Otunuku, acknowledged the support from UNDP, through the Governance for Resilient Development in the Pacific project, in co-financing the Tonga National Water Tank Project with MFAT.

She highlighted that “the demonstration of risk-informed development through this Agreement is timely as we will recognize the significance of World Water Day that will be observed on the 22nd of March for the sustainable management of water … that will impact children and vulnerable people for safe, clean, and accessible water.

“This event serves as a poignant reminder of the essential role that partnerships and the power of collaboration play in working hand in hand towards achieving water security and resilience. It shapes a more resilient and water-secure future for Tonga.”

Echoing similar sentiments, Lu’isa Tui’afitu Malolo, Director for Climate Change at MEIDECC, emphasized the importance of partnership in coordinating efforts to identify recipients for support.

Primary schools were selected as the first beneficiaries for the risk-informed water infrastructure, after undergoing a selection process facilitated by MEIDECC and the Ministry of Education; targeting schools on Tongatapu – the main island of Tonga that was severely impacted by the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano eruption in 2022.

This project also involves additional design considerations for the water tanks, in consultation with primary school principals and teachers, to ensure inclusivity, construction capable of withstanding disasters, and consistent monitoring of its effectiveness and benefits for the primary school children.

“This places our children at the forefront of our focus, starting from project formulation, selection, and design, to ensure that the water tanks are tailored to meet their needs and can withstand social or environmental risks while they are in school. In the future, we aim to replicate these efforts in other schools and communities, employing the same coordinated partnership approach,” says Mrs. Malolo.

Chief Executive Officer for MEIDECC, Mr Sione Pulotu ‘Akua’ola and UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Resident Representative, Ms. Munhktuya Altangerel after signing the Letter of Agreement.

Munkhtuya Altangerel, the Resident Representative for UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, expressed appreciation for the longstanding partnerships between UNDP and the Government of Tonga.  

She also acknowledged the crucial role development partners play in the development agenda of Tonga; such as the Australian Government, the Korea International Cooperation Agency, and the United Kingdom Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and Government of Sweden, and notably the joint funding and collaboration from MFAT.

Furthermore, emphasis was placed on the transformative potential of these partnerships.

Ms. Altangerel stated, “Water is a precious resource, and its sustainable management is paramount for the well-being of communities and ecosystems.

“This project marks a move towards a more programmatic approach to coordinating donor support. The collaboration underscores the prioritization of women and children, who are at the forefront of the existential threat of climate change.”

Olivia Philpott, First Secretary for Development at the New Zealand High Commission, Nuku’alofa, affirmed MFAT’s assistance, stating:

“Sustainable water security is a cornerstone for Tonga’s resilience. MFAT’s support to partner led initiatives, such as Tonga’s Climate Change Fund, delivers infrastructure and skills to support households and communities grappling with the challenges that climate change brings. Water tanks, septic tank latrines and support to national level governance, management and operational systems are a few of the ways we are supporting the sustainable management of water resources in Tonga.”

The signing ceremony took place on 20 March 2024 with the Chief Executive Officer for MEIDECC, Sione Pulotu ‘Akua’ola representing the Government of Tonga, while Ms. Altangerel represented UNDP Pacific.

UNDP’s Governance for Resilient Development in the Pacific Gov4Res project is supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Korea International Cooperation Agency, New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. 

For further media enquiries please contact:

Nick Turner, Communications and Advocacy Specialist, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji. (P) +679 971 6458 – (E)