26 countries recognise Tuvalu's digital sovereignty

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Wednesday, 06 December, 2023

26 countries recognise Tuvalu's digital sovereignty

Facing existential threat from climate change, the island nation of Tuvalu is taking unprecedented steps to protect its sovereignty even in the event the entire nation disappears underwater.

Tuvalu is seeking to assert its continued existence as a sovereign state by establishing itself as a nation that can exist digitally even without a physical territory. The country is now seeking international recognition of its digital sovereignty. To date 26 countries, including Australia and New Zealand and the 16 other members of the Pacific Island Forum, have legally recognised Tuvalu’s digital statehood. The nation is aiming to double this to 50 nations globally in 2024.

Tuvalu has made a world-first amendment to its constitution to recognise the threat of rising sea levels and declaring Tuvalu’s maritime zones and statehood as permanent regardless of the effects of climate change.

The nation has also completed detailed 3D LIDAR (light detection and ranging) scans of all 124 islands and islets within Tuvalu’s recognised borders and is working to preserve artefacts of sentimental or symbolic value, such as the sound of children’s language, elders’ stories and the culture’s dances and festivals, in a digital ‘Ark’ that can survive the impacts of a worsening climate.

Meanwhile, the nation is exploring a means to ensuring Tuvalu’s digital presence can serve the practical functions of a country, such as issuing digital passports stored in blockchain, conducting elections and referendums online, and digitally registering births, deaths and marriages.

Tuvalu MP and Special Envoy for the Future Now Project Simon Kofe said Tuvalu’s push for digital sovereignty is gaining momentum.

“The fate of our homeland is in your hands, but the fate of our country is in ours. This time last year, I announced that Tuvalu will become the world’s First Digital Nation, ensuring its sovereignty in the face of a worst-case scenario,” he said. “As the tide closes in around us, we are digitally recreating our land, archiving our history and culture, moving all our governmental functions into a digital space and ensuring Tuvalu and our people exist as a nation even after our physical land is no more.

“While we look to grow our international alliances and safeguard what is important to our Tuvaluan community, we are urging global leaders to act on climate change. We are taking these practical steps because we must, but the tragedy of losing our island home cannot be overstated.”

Last month the Australian Government announced it will offer residency to all Tuvalu citizens displaced by climate change, with up to 280 places to be offered each year. This annual cap represents around 2.5% of the total Tuvaluan population.

Image credit: iStock.com/mtcurado

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