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Pacific News Minute: Former Foreign Minister of the Marshall Islands, Tony de Brum, Dies at 72

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Sad news yesterday, from the Marshall Islands announcing the death of former Foreign Minister Tony de Brum at the age of 72. De Brum became known around the world for his role in the fights against nuclear weapons and climate change. We have more from Neal Conan in today’s Pacific News Minute.

International accolades included a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015. Many of De Brum’s honors stemmed from a lawsuit he filed on behalf of the Marshalls demanding that nuclear weapons states be held accountable for their failure to comply with international law which obligates them to begin negotiations on the elimination of nuclear weapons.


In testimony before the International Court of Justice at the Hague, de Brum recalled seeing the blast from Bravo, the biggest nuclear test in history, when he was nine years old.  “The sky turned red,” he said, and he described the destruction from dozens of other US tests.


“Several islands in my country were vaporized, and others are estimated to be uninhabitable for thousands

of years.” Last year, the International Court rejected the suit and similar proceedings filed in U.S. federal court were dismissed earlier this summer.


In December, 2015, de Brum emerged as the key figure behind the High Ambition coalition, which carried the day at the Paris Conference on Climate Change. Recognizing that divisions between rich and poor countries would make agreement impossible, de Brum secretly engineered a group that combined African, Caribbean and Pacific nations with the United States and all the members of the European Union. He also recognized that any agreement would probably come too late for his Marshall Islands, which lie close to sea level, and he spoke eloquently about the looming loss of language, culture and tradition as the equivalent of genocide. 

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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