Marshalls' new president sets out challenges

1:10 pm on 4 February 2016

The Marshall Islands' newly elected president Hilda Heine says she hopes to build on international awareness about the effects of climate change created by her predecessors.

The country under the previous foreign minister Tony de Brum has been a leading Pacific Island voice in global talks on the issue.

High tides in Kili Island, Marshall Islands, February 2015.

Damaging king tides in the Marshall Islands Photo: Kili/Bikini/Ejit Local Government Marshall Islands

He lost his seat in the November election along with half of the previous cabinet.

But Dr Heine said the biggest challenge of her term will be changing attitudes about how the country is governed, and how to better provide services to the people.

Hilda Heine

Hilda Heine Photo: SUPPLIED

"We tend not to put people at the very front of our thinking when we provide services, so we need to look at how we help the people, how we do our job so the end user, the customers, the people are better served."

Dr Heine said the country needed to focus on domestic issues at the same time as confronting what she called the existential threat of climate change.

Anti-nuke case to be reviewed

The President also said her administration will review the "important matter" of the Marshall Islands' case against the world's nuclear powers for violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, also spearheaded by Mr de Brum.

The International Court of Justice in The Hague last week set dates for hearings in the cases against Britain, India and Pakistan.

The United States launched the Baker underwater nuclear test in Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, July 1946.

Nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands in 1946. Photo: US Navy

An appeal against the US is underway.

"There is no doubt (about continuing with the case), but I do think we need to do our homework so we're in a better position to move forward," said Dr Heine.

The Marshall Islands was cited this month among eight countries at the UN which have been deprived of their vote at the global body for not paying their annual fees of US$47,000.

Dr Heine says this was due to an accounting error and she says she understands the money has now been paid.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs