Making Waves: Anatomy of Micronesia’s Successful Regional Collaboration

Climate change threatens the very existence of many small island nations. Sea-level rise, weather extremes and coral reef destruction caused by warming waters have driven untold destruction and outmigration, with some communities fleeing—literally—to higher ground.

Fighting for their collective survival, three small Pacific Island nations and two U.S. territories spanning over 2 million square miles of ocean launched the Micronesia Challenge in the mid-2000s to protect critical land and marine ecosystems by 2020—reducing human impact that imperils reefs, coastlines and mountains. A strategic partner since the Challenge’s founding, The Nature Conservancy is working across Micronesia as this initiative launches bold new 2030 targets for people and nature.

Meet the Speakers

Kate Brown is the executive director of the Global Island Partnership, a platform that enables island leaders and their supporters to take action to build resilient and sustainable island communities. Brown is a passionate advocate for islands. She is a valued and trusted international partnership and collaboration leader, with a unique ability to connect dots for issues and people. Brown has extensive experience in all island regions globally, and brings an extensive network of island leaders, blue sky thinkers and people dedicated to supporting islands. She has experience working inside government, non-profits and inter-governmentally as well as a keen sense of the most important elements of the international policy setting space relevant to islands as well as what is needed for implementation to happen. A strategic thinker who is able to present clear ideas and set up the right conditions for collaboration to thrive, she is originally from New Zealand and lived for eight years in Apia, Samoa. Kate now resides in Washington DC with her family.

William Kostka is the co-founder of both the Conservation Society of Pohnpei (CSP) and the Micronesia Conservation Trust (MCT), fiscal host of Global Island Partnership (GLISPA). He presently serves as executive director of the Micronesia Conservation Trust and was the co-coordinator of PIMPAC (2006 – 2009) and co-coordinator of the IUCN-WPCA Marine Program for Micronesia. He has more than 20 years in senior executive positions as well as extensive experience in nonprofit management, conservation financing and endowments, organizational capacity development and mentoring, fund raising, conservation, strategic planning, community outreach and empowerment, and government relations. William is the recipient of the Pew Marine Fellowship, the world’s most prestigious marine conservation fellowship, The Conde Nest Environment Award, U.S. Coral Reef Task Force Award, and the US EPA Pacific Islands Environment Award. William Kostka joined the board in July 2020, upon signing a fiscal host agreement with GLISPA.

Trina Leberer is director of Pacific Regional Partnerships for The Nature Conservancy (TNC), a global environmental nonprofit working to create a world where people and nature can thrive. Founded in the U.S. through grassroots action in 1951, The Nature Conservancy has grown to become one of the most effective and wide-reaching environmental organizations in the world. Trina focuses on building new and strengthening existing regional partnerships in the Pacific and leveraging public resources to shared Pacific priorities. Trina has worked for TNC for 17 years, serving as Marine Conservation Coordinator for Micronesia, Micronesia Program Director, and Director of our Pacific Division, where she led TNC’s work in the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the Marshall Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, to improve management of marine areas, coastal zones, adjacent watersheds and tropical forests, conserving the region’s exceptional biodiversity and benefitting local communities in terms of livelihoods and ecosystem services. She has lived on the island of Guam since 1994, and prior to joining TNC, she worked for the Guam Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources for seven years as a Biologist, Fisheries Supervisor and Acting Chief. Trina has an MSc in Biology from the University of Guam Marine Laboratory and a BA in Environmental, Populational and Organismic Biology from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

An international affairs correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, Ben Doherty has spent more than a decade reporting across the Asia-Pacific, including postings in Southeast Asia, South Asia, and as Pacific editor. He has won Australia’s highest journalism honour, a Walkley Award, three times, as well as three United Nations Association Media Peace Prizes. He holds master’s degrees in international law and international relations from the University of Oxford and from UNSW. He is the author of a novel, Nagaland, a love story for modern India.


Ian McCuaig


MLF: Asia-Pacific Affairs

Image - Kate Brown
Kate Brown
Executive Director, Global Island Partnership
Image - Willy Kostka
Willy Kostka
Executive Director, Micronesia Conservation Trust
Image - Trina Leberer
Trina Leberer
Director, Pacific Regional Partnerships, The Nature Conservancy
Image - Ben Doherty
Ben Doherty
Pacific EditorThe Guardian—Moderator