Government of the Federated States of Micronesia




New York, September 24, 1998

Check against delivery

Mr. President, heads of delegation, representatives, Mr. Secretary-General, members of the Secretariat, guests and friends,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is my high honor to address you today both as the Chairman of the South Pacific Forum and as the President of the Federated States of Micronesia.

First of all, Mr. President, for the South Pacific Forum and for my country, I wish to express sincere congratulations on your election to the highest position one can hold in this esteemed Body, and for the strong support, both throughout your region of Latin America, and also throughout this body, that brought about this happy result. We are confident that your strong experience and leadership will provide the rudder that is needed here, to steer safely through the many challenges that lie ahead of us.

I also thank the President of the Fifty-second Session, His Excellency Hennadiy Udovenko of Ukraine, for his skillful guidance throughout the past year during most difficult and troubling times.

Recognition also must be given to the distinguished Secretary-General, His Excellency Kofi Annan, whose tireless and effective work in both leadership and coordinating roles is well-known to all of us.

Mr. President,

The Federated States of Micronesia was honored to host the Twenty-ninth Summit of Leaders of the South Pacific Forum at Palikir, our capital on the beautiful island of Pohnpei, on August 24 and 25. As a result, I have the privilege and heavy responsibility of reporting to this Body the consensus achieved by all sixteen member countries of the Forum at that summit.

The South Pacific Forum is a unique institution involving independent and self-governing states which share a very special part of the world - the vast spaces of ocean, islands and continental mass in the central and western Pacific Ocean, both above and below the Equator. Forum member countries differ greatly in land area, ocean area, population, resource endowment, economic development and industrialization, social structures, cultures and living standard. However, we all share a common bond as Forum members and have established agreed positions on a wide range of issues which transcend our diversity. We have also agreed to work together to pursue cohesion, stability and well-being in our countries.

At the recent summit, the Heads of Government and representatives of the 16 member countries reviewed progress and took decisions on a number of issues considered important to the region, which were generally of a political, economic or environmental nature. I will mention briefly some of the subjects that were discussed, and refer you for further details to the Forum Communique, which has been entered as a document of this General Assembly.

The overall theme of the Forum's summit this year was "From Reform to Growth: the Private Sector and Investment as Keys to Prosperity." In this regard, the Forum agreed that efforts should be made to ensure macro-economic stability by improving fiscal discipline, further progressing public sector reforms and broadening the tax base. It also emphasized the need to introduce a wide range of policy, legal, regulatory and institutional reforms which provide the private sector with a more favorable and competitive business environment.

Leaders noted that good overall progress has been made in the implementation of the Forum Economic Action Plan, which aims at strengthening the economies of the island countries. This, despite such difficulties as capacity constraints facing some members, the backdrop of region-specific difficulties, notably drought and other disasters, and the problems faced by member countries on account of the Asian economic crisis. Specific recommendations were endorsed concerning the region's response to undesirable economic activities, the promotion of competitive telecommunications markets, the development of information infrastructure, and work related to the Forum Free Trade Area.

On a related matter, the Forum revisited the objective of having the United Nations adopt a Vulnerability Index with the aim of having such an index included among the criteria for determining Least Developed Country status and deciding for eligibility for concessional aid and trade treatment. It was noted with pleasure that the United Nations Economic and Social Council has agreed to defer consideration of Vanuatu's graduation from LDC status for one year, pending further consideration of the Vulnerability Index issue, and that the World Bank and IMF have created a task force on the subject. While these steps have been important, much work remains ahead to gain full international recognition of vulnerability in its various manifestations as obstacles to the sustainable development of Small-Island Developing States.

The Forum solidly reaffirmed its previous endorsement of the Barbados Plan of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small-Island Developing States as a comprehensive framework with great potential for the region, and noted the efforts underway for its implementation, but also noted that much remains unaddressed. It is believed that the Special Session of the General Assembly in 1999 to review the Plan of Action represents an important opportunity for the region. Support was expressed for national, regional and trans-regional activities in the runup to the Special Session both to better position ourselves for effective participation and to raise pre-sessional awareness of the situation of Small-Island Developing States.

Mr President,>

One issue that received a great deal of attention at this year's Forum summit was that of global climate change, and in particular, the risk of sea-level rise brought on or hastened by human activities affecting the atmosphere. The Forum's membership includes two Annex One parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. All the rest, including several which are not UN Members, are small-island developing countries and committed members of the Alliance of Small-Island States - AOSIS. We are driven in that regard by deep concerns about our very survival. It was encouraging and perhaps indicative to others, that despite wide diversity of interests on this issue the Forum succeeded in reaching a comprehensive position.

The Forum recognized the legally binding commitments agreed to in the Kyoto Protocol as a significant first step forward on the path of ensuring effective global action to combat climate change. The Forum encouraged all countries to sign the Kyoto Protocol and to work toward its earliest possible ratification. In particular, noting that the Framework Convention obliges developed country parties to take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof, the Forum stressed the importance of implementation of measures to ensure early progress toward meeting the commitments in the Kyoto Protocol. This applies particularly to the United States, European Union, the Russian Federation, Japan, Canada and other Annex One emitters. The Forum called for substantial progress at the upcoming Fourth Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention in Buenos Aires, in establishing the rules for international implementation mechanisms, particularly emissions trading, the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation, to ensure that these mechanisms assist the effectiveness of greenhouse gas reduction efforts.

It was also noted that, an effective global response to the problems of climate change will require ongoing active cooperation and strengthened action by all parties, taking account of their common but differentiated responsibilities and their respective capabilities. The Forum stressed the urgent need to initiate a process to develop procedures and future timeframes for wider global participation in emissions limitation and reduction, in which significant developing country emitters would enter into commitments which reflect their individual national circumstances and development needs. But remember, developed countries must take the lead.

The Forum noted with relief and gratitude the recognition in the Kyoto Protocol of the importance of the adaption needs of small island states. The leaders called for adequate resources to be generated through the implementation mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol and the Global Environment Facility for the full range of adaption measures.

The Forum countries anticipate maximizing the benefits to them from such implementation measures and mechanisms, through the work of another regional organization, the South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme.

In all, Mr. President, respectful of the wide range of reactions and emotions surrounding the outcome of Kyoto, and recognizing also the difficult challenges that will face the delegates at Buenos Aires, it is suggested that the Forum consensus should be taken as a harbinger of the possibilities for finding common ground on a larger playing field - one on which all our ultimate fates may be decided.

Before I leave the subject of climate change, Mr. President, I would like to express gratitude to the donor nations who responded recently to the suffering visited upon Pacific Island peoples by the climatic phenomenon of El Nino. Whether or not scientists can decide conclusively that the recent intensity of the El Nino effect is a symptom of global climate change, it is a fact that entire island populations found themselves in a situation where their very survival depended on the willingness of other countries to provide emergency assistance. We will always be thankful that such assistance was forthcoming.

Mr. President,

We keep track of the devastation left behind by Hurrican Georges in the Carribean and the Southern part of the United States and we share concerns and express condolences and pray that it passes away quickly.

Mr. President,

Another issue of immediate and continuing environmental concern to our Forum Region is the continuing practice by industrialized powers to ship radioactive wastes back and forth through our economic zones in the advancement of their own national interests and priorities, irrespective of our strenuous and continuing protests. The Forum noted that some strides have been made in exchanging information on these shipments, but the risks remain. At the very minimum we continue to seek a strong regime of prior notification to and consultation with, coastal states on planned shipments of hazardous wastes, the development of a regime for compensating the region for actual economic losses caused to tourism, fisheries and other affected industries as a result of an accident involving a shipment of radioactive materials, whether or not there is any actual environmental damage caused.

Mr. President,

The Forum leaders could not help but note with alarm the recent tests of nuclear devices by India and Pakistan. They expressed grave concern that the recent nuclear tests constitute a threat to the international process of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. It will be recalled that the region encompassed by the Forum members has perhaps greater standing than any other region in the world to express alarm over continuing testing of nuclear devices. The Forum members have endured and continue to endure the human suffering that has resulted from the curse of nuclear proliferation and testing. The Pacific island countries are taking action within the region to counter the presence of nuclear weapons and the testing of nuclear devices, through the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty. We call upon the United States to ratify that treaty.

Finally as regards the South Pacific Forum, Mr. President, and I stress that I do not mention here every issue that was discussed or covered in the Communique, I want to relate the Forum's pleasure in drawing attention to the signing of the Noumea Accords between the Government of France and the concerned parties in New Caledonia. These accords represent a tremendous accomplishment by all involved, in moving forward the process of self-determination for New Caledonia, whatever the ultimate outcome of that process might be.

Mr. President,

I have already consumed much of my time in commenting on issues that concern the South Pacific Forum, as a group. Briefly now, I ask that you focus your attention on the situation of my Small-Island Developing Country.

The Federated States of Micronesia is approaching with a sense of unsettlement the end of the Millennium. We will be among the first to celebrate the beginning of the new Epoch but in an immediate sense, what does this celebration promise for us? Our developmental process began only a few years ago, and the barriers we face in terms of need for technology and manpower development, scarcity of resources, our remote location and small population, to name only a few, are beyond our capability to overcome alone.

We are indeed fortunate to be receiving substantial assistance from the United States and other bilateral partners, but our long term future cannot and should not depend upon bilateral assistance. Perhaps it is not realistic for us to plan for complete self sufficiency, but we do want to become, and we must become, more self-reliant.

We in the FSM have some concerns that the emphasis of effort in the United Nations is being somewhat drawn away from the balance between adressing the overall interests of all countries, and at the same time particularly assisting developing countries to move toward their rightful condition. In other words, we fear that the traditional role of the Organization in assisting less advanced countries with their development could be marginalized.

I use the phrase "being drawn away" because the shift to which I refer would not be something that leaders sat down and purposefully decided on. In large part, given the breadth of the Charter, the United Nations is simply in danger of becoming overwhelmed by its responsibilities. As regional and national conflicts proliferate, drug trafficking flourishes, terrorism looms as an ever more dangerous part of our daily lives, and as the global environment becomes increasingly threatened, the demands on the time and resources of this Body and its Members to confront immediate problems are compelling.

But while the need to move toward a closer parity between living standards of the North and the South necessitates long-term solutions, it cannot be forgotten that in the long term the accomplishment of that goal will do much to address the problems to which I just referred, that seem beyond the reach of immediate solutions.

Meanwhile, as developing countries, we too must do our part. We must create the flexible outward oriented economies that can maximize the benefits of the global economy in which we also exist. At the same time, we must not forget that our national identities and unique national and sub-national social, political and economic situations demand a pro-active approach that avoids blindly jumping on the bandwagon of the latest development initiatives in order to reap the perceived benefits of donor assistance. In realizing that mistakes inevitably are made and opportunities lost, we must not lose our sense of self-confidence or permit ourselves to become overly prone to accept the dictates of well meaning donor partners whose understanding of our situation may not be complete.

But, Mr. President, we must also remain very alert to the need for course corrections and when necessary, we must endure periods of structural, institutional and even behavioral change.

The process is now ongoing in my country. With the assistance of the Asian Development Bank and donor partners we are well along in implementing a two-pronged program that involves, on one hand, Government and Public Enterprise Reforms, and on the other, Private Sector Reforms. On the government side, we are reorganizing and downsizing our institutions and improving our tax structure, in order to move along the adjustment path to sustainable finances and rational service levels. On the private sector side, our reforms are designed to improve the economic environment for private sector growth, especially in those productive activities that earn dollars from abroad. This means, among other things, reducing the role of Government in productive activities, and restructuring our legal and regulatory environment to encourage private sector activity and investment, especially foreign investment.

Despite our determination to carry through this effort, we know that it will not, alone, produce development. It will facilitate development, and make our application of development assistance far more effective, but now, perhaps more than ever, we will require the patience, understanding and continued support of donor partners and international institutions which have been so instrumental in helping us to reach this point.

Thus, Mr. President, we pray that this Body, in the midst of so many crushing global responsibilities, does not, even in a psychological sense, fall away from its historic role in fostering the advancement of the developing world.

Mr. President,

This is to be a session during which two very important anniversaries are celebrated - fifty years of UN Peacekeeping, and fifty years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As to the first of these, I wish to honor those who served in peacekeeping operations of the past fifty years, especially those who have lost their lives in the service of the United Nations.

As to the second, the vital role played by the Declaration hardly needs my endorsement. But I would refer to my statement at the World Conference in Vienna, in 1993, when, in speaking with respect to those who have given their lives in the cause of human rights, I said, "Those very heroes would be among the first to say, "Lets look into the past only for what we can learn from it. The job is not yet done, and our enemy grows stronger."

Mr. President,

It only remains for me to refer to the activities of the international community and this Body having to do with my country's predominant resource, the ocean. As you know, this is the International Year of the Ocean. The World can little afford to miss the opportunities presented by this occasion to focus on our planet's most prevalent, yet least understood physical mechanism. The single best example of that dangerously incomplete understanding surely is the ocean-generated, worldwide disaster of El Nino that occurred, ironically during this year.

For obvious reasons, the peoples of Micronesia secured involvement in the long negotiations that led to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea even before we emerged from Trusteeship status. We have continued that involvement as a Party to the Convention and now call on all States to ratify the Convention and participate fully in the process.

We support the Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, as well as resolutions aimed at eradicating the practice of driftnet fishing and unauthorized fishing in areas of national jurisdiction. We urge action to reduce by-catches, fish discards and post-harvest losses.

Looking towards the Special Session of this Body on the Barbados Plan of Action, and also toward next year's consideration of oceans by the Commission on Sustainable Development, we encourage the recognition of linkages between the various related issues, and the need for more integrated treatment.

By necessity, I speak of "linkages" and "integration," which are familiar terms of usage within the UN system, but there is nothing routine about the devastations of El Nino that were visited upon my country's people earlier this year, and upon other peoples around the World. I can think of no better example of the need for the recognition of linkages in terms of ocean and climatic issues, and the necessity for the application of integrated response measures.

Mr. President,

In closing, I refer to the fact that, in recent years, as the problems of our increasingly complex and globalized society appear to have escalated, it has become fashionable in some quarters to question whether the United Nations Organization is worth maintaining. It is as though the world's peoples expect that the worth of this Organization is to be tested by its efficiency in "fixing" a set of global problems, after which, presumably we would all live happily ever after.

That mistaken notion is grounded in the assumption that international cooperation exists only for immediate problem-solving.

Speaking for a relatively new Member country of the United Nations, allow me to suggest humbly that the repetition of mistakes of whatever scale, and the creation of new crises along with every step forward is elemental to the human condition. The Charter of this Organization, monumental as it may be, is still a document designed by and for human beings on this planet and must be judged and applied in light of the human experience. The United Nations should not be expected to work itself out of a job.

The people and the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia deeply respect the past accomplishments of the United Nations, and look forward to continuing to meet our commitments to it, even though our contributions may appear small.

Thank you, Mr. President.