H.E. MR. JACOB NENA
THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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,
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.
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."
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
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
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.
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.