Government of the Federated States of Micronesia




New York, September 23, 1999

Check Against Delivery

MR. PRESIDENT, Mr. Secretary-General, Heads of States and Governments, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you, Dr. Gurirab on your assumption of the office of President of this august body. My Government hails the selection of a distinguished leader from a new developing nation to lead the General Assembly into the new millenium. We are also confident that you will live up to the high standards of your esteemed predecessor, Mr. Opertti.

Mr. President,

It is with pride that I congratulate and extend welcome to our Pacific Island neighbors, the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of Nauru and the Great Kingdom of Tonga to the United Nations Family. This represents a large contribution from our region to the attainment of a key goal of the United Nations system, that of universality.

Mr. President,

I want to extend the sincere condolences of the people of the Federated States of Micronesia to the families and victims of earthquakes in Turkey, Greece, and only yesterday, in Taiwan. We are saddened by the violence in East Timor as its people seek to exercise their right to self-determination. We also feel deep sympathy for the innocent families in Russia, exposed to merciless bomb attacks, and for those in all regions of the world who are suffering today from violence, terrorism and violations of human rights. Condolences are also to be expressed on the recent death of His Majesty, Hassan II, of Morocco. His strong personal contributions to the process of achieving peace in the Middle East will be remembered.

Mr. President,

As Chairman of the South Pacific Forum, I am privileged to deliver the following remarks on behalf of its sixteen member countries.

The South Pacific Forum is a unique organization centered around the Heads of Government of sixteen Pacific nations which share a very special part of the world - the vast expanses of ocean and islands in the central and western Pacific, both north and south of the Equator. Forum member countries vary greatly in land area, ocean area, population, resource endowment, economic development, social structures, language and culture. However, we all share a common bond as Forum members and have established consensus positions, which transcend our diversity, on a wide range of issues. We have also agreed to work together in pursuit of regional stability and towards the well-being of our people.

Fourteen of the Forum members are small island developing states. Much work has been done to assist these smaller members in their pursuit of sustainable development. Such initiatives are reflected in proposals for extensive economic reforms by the Forum Economic Ministers. Recently, Forum Trade Ministers have made ground-breaking recommendations on trade initiatives, which include the establishment of a Pacific Free Trade Area, consistent with the rules and standards of the World Trade Organization. These recommendations will be considered by the Forum Heads of Government at their annual meeting in Palau, next month.

In past practice, the formal statement from each annual meeting, known as the Forum Communiqué, was offered for inclusion as a document of the General Assembly. As the meeting this year takes place after the conclusion of the General Debate, a request for inclusion of the Forum Communiqué from Palau will be made at a later date.

Mr. President,

Last year at their meeting in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, all sixteen Forum Leaders reaffirmed their endorsement of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. The leaders saw the Programme of Action as a comprehensive framework with great potential for the region, and commended implementation efforts already underway at the national and regional levels.

In this regard, Forum Leaders strongly supported the General Assembly initiative to hold, next week, the Special Session that will review progress under the Barbados Programme of Action. Forum Countries have maintained close involvement with the preparatory process for this Special Session, and have appreciated the strong focus on the concerns of small island developing states in the work of United Nations bodies such as the Commission on Sustainable Development. We look for outcomes from the Special Session that will bring an even stronger focus to our needs in the pursuit of sustainable development, and step up the pace of measures to implement the Barbados Programme of Action.

The common need for accelerated, and sustainable economic development remains a major focus among the Forum member countries, and in fact, the Forum itself has for some time, been implementing what is known as the Forum Economic Action Plan. The Plan attempts to address regional concerns, which are echoed in the Barbados Programme of Action. Forum members feel that the advancement of this collective regional Plan, is a constructive response to the mandates for regional action expressed in the Barbados Programme.

Mr. President,

In the context of overall economic development planning and assistance, together with protecting social and ecological concerns, Forum Members continue to maintain a keen interest in having the United Nations adopt a Vulnerability Index. The existing criteria for determining eligibility for concessional aid, trade treatment, and critical classifications such as Least Developed Country status are purely macroeconomic without any consideration for the environmental and natural risks we face as a region on a daily basis. Under the South Pacific Geoscience Organization, regional work has already begun on developing an environmental vulnerability index. Only by encompassing social, economic and environmental factors within its assessments, will the international community be able to achieve equity when addressing the special circumstances and needs of small-island developing countries. We appreciate the continuing discussion of this matter by the Commission on Sustainable Development, including at its most recent session, and call for concrete action by the year 2000.

Mr. President,

In last year's General Debate, the Forum expressed renewed hopes for the United Nations process to combat human-induced global warming, sea-level rise and other adverse effects of global climate change. We took a measure of pride that our group, which includes both Annex I and developing countries, found common ground at the political level to call for effective action, despite the widely differing circumstances among member states. It seemed that, with the successful negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol, the world's nations had finally recognized the need to begin to take action, on the basis of legally binding commitments to specified targets and timetables. Forum members were also relieved by the recognition that small-island developing states have particular needs for assistance with adaptation to the effects of climate change. We welcomed the formulation of specific tools, such as the Clean Development Mechanism, which promise to be useful in enabling island countries to do our part to combat climate change, within the parameters of our own national circumstances.

There is, of course, no time to be lost. People everywhere are experiencing the sometimes disastrous effects of climate change, from record-setting droughts to killer floods and hurricanes, or typhoons. The effects of sea level rise are already taking a toll on small-island states.

Unfortunately, even as scientific evidence has become impossible to ignore, the Convention parties have yet to go very far towards getting the Kyoto process underway. The political will of the governments of Treaty parties simply does not match the technical dedication of delegates to pursue solutions at the numerous meetings that are taking place on this subject.

After attending the Conference of the Parties last year in Buenos Aires, I came away with the impression that without a real sense of urgency, the Convention might choke on its own complexity, to the delight of the minority that opposes it. Unless all countries align themselves with the Convention's purposes and take urgent collective action, we could all find ourselves here at the 75th General Assembly, no closer to meaningful implementation.

Leaders then would be expressing regret over a steadily growing list of climate-related disasters, and watching the pile-up of sandbags along FDR Drive as the tidal surges along the East River grow stronger. By that time, of course, most Forum Island nations would have disappeared and we would have failed utterly. Ensuing discussions then, on emission reductions, would be a hollow gesture.

Even though our spirits are bolstered by the encouragement of our Annex I Forum partners, Australia and New Zealand, the fourteen Forum small-island states grow weary of calling attention to our special vulnerability to climate change, and to our status as being in the frontline of potential worldwide catastrophe. I would sincerely hope that by now a great majority of people, not only in the United Nations system but from all across the globe, have a strong mental picture of the helpless situation of low-lying islands and coastlines in the face of rising seas. We are very grateful for the considerable extent to which our pleas have been taken into account, but while we may flatter ourselves that we have served, in a way, as a voice of conscience for the Convention, we wish also to make positive contributions to its implementation.

Thus, the emphasis of all Forum members now, is to assure that we do our part to participate in, and to advance the considerable amount of work that must be done. The South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme continues to serve our governments as a useful focal point and to provide valuable expertise. Forum countries have also been active in working to understand the potential of the Clean Development Mechanism for the region. The Republic of the Marshall Islands recently hosted an important workshop on the Clean Development Mechanism that was attended by more than forty countries, and in June Australia and the Forum Secretariat hosted a workshop in Nadi.

We are severely hampered, however, by the shortage of personnel and financial resources to maintain continuous participation in the host of ongoing activities. The United Nations and bilateral donors have been very generous in supporting our attendance at conferences, but the demands of time on our short-staffed officials at home and abroad can be overwhelming, considering other growing concerns, such as biodiversity, oceans and coral reefs.

I know that this problem is by no means unique to Forum island countries, nor even to small-island developing countries as a group, but for us as well as many others, we ask that these limitations not be disregarded by larger countries and organizations in the management of the international agenda. Once again, we express sincere appreciation for the support of donors who have made our participation possible.

In addition, we would emphasize the importance of applying a coordinated approach to scheduling in order to facilitate the participation of small delegations who would not wish to be marginalized by the overlapping of meetings scheduled on topics of our critical concern.

Mr. President,

Finally, for the Forum, another topic of concern at the next annual meeting will be the continued shipment by industrialized powers of plutonium and radioactive wastes through our region. Forum nations have consistently expressed their concerns on this issue especially on liability and compensation arrangements in place in the event of an accident.

From 16 to 17 September discussions took place in Suva between the Legal Experts of the Forum countries and the representatives of France, Japan and the United Kingdom concerning the transshipment of nuclear materials through the region. This meeting was arranged by the Forum Secretariat in line with the 1998 Forum Communique. We are encouraged by this development and strongly urge the representatives of the three shipping states to demonstrate their readiness to explore "innovative ways" to address the concerns of Forum members.

There is more at stake than the well-being and comfort of larger populations of the North. Putting aside for a moment the disregard for sovereign interests of Forum countries, the Pacific Ocean is a vital breadbasket for the entire planet. Any accident could have serious and adverse implications far beyond our shores, for generations to come.

Forum countries have derived some encouragement from the decision of France, Japan and the United Kingdom to consult with Forum members regarding the safety and compensation arrangements for the most recent shipment of MOX from Europe to Japan. We are further encouraged by the decision of the three shipping states to provide information on the shipping route of the two ships carrying MOX, consistent with the rigorous safety and security obligations that they have to comply with under the International Conventions governing transport of nuclear materials, including the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials.

Mr. President, we, the Forum countries, earnestly hope to make some inroads, not only in the immediate situation, but more importantly for the long run, on the ethical conscience of the developed Nations. Since time immemorial, they have regarded our region as a convenient area for any kind of dangerous or undesirable activity that serves their interests at home. With the welcome admission to this Body of three more of our number, we are now so numerous in this forum as to assert forcefully that we wish no further invasions placing our people at risk, irrespective of the reasons others may have for choosing to disregard our concerns.

Mr. President,

I have by no means touched on every topic of concern, which is to be discussed at the next Forum meeting. Following that meeting, as I stated earlier, the complete Communiqué will be submitted to this Body and I commend its content to all delegations.

Mr. President,

The views I have expressed on behalf of the South Pacific Forum are, of course, fully embraced by my country, the Federated States of Micronesia. I would like now to address other issues speaking only for my small-island developing state.

Since 1991, when the Federated States of Micronesia was admitted to membership in this Body, we have experienced, from the viewpoint of a developing country and particularly a small-island developing state, a truly unique decade in multilateral relations. We emerged onto the international scene just in time to become a part of the movement that radically changed previous notions about development - the movement known as, "the Rio Process."

The timing could not have been better for us. Just as we took up the task of formulating our own agenda for the future of our island nation, the world as a whole came to recognize that the issues of environment and development are not opposed, but rather quite intertwined. We thus incorporated into our development planning from the outset, the mandate not just for development, but for sustainable development. We feel fortunate in this regard, and now, the principle of sustainability is fully integral to our daily lives.

For, while we are deeply appreciative of the concerns that other nations have shown for the difficulties faced by small island states like ourselves, and while we remain anxious for the further implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action, we realize that the action referred to must be, first and foremost, our own. We ourselves must be very serious not only to recognize our special development obstacles but to institute and carry out the programs that overcome them in a sustainable way. And this must be done, not as a temporary, short-term or even medium-term proposition, but as a way of life for generations to come.

No amount of outside assistance can provide sustainable development. As small-island countries we must individually and collectively commit ourselves to following the course once we have seen it and possess the means to navigate it. Without that commitment our sails will never fill and we will remain adrift on a journey that can only come to a sad end.

Mr. President,

As a new member of the international community we have been faced with the need to rapidly become familiar with the dynamics of multilateral interaction within the United Nations system, while, at the same time, trying to acquire a practical working knowledge of the various simultaneous processes. But there is no apprenticeship here at the United Nations.

From the outset, it has been our full responsibility to participate on a basis of equality in the ongoing work of numerous bodies directly integral to the United Nations, or related to it. It has been, and continues to be, a demanding experience, but inasmuch as we have learned about others, we are also learning more about ourselves and moving towards greater maturity as a Nation.

We have also developed a deep appreciation for the often unheralded but vital work of translating global problems into solutions that is pursued faithfully by the thousands of administrative and diplomatic members of the United Nations family. It is, in fact, difficult to conceive a future in which the nations of our ever-shrinking planet will not have a forum such as this one - the United Nations.

Yet, Mr. President, one cannot help but be uneasy on hearing whispers of discouragement as the United Nations is challenged by issues that seem to grow in number and complexity. We sometimes hear that perhaps the Organization has outlived its usefulness, and has inadequate capacity to deal with global crises in security, social justice and development. Some are said to feel that other, more sharply focused bodies would be better suited to deal with the anticipated crises of the new Millenium.

Without question, the effective responsiveness of this Organization is constantly challenged. But this is not a sign of failure, nor of a lack of capacity. Neither does it suggest that we need another instrument. It is, rather, an indication of the growing inter-connectedness of the global community - of the growing inclination among nations to find and recognize their common interests and to work together in the advancement of global peace and harmony.

In order to maintain and improve the responsiveness of the United Nations in a world of increasing demands and challenges, it is necessary that we continually evolve and adapt effectively in our pursuit of the Charter of the Organization. Only in this way can we keep the Organization on a positive course, and faithfully translate the mandates of the Charter into terms of continuing relevance. This is the attitude with which we must approach reform. It is not a consequence of inadequacy, which the word, "reform" may suggest, but rather it is a positive and evolutionary process.

This is easily said, but, as we all know, it is very difficult to put into practice. Even so, Mr. President, we must not allow that high degree of difficulty to plunge us into frustration and defeat. The great achievements of those who have come before us in the last fifty-three years must be honored by our unshakable determination to take the United Nations seriously into the next millenium as the single most effective multilateral instrument for the betterment of Mankind.

Mr. President,

If the United Nations is to maintain and even improve its capacity to deal with the great issues and improve the lot of disadvantaged peoples, I respectfully suggest that there is a need for broader incorporation of developing countries in the decision-making process. More and more, it seems, a relatively small group of developed countries are seen in the front lines here and in other related international bodies. There is a perception that despite the formal application of the rules, the substantive participation of developing countries in dealing with world problems is in reality, waning rather than increasing. This does not bode well for the future of international relations. As the trend toward globalization continues to strengthen, this body as a whole will need to be more involved in making important decisions - not a Perm-5, not a G-7, but a G-188.

Probably the single most urgently needed reform is the enlargement of the Security Council. Naturally, such an important step must not be taken in haste, but by this time we should be closer to finding an acceptable formulation. The plain fact is that, the openness of the most powerful nations to accept rational and realistic change in the Security Council is a key indicator of the future of global multilateral relations in general, and of this Organization in particular. The impact of success with this issue would be felt in positive ways throughout the United Nations Organization, and it would stimulate renewed confidence in the Charter. That result alone is badly needed, and should itself inspire greater effort to overcome the difficult obstacles.

It would be unrealistic to ignore the inevitability that larger, more powerful nations will most often take the lead in the United Nations -in fact, they should do so as a matter of responsibility. They possess the resources and the capacity. However, leadership should not become domination, and it should not leave the developing world marginalized. Thus, I emphasize the need for a restructured Security Council. I also visualize a General Assembly that remains in the forefront of global decision-making, for real outcomes on real issues.

Mr. President,

Being from a Pacific island nation, I naturally have particular concerns about our region. Without demeaning in any way the considerable attention that we do receive, I must say that the Pacific islands region often takes a rear seat in the councils of the greater powers who are prone to include only the Pacific rim countries among their primary concerns. This can be understood, given our small populations and land masses, which only underscore our remoteness in the vast Pacific Ocean.

But it should not be forgotten that we Pacific Islanders are custodians of some of the world's greatest untapped wealth. In the coming millenium, our region is certain to play a greater role than ever before in meeting the needs of the rest of the world for food, and mineral resources. If these resources are to be conserved in the proper way and harvested in a sustainable manner, the peoples of the Pacific islands must be dealt with fairly, and on a basis of partnership with the developed world. And the time to start is now.

The growing global involvement with, and reliance upon the tremendous resource base that resides in our region, must rest on a foundation of regional security. Nowhere is there a better example of the need for comprehensive security in the modern sense, which extends beyond military considerations, and also includes economic, social, and environmental security.

Mr. President,

This leads me to the present need for proper stewardship of the oceans and seas throughout the world. This subject was recently discussed in depth by the Commission on Sustainable Development, and is on our agenda in this session. I want to emphasize that the Federated States of Micronesia solidly supports the positions expressed by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) on this subject. We believe that oceans and seas present a special and even crucial case for international cooperation and coordination, and that the General Assembly is the appropriate body to provide this oversight. Indeed, it was mandated to do so by Agenda 21. Furthermore, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides the framework for action in this area. We thus have existing structures without the need to create new institutions. We believe that the size of the task will require continuing effort on an annual basis, so that an ongoing working group format within the context of preparations for each annual General Assembly will be more rewarding than a large, one-time conference. Above all, the process must seek the widest possible input, drawing upon expertise at the regional level, and ensuring and assisting participation from developing countries, especially small-island developing states.

Mr. President,

In these brief moments it is not possible to express all our views on all matters we deem important. Thus, by necessity, I must leave much to the work of our delegates in the committees here, and in the work of other UN organs throughout the year.

I wish, however, to plead to this Body for a universal awakening to the single most important reality of our lives today. This reality is that all our interests become more closely linked with each passing generation. We are all responsible to turn back the consequences of our past selfish behavior. The destruction of war, improper stewardship of our natural resources and the pollution of our living space are looming global disasters. Combined they will overwhelm the Earth's population unless we find common ground and take action.

That common ground exists. It exists here. It does not ask us to surrender our nationhood or our cultures. It is the Charter of the United Nations - a visionary document that has guided our troubled world through the faltering steps of increasing multilateral awareness, and today provides a format for our very survival. God grant that we will have the political will to sustain it.

Thank you, Mr. President.