Government of the Federated States of Micronesia





New York,September 21, 2000

Check Against Delivery

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on the assumption of the office of this August body. I have the honour to speak on behalf of the members of the Pacific Island Forum group of countries at the United Nations, comprising of Australia; Fiji; Kiribati; Marshall Islands; Nauru; New Zealand; Palau; Papua New Guinea; Samoa; the Solomon Islands; Tonga; Tuvalu; Vanuatu, and my own country, Micronesia.

It is with pride that I congratulate and extend a warm welcome to our Pacific Island neighbour Tuvalu into the United Nations family. The members of our group may vary greatly in land and ocean areas, population, resource endowment, economic development, social structures, languages and cultures but we share a common goal for the Pacific, based on security and stability, prosperity and economic opportunities for its peoples, and the sustainability of resources. Within the same context the Pacific Islands Forum countries represented in New York reaffirm their commitment to play a supportive role in the United Nations decolonization programmes in respect to the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories in the Pacific.

The Pacific Ocean occupies a central place in the lives of the people of the Pacific Islands. Preservation of this resource - which contains the world's highest marine diversity - is critical to our future economic development. The vast oceanic area under the control of our members is rich in fishing potential but requires careful management and monitoring to address illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing; and other environmental threats. A major achievement for us and our distant water fishing partners is the recently adopted Convention on Highly Migratory Fish Stocks in the Western and Central Pacific, which will protect the world's last great tuna fishery.

The first meeting of the UN Informal Consultative Process on Oceans Affairs and Law of the Sea, under the co-chairmanship of the Ambassador of Samoa, promises to serve as a vital part of the preparatory process for the General Assembly's consideration of Ocean issues. The Ocean priorities identified by the Pacific Island Forum include ratification of UNCLOS and the UN Fish Stocks Agreement; marine scientific research and technical assistance; and the delimitation of maritime zones including continental shelves.

The world's security environment has become more fluid and uncertain with new and emerging threats. Events this year show that a reputation for stability and peace are by no means guaranteed in the Pacific. In the light of the political crisis in Fiji and the social unrest in the Solomon Islands, Forum Foreign Ministers met in Samoa in August. They recognized the need for regional action to be taken on the basis of all members being part of the Pacific Islands extended family. In doing so the Forum must demonstrate that it is prepared constructively to address difficult and sensitive issues including the underlying causes of tensions and conflicts such as ethnicity, socio-economic disparities, lack of good governance, land disputes and erosion of cultural values. Accordingly, they decided to recommend to the Pacific Island Forum meeting in Tarawa, Kiribati that leaders commit themselves and their countries to a number of fundamental principles and courses of actions including the following:

  • Belief in liberty of the individual under the law, equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender, race, color, creed, political belief and in the individual's inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic political process in framing the society in which he or she lives;

  • Upholding democratic processes and institutions which reflect national and local circumstances, including the peaceful transfer of power, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, just and honest government;

  • Recognizing the importance and urgency of equitable economic, social and cultural development to satisfy the basic needs and aspirations of the people of the Forum.

The Ministers established a working group, to develop these principles and options for action, where the principles have been violated, for consideration by Forum Leaders when they meet in Kiribati.

In addition to increasing incidents of civil unrest, the region is facing new threats from international financial and cyber crime and people smuggling as well as the challenge of preventing and controlling communicable diseases and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The threat associated with the uncontrolled access to even a small number of weapons was brought into stark relief in the region recently, adding weight to the Forum Leaders decision in 1997 to put in place regional cooperation and a legal framework to control the spread of weapons in the region. This approach is in step with the international efforts to combat the illicit trade in small arms, particularly in the lead-up to the 2001 United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects. Work on a legal framework has progressed to a point where we expect draft legislation to be circulated among Forum island countries before the end of this year.

We in the Pacific retain a close relationship, both in economic and cultural terms, with our natural environments. We, therefore, maintain a keen interest in the development of the Environmental Vulnerability Index through the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC). We thank the several governments that have kindly committed substantial funds toward the completion of the third phase of the studies being conducted by SOPAC and encourage its adoption by the United Nations, so that environmental and natural risks that our members face will be recognised when consideration is given to eligibility for concessional aid, trade treatment and Least Developed Country status.

Agenda 21 and the Barbados Program of Action on Small Island Developing States remain the basic guideline for protecting the environment and achieving sustainable development. Steady progress is required in the preparations for the ten-year review of the UN Conference on the Environment and Development (UNCED) in 2002. We give high priority to international efforts to have the Kyoto Protocol come into force at the earliest possible date. We are thus committed to achieving a successful outcome to the Conference of the Parties (COP VI) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in November. We welcome 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, and to adapt to its consequences within the parameters of our own national circumstances. Strengthened efforts are being made in the region to build capacity to understand and respond to climate change including through observational networks.

The small island nations of the Pacific face unique constraints to development. Most have small subsistence-based economies with a narrow export base. Forum Economic Ministers meeting in Niue in July reconfirmed their commitment to the process of economic reform, based on the principle of good governance, with the aim of providing a sound economic basis upon which social development can take place.

The World Trade Organisation remains the world's most significant international opportunity for negotiation of trade and commercial issues. The Pacific Island Forum has agreed to establish a Forum delegation in Geneva and a working group of Forum Trade Officials to improve cooperation in the WTO and to actively engage in the policy debate about the best way to enhance the role of the WTO in contributing to development. We recognise the importance of finding ways to ensure that trade reform delivers outcomes which would not only contribute to economic growth, but also to the advancement of development and social equity objectives and improved environmental outcomes.

The global information economy promises great opportunities, particularly for those in isolated areas such as the Pacific, but it also demands new skills and technology. Efficient and effective communications services including a dedicated modern networking system like SIDSNET are of critical importance in achieving economic and social development and overcoming the constraints resulting from the relatively high cost structures of telecommunication networks for Forum Island Countries. A Forum vision for the Pacific Information Economy seeks to develop an appropriate mechanism for the cooperation of regional regulators and relevant organisations. Education and training are of fundamental importance to enhancing the adaptability of Pacific Islanders to economic reform in a rapidly changing world and region. By supporting education, the United Nations can help overcome one of the major obstacles to economic growth and poverty reduction.

The United Nations system continues to play a vital role in protecting the interests of small island States, such as most of the members of Pacific Island Forum. It is essential that the United Nations remain strong by adapting to meet new challenges such as globalisation. At the same time, the central role of the General Assembly, with its universal membership, should be strengthened.

The Security Council should be made more representative, transparent and democratic to be able to respond to the requirements of a fundamentally different international setting. It needs to be reformed comprehensively to meet contemporary demands and the conditions of the world today.

We welcome the Brahimi report and look forward to the strengthening of the United Nation's ability to carry out its key peacekeeping role. To fulfil its collective security responsibilities, the United Nations must be afforded strong and sustained political support together with financial and institutional resources. An integral element is a more equitable scale for determining peacekeeping funding.

Mr. President,

The Pacific Island Forum group remains committed to ensuring an effective United Nations.

Thank you.