H.E. Mr. Leo A. Falcam
President of the
Federated States of Micronesia
Before the 56th United Nations General Assembly
New York, 13 November 2001
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, Mr. President, on your election. My Government hails the selection of a leader with such esteemed qualifications, and we are confident you will lead the work of this body with the same high competence as your distinguished predecessor, His Excellency Mr. Harri Holkeri of Finland. We also share the pride felt by every member of this body in the award of the Nobel Prize for Peace to the United Nations Organization and to our highly admired Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan. We take great satisfaction in his re-election to another term, especially at this critical time.
Words cannot describe the horror of my people at the tragic events which unfolded here in New York, in Washington and other locations in September. On behalf of my people, please allow me to reiterate our deepest and most sincere condolences to the Government of the United States and to the victims and their families from all over the world. Our resolve to combat international terrorism is unwavering. My country will stand ready to assist in any way it can in order to help bring those responsible for these heinous acts to justice, and to ease the suffering of those affected by their actions.
The recently completed special debate on terrorism by this body makes it clear that we are all brothers in this fight, with a shared determination to do what it takes to eradicate this blight on civilization. But, despite the great sadness in all our hearts over the recent and ongoing events, the regular work of this body cannot be derailed. Part of winning this battle is to demonstrate the commitment and capacity of this Body to carry on with the great work of the Charter, on all fronts.
Thus, Mr. President, in addition to other actions that are being taken to confront the current crisis, I call upon all member nations to ratify and bring into force as soon as possible the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, which was adopted by Resolution of the General Assembly on 9 December 1999. I have signed this important Convention yesterday on behalf of the Federated States of Micronesia, and I anticipate its prompt ratification by our Congress.
Mr. President, I take pleasure in saying that this year marks the tenth anniversary of the Federated States of Micronesia's membership in the United Nations. In those ten years, my nation and the world at large have undergone unprecedented change. With the assistance of the United Nations system, the Micronesian people have worked tirelessly to forge our own identity at the international level.
Fifteen years ago we entered into a relationship of Free Association with the United States of America. It is a relationship largely unprecedented in the history of international relations. This arrangement was subject to great scrutiny by the United Nations, which ultimately approved the end of our status as a UN Trust Territory. It is testimony to the efforts of this body and the UN system that I stand before you today, as the representative of a nation - an equal in the community of nations.
For hundreds of years, our culture had been isolated from the rest of the world. In the past ten years our membership in the United Nations has opened up new horizons, new partnerships and new understanding of peoples. We also note our appreciation for the special knowledge we have gained through our interaction with all of you here in this forum and elsewhere in the United Nations system.
The world, like Micronesia, in the past ten years has changed at a pace heretofore unknown. We may celebrate some victories earned in conflict prevention, but clearly, other grave challenges remain and new threats have emerged to international peace and security. We are encouraged to see the United Nations assert its leadership in combating these problems.
The past year has brought forth an ambitious slate of new UN initiatives to enhance the well-being of peoples throughout the world. There are far more noteworthy new initiatives than time will permit me to mention here. Please allow me to highlight but a few.
While the effects of some grave threats to the FSM will manifest themselves gradually in the next decades, my nation grapples with an ongoing and immediate concern - poverty. I speak not of the poverty of hunger and unchecked disease, but of the all-too-common developing world condition that has resulted from the persistent failure of all nations to achieve equitable sharing of the bounties of this world.
We unfortunately are not alone, but this provides little solace. We applaud the United Nations as it continues its heroic work to reduce poverty and bring a better standard of living to all peoples of the world. We will continue to work with our colleagues within the Group of 77 to further poverty reduction measures and improve the standard of living for all human beings. In this regard, we fully support the Secretary-General's draft resolution on follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit, and look forward to its debate on November 19, in this Assembly.
Our historic isolation had also sheltered us from the scourge of many communicable diseases, such as AIDS. Our integration with the world community has brought about change here as well. In this past year my country experienced its first domestic case of HIV infection. This is minor in comparison to those countries who have been devastated by the disease, but it is cause for concern, nonetheless, in a country of little more than a hundred thousand people. We wholeheartedly support UN initiatives in this regard, such as the recently concluded special session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS.
Traditional conflicts remain, and most troubling, many old animosities have spilled over into open hostilities. This only underscores the importance of UN initiatives such as this year's World Conference against Racism and Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, which recently concluded in Durban, South Africa.
After many years of overall peace and tranquility, our region of the Pacific islands recently has seen a few long-standing conflicts erupt into violence of disturbing proportions. We applaud the efforts of the UN system to assist in arriving at peaceful settlements, and the FSM lends its full support to ongoing measures designed to keep the peace.
In the Pacific, one of the most effective means to that end has always been the Pacific Islands Forum. In the thirty years of its existence, the Pacific Islands Forum has played a pivotal role in maintaining the peace and security of our region and it has also contributed to notable progress on a broad slate of economic and social issues. I was pleased to participate in the recent meeting of the Forum and can express the FSM's full support for this year's communiqué, which has been included as a document of this General Assembly session.
As a nation with one of the youngest populations in the world, the issues of children and youth are of utmost concern to us. We therefore commend the decision to hold the special session of the General Assembly on Children. We understand fully the need to reschedule, and are gratified that the Assembly has decided to hold this session next May, in order to give the issues of children and youth the prominence they deserve. On a related note, I am pleased to report that the Federated States of Micronesia has begun the process of evaluation with a view to signing and ratifying the two optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Given the monumental pace of change, it is not surprising that in some respects the United Nations itself has been unable to keep pace with developments. We are appreciative of ongoing reform efforts, but would encourage redoubled efforts on remaining matters that cry out for attention, such as the reconstitution of the Security Council.
While my nation grapples with the entire spectrum of transnational problems such as drug trafficking and other aspects of international criminal activity, there is one threat that has our special attention. I am speaking, of course, about accelerated sea-level rise caused by global climate change. We now know that the production of greenhouse gases by human activity plays a prominent role. It is this global issue that threatens the FSM's future like no other.
The Federated States of Micronesia contributes only in an infinitesimal way to the problem of human-induced climate change, yet we are among the "front-line" states that must deal with its impacts. We are comprised of a geologically diverse range of islands, from low-level coral atolls to mountainous volcanic outcrops. All share one common denominator - since the dawn of time, our people's livelihood has been tied to the sea. Even on our high islands, such as Pohnpei and Kosrae, the vast majority of the population on all islands lives in the coastal plain. On most, the ability to move to higher ground does not exist.
The distinguished scientists of the IPCC have confirmed that the climate is changing, and that human activities are playing a significant part in the warming of our planet. Credible scientific evidence suggests that the magnitude of the impacts of that warming may be greater than even the most extreme estimates just ten years ago. Indeed, it may already be too late to save my country and many others like it worldwide.
Already our region has seen the beginnings of the movement of its peoples as a result of sea level rise caused by global warming. This year Tuvalu, one of our similarly situated neighbors in the region, announced that they had begun examining relocation options. Unfortunately, their initial results were not encouraging, as there is no uniform willingness among more fortunate countries to provide a haven for these first "climate change refugees." Undoubtedly, it will be the outlying atolls of the FSM, home to about half of our population, that are among the next to join the people of Tuvalu if current trends continue.
These developments point with new urgency to the need for constructive discussions of adaptation strategies and funding for small island developing states. We are encouraged by new attention paid to these issues at the recent conference in Bonn, and welcome the constructive outcomes of the conference just completed in Marrakech, such as on the important issue of enforcement of compliance.
We and all Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed nine years ago, were motivated by the "precautionary principle," whereby the lack of airtight scientific certainty could not be the basis for inaction. Today, there is virtually no uncertainty remaining regarding the reality of the main problem. Yet, we are dismayed to see that a handful of "greenhouse skeptics" are often still given an equal podium with the distinguished scientists of the IPCC, in the media and elsewhere.
The past ten years have seen some progress in the form of the Framework Convention and the Kyoto Protocol due to the tireless efforts of many delegations and goodwill on the part of governments. However, a change in the position of several key signatories to the Protocol, who are also among the world's largest generators of greenhouse gases, undermines the success of the recent Bonn and Marrakech talks, and has created a great deal of concern for all low-lying island States. We warmly applaud those countries who are standing by their commitments for reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. We call upon those who have not, to find the political will to take the actions that are, after all, in their own long-term best interests.
I do not mean to ignore the initial economic hardships these changes might entail. We understand all too well. In the last five years, the FSM has taken unprecedented measures to reduce the size of our public sector, far and away the largest employer in my country. These moves were vastly unpopular politically. Still, they were necessary and have put us on the right foot for a sustainable economic future. Similarly, longer-term economic benefits and competitive advantage can be gained by those nations that adopt a progressive climate change strategy now.
We Micronesians are a proud people. Throughout the centuries we have endured seemingly insurmountable difficulties. The threat from climate change is only the latest. Like some others we have faced, it is not of our own making and it is not something that can be overcome by ourselves alone. The Kyoto Protocol as it has been hammered out in Marrakech, does provide the necessary mechanisms with which nations can begin to attack global warming. I congratulate the negotiators on their significant, even historic accomplishment. The emissions cuts agreed to thus far, however, amount only to a small first step.
We have great confidence in the potential of the United Nations community to take further steps. Our very future existence hangs on the hope that, working together, all the nations of the world can overcome this most challenging of threats.
In closing, I want to reiterate and extend the sincere condolences of the people of the Federated States of Micronesia to those in all regions of the world who are suffering today from violence, poverty, terrorism and violations of human rights. We pray for a peaceful end to the current conflicts raging throughout many regions. We are reassured that the UN's spirit and its principles will guide leaders as they strive to prevent future outbreaks of violence, while seeking to relieve current suffering.
My delegation is proud of its contributions during our first ten years of membership, and pledges to do its utmost to continue to forward the goals of the United Nations for the benefit of all peoples throughout the world.
Thank you, Mr. President.