H.E. Mr. Leo A. Falcam
President of the
Federated States of Micronesia
Before the 57th United Nations General Assembly
New York, 12 September 2002
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 in the same distinguished manner as your predecessor, His Excellency Han Seung-Soo of the Republic of Korea.
The tragic events just more than one year ago in this great city and elsewhere in the United States have transformed the nature of life throughout the world, reaching the farthest corners of the planet.
My country, while far removed from the devastation of that fateful day in September 2001, reaffirms its full support for the efforts to bring those responsible to justice. More broadly, we extend our unwavering support for all measures necessary to combat terrorism and hopefully, one day, to eliminate it.
We in the Federated States of Micronesia are doing our part to work toward a more effective global antiterrorism network by putting in place measures to interdict the movement of terrorists and their funds through our region. We look forward to the work planned in that regard for this session of the General Assembly.
By now it should be clear to those who carried out the despicable acts of last September that, rather than crippling the institutions of freedom and democracy, they only strengthened the resolve of all civilized nations to defend these principles. The new spirit of global cooperation that has emerged as a result of these tragic events will no doubt lead to a better world for us all.
The Pacific Islands Forum meetings this year were dominated by security considerations in the wake of these events. We note with full support the Nasonini Declaration, which enhances existing regional security measures. Likewise, speaking as chairman of the Standing Committee of the Conference of Pacific Islands Leaders, I am confident to say that every island leader is personally committed to seeing that our region serves no useful purpose to the dark forces of terrorism.
The realm of international security has seen fundamental and beneficial change in the past year. Sadly, the same is not true of most other primary issues on our agenda, notably elimination of poverty and stemming the tide of environmental degradation.
On those issues, as a developing country, we share the concerns and positions of other developing countries. We fully endorse the statement made by Venezuela on behalf of the G-77 and China. Further, as a nation of islands spread over a large expanse of the Pacific Ocean, we lend our voice to statements by Fiji on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum and by Samoa on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States.
We have all made powerful statements and set lofty goals through the Rio Declaration ten years ago, the Millennium Declaration two years ago, and most recently the Monterrey Consensus and the Johannesburg Declaration. Of special interest to my delegation, I would note the same holds for the Barbados Declaration on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States held in 1994.
Yet, it is true that progress has been slow in addressing the needs of the world's poor. Likewise, ten years after Rio, the quality of our environment and its ability to sustain future generations still diminishes daily.
There are widely differing views as to the success or failure of the recently completed Earth Summit in Johannesburg. First, let me just say, I am sure that all agree the warm welcome and hospitality provided by the government and people of South Africa will long be remembered with gratitude.
As for the conference itself and its outcomes, I came away optimistic that the conference Declaration, and the Plan of Implementation, take all the nations of the world several important steps towards realization of the goals of Agenda 21.
Perhaps most important was the universal recognition of the essential connection between "words well-spoken and deeds well-done." Unlike some delegates, I did not sense a general pullback by developed nations from their earlier commitments. Rather, I felt that, over the past ten years we have seen progress in gaining practical understanding of the difficulties in translating words into deeds.
The experience of my country, since its founding in 1979, has been that it took time to establish a solid footing for the stable, multicultural democracy that we know today. It is therefore no surprise to us that it requires patience and deliberate care to reorder the social priorities of the entire international community. And no less is required in order to realize the promise of sustainable development.
At Johannesburg, the FSM joined with other Pacific Island countries in proposing a number of umbrella initiatives that provide a framework for partnerships with developed countries to assist us in implementing sustainable development. These initiatives reflect our common concerns but recognize the uniqueness of each of our island nations.
We hope that these practical proposals will help to turn decades of pronouncements into action. We are encouraged that some of our Pacific neighbors, such as New Zealand and Australia, already have come forward with specific partnership proposals, and we look forward to the support of the United Nations System as well. Such developments convince us that Johannesburg will be remembered as a landmark on our long journey.
We are appreciative of the international community's decision to hold the next Barbados review conference in 2004 and we look forward to adopting concrete goals and timetables at the international level by that time.
Development and the environment are inexorably linked. This truth has been reaffirmed in each of these declarations. We all know there cannot be sustainable development without environmental protection, and there cannot be environmental protection without sustainable development. Nor can the world hope to support six billion people at the level of consumption we now see in the developed world.
We must consider: how just is the notion that the privileged minority can continue driving air-conditioned SUVs when billions of our fellow human beings struggle each day to survive and support families on less than one U.S. Dollar? How long can industrial nations hope to sustain their over-extended lifestyles while the natural resources of the planet are being steadily degraded and diminished? The answer, and the message from Johannesburg is, "no longer."
The future will require sacrifice. Sacrifice on the part of the North to adopt more sustainable living practices, and by the South, which must recognize that the past development paths followed by the North, unfortunately do not lead to a sustainable future.
It is this body, above all others, which will grapple with these painful realities. We must realize that these realities present issues even more complex than some of our more familiar geopolitical concerns. Among other things, new attention must be given to the reform of the United Nations, because we must address more than just structural adjustments in the representational format of our body. This reform must take due account that the entire world is reassessing our accustomed ways of living.
Still, there must be a start. First and foremost, we call on all nations to give fresh consideration to reform of the Security Council to better reflect today's realities. In this regard, we reiterate our support for permanent seats for Japan and Germany, and for a system that ensures more equitable representation by developing countries.
The Federated States of Micronesia is engaged on all issues before this body that affect us. We also feel an obligation as a member to work constructively on issues of primary concern to others. But given our unique circumstances, we have no choice but to place top priority on protection of the oceans and the climate.
Global oceans policy has been a bright spot in recent years, particularly as it relates to the Pacific. Pacific island governments recently concluded work on a regional ocean policy and have developed a number of positive new initiatives on fisheries and other related issues.
Yet, these positive accomplishments in ocean policy are threatened by continued violation of our sovereignty in the form of illegal fishing and transshipment of hazardous material. Only a few weeks ago, in defiance of international obligations, several of the world's largest industrial powers collaborated once again in yet another extremely dangerous shipment of radioactive material through our region. Without prior notice or assurance of compensation for damage, this shipment passed within thirty miles of the FSM capital. Our expressed objections to this violation of our exclusive economic zone were flatly ignored. Effective regulation of ocean-based transshipment of these dangerous materials must find its way into the priorities of this body.
Similarly, with regard to climate change, we welcome the positive accomplishments in the negotiating arena under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) most notably the Kyoto Protocol. We applaud those nations that have joined us in ratifying the protocol, and welcome with anticipation its imminent entry into force. But the sad reality is that ten years have passed since the framework convention became effective - ten more years of damage to the earth's climate.
A handful of countries have succeeded in continuing to stall progress in the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions. Again I ask these nations, as I have on each occasion when I have appeared before this body, to reconsider their policies and to recognize the international implications of their inaction.
I ask this, not just for the people of front-line states such as my own, but also for the benefit of your children and grandchildren. I call upon these nations to remember the wise words of the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who said: "liberty does not permit an individual citizen or group of citizens to commit acts of degradation against nature in such a way as to harm their neighbors and especially to harm future generations of Americans."
Let us not lose sight of the fact that there is now universal recognition of the reality of the problem of climate change and its causes. In light of that recognition, it is not enough that most nations are willing to take action. All must work together to develop effective mitigation strategies to prevent further damage, and to define and implement adaptation measures for the most vulnerable. You are probably aware, Mr. President, that some of us are already feeling the first damaging effects of climate change.
We have just over 100,000 citizens in the Federated States of Micronesia. We have no natural sources of fossil fuel. We have become far too dependent on imports of fossil fuels during the past half-century, even so, our contribution to global emissions of greenhouse gases is negligible. Looking to the future, we have committed to a reduction and eventual elimination of fossil fuel for energy production. But we must rely on western technologies if we are to move in the direction of renewable sources of energy. Thus, we are disturbed by the policies of developed countries that give little more than lip service to development of renewable energy technologies.
I would be remiss if I did not express my profound disappointment at the position taken by our closest allies regarding the climate change issue. I am struck by recent reports showing that today one developed country is responsible for greater emissions of greenhouse gases than all the developing countries combined. Yet, that country's government insists it is justified in refusing to adopt reduction goals unless developing countries do the same.
We are alarmed at the continuing refusal of some nations even to begin to acknowledge the nature of the climate problem, let alone to take progressive action to combat it. Further distressing is the fact that, at the same time, some of these nations are reducing their aid presence in developing countries. Just when the need is greatest, some feel that the world community is closing in upon itself, in a cocoon of self-interest.
It is inconceivable to us that global champions of equity and democratic ideals, nations whose principles we seek to emulate, assume a position on the most crucial social issues of our time that succumbs to private interests. These private interests, for obvious reasons, insist that to the extent any problem exists, it can be addressed in good time, on a voluntary basis. My people find it very difficult to reconcile such private influences with the principles these nations promote.
The fifty-seventh session provides a genuine opportunity for the world community as a whole to take note of our recent conferences, to seize the initiative and set a course toward tangible progress on the issues we all agree to be of common concern.
In closing, Mr. President, Our deepest sympathies are extended to the victims of war, terrorism, political injustice, environmental degradation, and economic want throughout the world. We hope and pray that our actions here might, in ways large and small, lead to a better world for them and for us all.
The Federated States of Micronesia is a small force within the World Community, nevertheless, we pledge our full assistance and cooperation toward the attainment of this goal. We take to heart the words of the British statesman, Sir Francis Bacon, who once said: "he makes the greatest mistake who decides to do nothing because he can do so little."
I thank you, Mr. President.