H.E. Alik L. Alik,
Vice President of the Federated States of Micronesia
65th United Nations General Assembly
High Level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals
New York, 22 September 2010
Check Against Delivery
Distinguished Heads of States-and Governments,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am deeply honored to share with you today the experience of my country in the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). This is a story of achievements as well as challenges for the Federated States of Micronesia.
During the Millennium Summit of 2000 we committed ourselves to establishing a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and hunger; to improve quality of education and health; to pursue gender equality; and to promote environmental integrity and sustainability, among other tasks. Five years later, this commitment to the MDGs was reaffirmed.
The MDGs have become the framework document guiding concrete measures undertaken by countries in different parts of the globe. The high expectation is that by 2015, millions of people will get rid of hunger and extreme poverty, and have access to better educational opportunities, safe water and sanitation and health care and treatment. While achievements have been made in various sectors, the recent global financial and economic crises have imposed enormous impediments to meeting the targets and indicators.
I acknowledge that the alarming population growth rate of my country was reduced during the 1990s by almost 50%, which is now maintained at 3.28 per cent annually. But we cannot take full satisfaction in this one index alone.
We know only too well that we need to do better in terms of per capita income generation and human development. Employment and income are at the very heart of poverty reduction. Creation of job opportunities will require policy reforms. The establishment of a conducive regulatory environment, notably on trade and private sector development, is also important.
Our policy is to streamline the size of government; in so doing, we are taking the care that essential services are not adversely impacted in a wholesale manner.
While we are grateful to our development partners and friends for their support and cooperation over the years, we realize that we must face reality and chart our own course. With our economy overwhelmingly dominated by a large public sector, a major part of the challenge in our efforts to meet the MDGs is the reduction in our sources of traditional bilateral assistance. In this respect, I underscore the importance for the international community to honor its commitment to provide 0.7 percent of GDP for Official Development Assistance.
Micronesia has a special partnership agreement with the United States that is enshrined in a treaty called the Compact of Free Association. This treaty includes an economic package upon which we pin high hopes to stimulate our efforts toward the attainment of the MDGs through the improvement in the health and education sectors.
Despite our best efforts, economic activity in the FSM since the amended Compact went into effect in 2004 has been unsettling or sporadically elusive. For example, real Gross Domestic Product recovered from a negative 3.4 percent in previous years to a positive 1.6 percent of growth between 2004 and 2005. The brief positive growth was again declined in the ensuing years until 2009, when it slightly recovered with a 0.4 percent growth. This modest GDP growth is further characterized by three observable trends: sluggishness in real per capita income; reduction in employment; and increase in out-migration.
Applying the definition or criteria of the MDGs, it is estimated that 30% of our population live below the national poverty line. It seems unlikely for my country to halve this proportion by 2015. I am pleased to note that, consistent with our Strategic Development Plan, addressing poverty through job creation remains part of our long-term national objective. In addition, a Poverty Alleviation Strategy would be needed in order to reverse the ongoing process of out-migration and the potential adverse impact of the expansion of the informal economic sector.
In education, I am pleased to report that we are achieving high enrollment rates at the primary school level. Gross and net enrollment is over 90 percent. The near parity between girls and boys in elementary schools and the higher levels of enrollment of girls in high schools are important achievements in my country. The literacy rate for persons 15-24 years old is over 90 percent and it is slightly higher for females than for males. My government is committed to placing high priority on further improving the quality of education in the coming years. It is for this reason, among others, that we need to direct significant attention to the remaining five (5) percent of our children who are still outside our education system.
I believe that the increased access to education has helped to considerably narrow the gender gap. However, more efforts are needed to increase the participation of women in the labor force. Improvements in women's health are a priority and they include better access to reproductive health care and decline in prevalence of non-communicable diseases, notably in our outer islands.
I believe that the ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women has certainly helped to raise the profile of women in our island communities. We have taken other initiatives to address issues relating to women's political representation, maternity leave and domestic violence. Legislation creating a National Commission on the Status of Women has also been recently introduced into our national congress.
MDG's challenges in the health sector are in the areas of child mortality and improving maternal health. It is urgent to address both areas effectively. In my country, reducing child mortality has been a long-standing priority and it is on-track to achieve MDG 4. It will be further overcome with targeted interventions in both primary health care system and in the community. It is necessary to increase the number of pregnant women who receive adequate prenatal care while post-neonatal deaths will be reduced by improving living conditions. FSM is also on track to achieve maternal mortality rate target. However, more attention needs to be given to universal access to reproductive health services, especially in areas where population is widely dispersed.
Prevention of HIV/AIDS is a national priority and a National Strategic Plan to address the issue has been prepared. Programs operate at both national and state levels and focus has been given to prevention and community-based planning and care for persons living with HIV/AIDS.
We have also focused on reducing the number of tuberculosis cases, diabetes, heart diseases and cancer. A comprehensive and coordinated Non-Communicable Diseases program is still ongoing. More awareness is necessary to reduce behavioral risk factors such as tobacco use, alcohol abuse and lack of physical activity.
I have highlighted our achievements and challenges but there is a far larger challenge that would render all our achievements irrelevant. We cannot meaningfully talk about the MDGs unless the international community addresses the real danger that Micronesia and other Small Island Developing States will disappear because of the adverse impacts of climate change. In short, Mr. President, we are the least responsible but most vulnerable.