On Monday February 11, 2008 President delivered the keynote speech to roughly 600 country delegates and other NGOs and other international organizations at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Headquarter in Rome, Italy.
It is my pleasure and honor to join you today. I thank the Secretariat of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) for inviting me to address those who are engaged at the practical and scientific level in the search for solutions to the great challenges that the CBD seeds to confront. And may I thank the Government of Italy for once again hosting the workshop Group.
The accelerated decline in the integrity of the environment and its genetic resources is indeed alarming. As a small island developing state, the FSM is among the most ecologically vulnerable areas on the planet. The degradation of the global biological diversity is thus an issue of enormous concern to us in the FSM, because it has direct and immediate impact on the well-being of our peoples and communities.
I therefore come to Rome, not as a matter of option, but by the Dictates of Conscience - to demonstrate the absolute priority to which my country attaches to the subject matter of this meeting, and to salute your work. That Conscience flows from the conviction that we are all the stewards of God's Creation here on Earth - that the bounties of Mother Nature are a priceless inheritance not only for those of us who are present here today, but also for those many who will be coming after us. In short, we have a moral obligation to sustainably manage the resources of the earth for the benefit of the present generation as well as for the enjoyment of future generations.
Ladies and Gentlemen -
The elevation of the Office of Environment and Emergency Management to cabinet-level shortly upon my assumption of office is a further testimony of the high priority that my Administration attaches to environmental issues. I have also directed that a comprehensive review of our National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan be undertaken. The review is essential to assess, among other things, the current status of our biodiversity and to determine, ad may be necessary, the adjustment in our environmental policies and action plans.
This is another reason why I come to Rome - not only to share with you whatever experience we may have, but also to learn from you as we lunch our re-vitalized efforts to address our biodiversity and environmental concerns. Equally important, I come to the meeting of this Working Group to express support for you expert efforts to define ways to avert the alarming losses of global biological diversity by formulating effective response measures at all levels.
The preponderance of our focus here must necessarily be on giving practical effects to the mechanism of Protected Areas management and the need to set aside certain areas of the environment or percentages of the resources for conservation purposes. In this spirit, I call upon all of us to move beyond merely embracing the concept of Protected Areas management to actually putting it into concrete application. Our challenge here is one of transforming words into deeds. These deeds must:
Help us learn by doing - for example, technical workshops and exchanges that address our real needs
Help us work together - through ongoing support for the Global Island Partnership, and
Help us invest in our future - by actively areas throughout the world
For us in Micronesia, Protected Areas management is hardly a new idea. In fact, is an ancient, core element of our culture. Centuries before the Convention on Biodiversity came into effect, the Micronesians were already into the practice of creating protected areas. It was customary, for instance, to delineate certain of our maritime areas in which fishing activities were prohibited until competent community leaders determined it was fit to lift the ban.
Moreover, for certain periods of time community leaders would occasionally ban the harvesting of certain species of fish or marine life in the interest of "multiplying" the stock, more often so when a chief of the island dies. It is also customary to "regulate" the harvesting of certain food crops, even the hours of tilling the land, to ensure against over-harvesting and poaching.
The principle of sustainability, as can be seen, is at the very heart of the Micronesian traditional methods of resource conservation. But they seem to be effective mostly for local conditions; and their effectiveness appears to have diminished in light of the growing complexities of the modern and globalized world, including critical threats from climate change. With the help of modern science, among others, the efficiency of the Micronesian traditional methods of conservation could be regained and revived with greater effectiveness.
Ladies and Gentlemen -
Allow me to briefly introduce my country and to share with you our collective experience in seeking to address the issue of biodiversity decline. The FSM encompasses approximately 3 million square kilometers of ocean in the western Pacific. The country is comprised of 607 islands, with over 14,000 square kilometers of coral reefs.
The FSM has the largest area of shallow marine ecosystem in the Micronesian region, with over 200 known endemic species. And while we embrace an area of the globe as large as the continental US, our total land area is just 702 square kilometers. We are thus stewards of both vast marine and terrestrial resources, some of which are not found anywhere else.
How, then, has the FSM been addressing the issue of threatened decline in its biological diversity? In the first place, it is noteworthy that while resource conservation has always been a core element and practice of the Micronesian culture, we have come to the realization that the degradation of the biodiversity is a global phenomenon that calls for a concerted response by the international community as whole. Addressing the worldwide decline in genetic resources requires far more than local intervention.
At the international level, it is only natural that the FSM opted to become a party to the UN CBD. Our membership in the Convention took effect soon after the FSM Government ratified the CBD in 1994. Our membership in the CBD enabled us to join like-minded countries in the international crusade against the decline in the natural resources.
At the regional level, I note with pleasure the support of my country, along with those of our neighboring Pacific islands, who contributed to the adoption of the programme of Work for Island Biodiversity. I am equally pleased to note the FSM's endorsement of the Pacific Islands Statement on Island Biological Diversity.
At the sub-regional level, perhaps our most prominent effort was the creation of the Micronesia Challenge, announced on the occasion of the 8th CBD Conference of the parties in Curitiba, Brazil in 2006. The MC is a conservation commitment by all five governments in the Micronesian region, namely the FSM, Palau, the Marshall Islands, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Each of the signatory governments is committed to effectively conserving at least 30% of its marine resources and 20% of its terrestrial resources by the year 2020.
Also at the sub-regional level, we actively supported the successful establishment of the Micronesian Conservation Trust (MCT) as the financial mechanism for the Micronesian Challenge. The MCT is headquartered in Pohnpei, the capitol of the FSM. Is objective is to build an endowment to provide sustainable financial support for resource management across Micronesia.
Ladies and Gentlemen -
In addition to our international and regional activities, the FSM has also supported number of actions at the state level in response to the need to establish protected areas and to avert the accelerated rate of degeneration of biological diversity. In June of 2005, for instance, the Utwe Walung marine park in Kosrae State was declared by UNESCO as a protected area and was included in its Biosphere Reserve Program. A portion of Ant Atoll in the State of Pohnpei was also recently set aside as a Biosphere Reserve.
In Fact, approximately 100 "protected areas" have been identified throughout the FSM. Established in the early 1970's the terrestrial and marine sanctuary at Anut on Onoun, Chuuk State is perhaps the longest-running protected area in the FSM.
Within the last two years, we have also begun to identify our financial needs through the development of a "Sustainable financing" plan which identifies our current funding levels and then projects what will be needed if we are to meet our commitments for effective management.
I intent to accelerate the integration of environmental currents at the primary, secondary, and post -secondary levels in addition to the launching of a formal public awareness program throughout the nation.
Finally, in our ongoing effort at the national level to ensure the health and resilience of our biodiversity, the FSM Government has established four key environment-related guidelines.
Environmental criteria should be integrated into national economic development activities and financial resource all0cation;
Efforts should be undertaken to educate and expand public awareness about the environment;
National resources should be efficiently managed and protected; and,
Waste management and pollution control should be significantly improved.
These four criteria have been incorporated in my country's National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan (NBSAP).
Ladies and Gentlemen -
My appeal today to proceed with the implementation of the Work Program for Protected Areas includes a special acknowledgement and a request of us all. A special acknowledgment of the program of Work on Island Biodiversity is appropriate here as it recognizes that special consideration needs to be paid to the unique conditions of the small developing states, including the Federated States of Micronesia. We have been indentified as among the most ecologically vulnerable areas on the entire planet. We are all taking action ourselves to address our national resources conservation priorities - however collective action and the support of the international community will be critical for us all to succeed.
A tangible example of this "collective action" is the Global Island Partnership. I would like to recognize the role the Global Island Partnership has played to accelerate the implementation of both the programs of work on Protected Areas and Island Biodiversity. I would like to request Parties and development partners to support it and use it to move our collective efforts forward. The FSM is pound to be a partner in this initiative and will continue to support its activities.
Ladies and Gentlemen -
I am especially honored that you have shown the patience to make a place for me today on your agenda. Thank you for listening to my brief description of what we are doing in our corner of the world to play our small part in this essential global enterprise.
While I speak from the political side of our common effort, it is my privilege to commend and encourage your work in the scientific, technical and technological areas. All of us, whether we be from developed or developing nations, political leaders, scientists, social activists or individual citizens, share the common responsibility assigned to us by our Divine Creator to be stewards of His creation. We may labor in different vineyards, but our common harvest must not be allowed to wither on the vine.
As we proceed to enlarge and expand upon our essential work, allow me to express the hope that one day within our own or our children's lifetime we will all be awakened one morning to an entire world where biodiversity is effectively protected, conserved and sustainably managed.