KOROR, Palau — The 19th Micronesian Presidents’ Summit (MPS) took place February 20th to 21st 2019 at the Ngarachamayong Culture Center. All five sovereign nations in the Micronesian region—the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Republic of Palau (Palau), Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI), Republic of Nauru (Nauru), and the Republic of Kiribati (Kiribati)—attended the annual meeting with high-level delegations comprised of Heads of State/Government and cabinet-level Ministers, Secretaries, and support staff.
Though FSM President Peter M. Christian was unable to attend the MPS due to important obligations in the FSM, the FSM delegation in his place consisted of the Honorable Lorin S. Robert, Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Honorable Andrew Yatilman, Secretary of the Department of Environment, Climate Change, and Emergency Management, the Honorable Joses Gallen, Secretary of the Department of Justice, and support and advisory staff.
After the official opening presentations and national anthems, each President and/or Head of Delegation provided their opening remarks. The first to speak was His Excellency Taneti Mamau, President of Kiribati. “While our family name Micronesia means micro or small, we must be reminded that we are large ocean states with influence and power,” President Mamau said, in reference to Micronesia’s capacity to shape and focus regional and international conversations on topics ranging from climate change to fisheries. “Our resources have long been compromised to the extent that there are others who are living better lives at the cost of our peoples’ livelihoods. We should not allow history to repeat itself…. It’s time that we remain united to play our cards well, and better, this time and tomorrow.”
Following President Mamau’s remarks, Secretary Robert provided the opening statement from the FSM. “We look forward to sharing news and updates on…issues such as maritime surveillance, transnational crime, and airspace management, as mentioned by President Mamau…. These are important issues that must be in the forefront of our regional discussions given the challenges we continue to face…. [We must] protect our most important national resources that we have.”
Minister in Assistance to the President of Nauru David Adeang represented Nauru President Baron Waqa in his absence. “The challenges that are faced by small island countries represented here means we have to provide all the functions, and we have to meet all the expectations and needs, aspirations and dreams, of our own people…. And in this respect we thank very much all the development partners here who are able to support us in…issues [such as] …environment, climate change, fisheries, and resource management…perhaps these can be made easier if we work together.”
RMI President Hilda Heine, spoke next. “It’s always a pleasure to renew friendships and create new ones…and this 19th summit is such an opportunity…. In recalling our solidarity, the RMI proposes several items for discussion. Our candidatures to the Human Rights Council are one such issue.”
While many of President Heine’s opening remarks echoed the other Micronesian Presidents, there was a particular focus on gender equality and women’s rights. “We are working on a gender equality bill…and [hope to] introduce it in our parliament…your endorsement will be deeply welcome…. Your support is also sought for the Pacific Women’s conference….”
Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. and chairman of the 19th MPS, gave the final opening remarks. “We will…like to give a special welcome to the Nauru and Kiribati delegations, who are visiting Palau for the first time in the context of the MPS,” President Remengesau said. Kiribati and Nauru joined the MPS as permanent members during the 18th MPS in 2018. “With our new members…the MPS now has the majority of the [Small Island States] within the larger [Pacific Island Forum] …this summit has therefore taken on greater importance for our Micronesian people and our Micronesian region. Together, we must demand a stronger voice in regional planning and negotiations….”
During the afternoon of the first day (the 20th), the Presidents and Heads of Delegation conducted meetings between themselves on matters of national and regional interest and significance, so as to come to agreement when presenting on such issues in the second day (the 21st) and the content of the Joint Communiqué. (A Joint Communiqué is a formal, written policy, treaty, or official statement developed by two or more parties.)
Meanwhile, the delegations received presentations from the Council of Regional Organizations in the Pacific, also known as the CROP Agencies. These agencies include the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIF), Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), Pacific Power Association (PPA), Pacific Aviation Safety Organization (PASO), and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP).
The second and final day of the MPS began with the CROP agencies summarizing their report through the FFA Director-General, Dr. Manumatavai Tupou-Roosen. “Within the CROP family, whatever hat that we wear, we have one clear vision: that is that the work we do, the service we provide, must be making a positive difference in the lives of our people…. And we calibrate around this vision with four key themes: to ensure that we continue to enhance regional solidarity, to maintain that platform of cooperation. To find innovative ways to strengthen our engagement with you, our members, and key partners, and enable more regular consultation. To ensure that we meet your priority goals and strategies set out in the outcomes from this important summit.”
PIF reaffirmed its support to the Boe Declaration (which can be seen here: https://www.forumsec.org/boe-declaration-on-regional-security/), and committed to submitting a Micronesian representative to the Pacific Steering Committee for Sustainable Development prior to March 1st, 2019. SPC promised to “make the fight to eliminate violence against women and girls a priority”, and SPREP endorsed “the proposed strategy for making a [Northern Pacific] office.”
PASO endorsed a proposal for a regional aviation ministers meeting, FFA discussed strengthening outcomes through cooperation—including celebrating FFA’s 40th anniversary—and PPA emphasized that private sector investment in electrical utilities is crucial. (All utility corporations in the FSM are state-owned enterprises).
The CROP agencies openly endorsed their support for the FSM’s Technology for Tuna Transparency (T-3) Challenge, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy, as well as demonstrating their collaborative support for Palau’s National Marine Park Sanctuary, RMI’s goal to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing by 2023, and Kiribati’s KV 20—the strategic development plan for Kiribati from 2016 to 2036, which has a heavy focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation.
The afternoon discussions during the second day of MPS focused on various presentations and discussions on regional and country-specific initiatives. They included agreement from the Presidents and Heads of Delegation to stress the need for coordination with regards to sustainable transportation, including support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF); that the 7th Our Ocean Conference to be held in Palau in 2020 focus in part on designating and committing to marine protected areas; that Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) be addressed throughout the region (e.g. Palau, whose Ministry of Health suggests 72.5% of its population is overweight or obese, has banned canned meat and ramen in its schools); and the establishment of a United Nations Multi-Country Office in the North Pacific and specifically in one of the five MPS states. (Its exact location is still to be finalized).
Complete details of the discussions and agreements can be found in the Joint Communiqué (found here: https://pio.gov.fm/files/Public%20Notices/2019-19th-Micronesian_Presidents_Summit_Joint_Communique_reduced_size.pdf ), and all FSM citizens are strongly encouraged to read through it so as to be aware of the outcomes that are of the most relevance, importance, or interest to them.
It was agreed that Nauru would become the host for the 20th MPS.
Each President and Head of Delegation gave closing remarks at the conclusion of the 19th MPS. Each nation emphasized mutual respect for one another and a commitment to cooperation. “The issues that we discussed here are very dear to our hearts,” Secretary Robert said. “Some of them are big challenges, like the issues on climate change, IUU, and other issues…[but] they are proof of our living in the Micronesian family.”
“Micronesia has a rare opportunity to appoint the next Secretary General of the PIF,” said President Remengesau of Palau, “there is no greater voice than through the leadership of this forum…but this is about more than just issues and projects…. It is also about the maintenance and development of friendships, and the continuation of Micronesian cultural bond…it has been my great honor, and the honor of the people of Palau, to hold this 19th MPS….Let us always remember, the ocean does not separate us; it connects us together.”
The FSM National Government recognizes, appreciates, and commits to its Micronesian neighbors—in the words of President Christian—“Genuine, honest-to-goodness respect”, and dedication to peace and partnership. Though the issues facing our nations and our region at this time are significant, the FSM National Government is committed to tackling these issues with the importance that they deserve so as to improve the lives of the citizens of the Nation and the region. (PR)