Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Micronesian Chief Executives affirm solidarity: facing challenges and seizing opportunities as a region

The19th Micronesian Chief Executives’ Summit in Saipan ended on the 6th of December after three days of meeting. The six Governors and three Presidents from all the States, Territory, Commonwealth and National Governments in Micronesia discussed a range of issues with guidance from selected professionals, practitioners, academicians, leaders and high level staff members from within their various jurisdictions. 

At the Summit, a total of fifteen (15) agenda items were presented to and discussed by the Leaders with input and guidance from several presenters. Among these items were:

Climate Change: Climate Change discussions highlighted the obvious fact that many of the islands in Micronesia are already being drastically affected by various impacts of climate change. This imminent experience explains why the Leaders agreed to continue exert efforts in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Under the same subject, the Leaders congratulated Governor Eddie Baza Calvo of Guam for his appointment to the Presidential Commission on Preparing the US for effects of Climate Change. Governor Calvo was requested to assist other Micronesian entities in the context of this newly appointed role to "gain funding for appropriate adaptation projects".
The Marshall Islands raised awareness of fellow Leaders to the existing Majuro Declaration on Climate Leadership endorsed by Pacific Islands Forum countries at the 44th Pacific Islands Forum in Majuro a few months back.

Micronesian Challenge: Considered a "success story" for the region, the Micronesian Challenge (MC) continues to garner the support of the Chief Executives in its expanded efforts, which now includes the development of the Micronesian Challenge Business Plan.

The MC presenters indicated that $11 million is spent annually for the protection of more than 6,800 square kilometers of conservation reserves in the region. The MC hopes to achieve a total of 13,500 square kilometers of protected areas by 2020. The MC Business Plan "establishes a commitment to raise an additional $42 million across the region" ($7 million annually) to match projected costs for meeting the initiative's conservation targets. 

Regional Health Insurance: The Chief Executives viewed components of a proposed regional healthcare plan that originates from the Association of Pacific Islands Legislators (APIL). Various indicated benefits of contributing to a region-wide healthcare plan were explored along with a recommendation for the need of a regional study to be conducted to better situate its potentials based on the experiences of current stand-alone plans in the MCES jurisdictions.

The Leaders expressed interest in the concept of a regional medical insurance plan and the prospects on the benefit of pooling resources for such plan.

Other Decisions

In a separate side-meeting, the Presidents of the FSM, the Marshall Islands and Palau agreed to extend the College of Micronesia Treaty, subject to legislative approval, to September 30, 2023 as recommended by the COM Board of Regents.  "COM Land Grant federal programs are operated through the 'Treaty Among the Governments of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of Palau Regarding College of Micronesia'". At the latest status, the treaty was effective until September 30, 2013.

The Chief Executives held a separate session that involved officials from the US Department of the Interior that mostly concerned a report from the US Government on the impact of an estimated 56,000 citizens of the Freely Associated States residing in US jurisdictions. The Leaders had the opportunity to express their view on the report. The Governor of Guam "indicated his disappointment in the overall movement of the U.S. Government and the Department of Interior on issues of Compact Impact, especially the failure to develop a template for the measurement of impacts, failure to report in a timely fashion to the U.S. Congress and the failure to respond to overall health care, education, corrections and other impact issues". Other Leaders expressed concern regarding data compilation in the process for determining compact impacts. 

The Leaders also touched on the issue of the status of the Micronesian Center for a Sustainable Future (MCSF), which is seen as a coordinating organ for the MCES. The DOI suspended a grant in February 2013 and support for the Center were put on hold.

As one of the last actions for the Summit, the Leaders agreed to improve the configuration of the MCSF to strengthen its secretariat function and be more responsive to the MCES.

Additionally, three resolutions also resulted from the Leaders' deliberations.  

Resolution 19-01 pledges "expanded support of the Micronesian Chief Executives for existing regional, national and local initiatives to implement invasive species awareness, impact assessment and research, management and biosecurity programs and the continued support for the implementation of the Micronesian Biosecurity Plan".

Resolution 19-02 underscores the Chief Executives' recognition of and support toward the "social and economic development of the region through enhanced telecommunications capacity in the Republic of Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia".

Resolution 19-03 stresses the Chief Executives' "recognition of the accomplishments of Francis X. Solomon, an advisor of the Prior Service Program and the first director of the Technical Assistance Program at the Office of Insular Affairs and commemorating his death of August 22, 2013".

The Leaders also acknowledged the action taken by the Hawaii Invasive Species Council (HISC) which adopted a resolution in support of the development of the Micronesian Biosecurity Plan (MBP). A letter from the Leaders expressing appreciation for the State of Hawaii’s supportive action was sent to Governor Neil Abercrombie with request for Hawaii’s full participation in the development of the MBP and inclusion in the Micronesian Invasive Species Council as a non-voting member.

As a tribute to a departed Statesman, the Chief Executives took time to honor the passing away of President Nelson Mandela. A moment of silence was observed.

Before closing, the Leaders expressed their gratitude to the Government and people of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and announced that the 20th MCES will be held in Yap State in the Federated States of Micronesia. The specific date for the next meeting will be determined and announced by Yap State.

The following is a link to the 19th MCES communique ( the outcome of the meeting).    

Feedback can be obtained via fsmpio@mail.fm or by calling the Public Information Office at 320-2548. 

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