DAVID PANUELO, President and Head of Government of Micronesia, said he was pleased to see an esteemed leader from a small island developing State elected as President of the Assembly for this session. He said that his country remains free of COVID-19, having kept the virus at bay by closing its borders and, through the United States, receiving enough vaccines for its entire population. With China’s support, it also set up quarantine sites nationwide. Keeping the country protected, however, meant leaving many of its citizens stranded abroad. Repatriation efforts are continuing, but hundreds of families are still missing their loved one. “To all the Micronesian men and women still stranded abroad, I will give you all my word that we will get you home,” he assured.
On climate change, he said that the science is clear that it affects both developing and developed countries, stressing: “We are all in this together and we must all do our part.” Through its Blue Prosperity Micronesia and Micronesia Challenge policies, Micronesia is seeking to protect 30 per cent of its ocean territory and 50 per cent of its coastal and terrestrial territory. It has banned the import of most plastics and it is shifting towards renewable energy. What it needs from its friends, allies and development partners — “because Micronesia is family to the United States and a friend to the People’s Republic of China” — is global action. Everyone loses if the threat is attributed to a specific country or individual. He urged major carbon emitters to ratify the Kigali Agreement to the Montreal Protocol and phase down the production and use of hydrofluorocarbons.
He outlined steps his country is taking to strengthen the rule of law, including the adoption of legislation on cybercrimes; tackling illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing in its waters; and strengthening its maritime surveillance with Australia and Japan. Most important is Micronesia’s enduring friendship with the United States through the Compact of Free Association. He called on the United States to help wrap up talks on provisions of that agreement that are due to expire in 2023.
It would be deeply unjust and inequitable if a small island developing State like Micronesia had to give up any of its maritime rights and entitlements — including its rich fishery resources — due to rising sea levels caused by climate change, he said. He reiterated his country’s endorsement of the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the Face of Climate Change-related Sea-Level Rise, agreed by Pacific island States in August, and encouraged the international community to favourably consider that instrument and its overarching objectives. Going forward, Micronesia will keep advocating for more effective conservation of marine and forest resources. “Our traditions dictate it and our survival requires it,” he said. The international community must also do more to protect biodiversity.
He welcomed the United Nations Food Systems Summit under way in Barcelona, Spain, this week, noting that about one third of Micronesia’s population suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure, largely as a result of a social preference for highly processed and salty food imported from abroad. Efforts are under way to “re-indigenize” the country’s food system as part of its commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. He welcomed the imminent opening of a United Nations Multi-Country Office for the North Pacific, hosted by Micronesia, adding that it is time for Member States to rethink how best to financially support the Organization’s development system. He went on to discuss Security Council reform, saying that it is appropriate that a Member State which has contributed so much to the United Nations, “such as Japan”, should become a permanent Council member.
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