New York, June 23, 1997

Mr. President, Mr. Secretary-General, Distinguished Heads of State and of Government, Heads of Delegation, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Five years ago, the delegation of my Government attended the Rio Conference as a new Member of the United Nations. We were, and are, not only a developing country, but a small island developing country. We were very inspired by the spirit prevailing at Rio, which seemed to suggest that the global interest for merging environmental and developmental concerns would serve to cut through the entrenched North vs. South approach that had so limited the United Nations as an effective Body. Today, without any intent to demean the work that is going on, I would say that the jury is still out as to whether we are really talking about a New World Order for Sustainable Development.

Since Rio, virtually the entire UN system has been harnessed in the effort to implement Agenda 21, and much has been accomplished. This is due in no small part to the constant leadership of our distinguished President, His Excellency, Mr. Razali Ismail, starting at Rio, continuing with the CSD, and now, most fittingly, in this Special Session. You have our thanks, Mr. President, for your unflagging energy and commitment to this cause.

Also, as this is my first occasion to do so, I would like to extend warm congratulations from the people and Government of the Federated States of Micronesia to the distinguished Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, on his election.

We are aware, sir, of your long service to this Organization and take great encouragement at knowing the Secretariat is in such experienced hands.

Mr. President, not only has five years been a relatively short time in global terms to implement Rio’s broad agenda, but for small-island developing states, it was not until two years after Rio that the Barbados Conference provided us with a Programme of Action by which our special development constraints might be addressed and hopefully overcome. We commend the Commission on Sustainable Development for the mid-term examination of the Programme carried out at its Fourth Session, and anticipate that Body’s further attention at its Sixth Session next year. In particular, we look forward to a special session of this Assembly in 1999, at which a full and comprehensive five-year review of the Programme of Action is to be made. I urge this Body to adopt the provisions for that session that are included in the draft outcome for this Conference.

Mr. President, I have just come from attending a conference in my Capital, where government officials from all over the Pacific convened to share their experiences and problems in advancing Sustainable Development. It was enlightening to me, and in many ways encouraging to hear that such a wide diversity of efforts are underway in our Region, in addition to our own efforts in the FSM.

As to those efforts, I could take up far more than these short seven minutes to outline what we have tried to do in our own country to address Sustainable Development during the past five years. We have convened a National Sustainable Development Commission, which I have chaired in regular sessions. We have adapted our indicative development plans at both the State and National levels to incorporate the considerations of an overall National Environmental Management Strategy. We have worked closely with UN agencies such as UNDP, and especially with Regional and Subregional organizations. We have participated to the limits of our capacity as parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Our New York Mission has been assigned a main focus of working with the Group of 77 and with the Alliance of Small Island States on Rio-related issues, and closely following the proceedings of the Governing Council of the Global Environment Facility.

Yet, Mr. President, my purpose in speaking here today is to say that, from our perspective, this ship is already in serious danger of wandering off course. I put it to you that, from the limited perspective of a small-island developing country, the noble inspiration behind Agenda 21 is in danger of being sucked back into the traditional morass of North-South development issues. We in the Pacific are trying our best to do our part, but we find extreme difficulty in accessing the necessary support we must have from the developed world in order to structure our development to make solid progress toward sustainability.

The traditional UN System has an answer for that. It is called, “Capacity-Building.” But I say to you today that the intellectual rationale behind this concept has been used, whether intentionally or not, as an excuse to delay direct action that has marginalized many of those whose particular global situations deserve closer and more immediate attention, and stronger support. My country’s “capacity” is undeniably lacking in terms of the tremendous responsibility we bear for the protection of resources, and that should be a global concern. Our approach to Sustainable Development is severely constrained. But, thus far, we have had to struggle very hard, not so much from any question of how we fit into the World Sustainable Development scenario, but more from the standpoint of being a new entrant into the highly-competitive international development arena. This does not sound much like Rio. Rather, it sounds like business as usual. What does this say about the supposedly noble enterprise that we are all assembled here to celebrate?

I suggest to you that it basically says to the World Establishment, that we, along with you, need to look at whether we are really still devoted to the principles of Agenda 21, and whether that Agenda really sufficiently drives us into action-oriented approaches that will secure a sustainable future for all the world’s peoples.

This is not just an appeal from remote Pacific Islands for a bigger slice of the pie. It is an appeal from a small island developing State for this Body, on this occasion, to send a strong message to UN groups who are approaching major decision-making points such as on our Earth’s atmosphere, at Kyoto late this year, and in other venues as well, and to take a more urgent approach to the relationship between the environment and development than Agenda 21 seems as yet to have stimulated.

Mr. President, we congratulate the countries of the European Union on the announcement of their willingness to undertake a specific commitment at the Third Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 15% against 1990 levels by the year 2010, as a first step toward reaching the objective of the Convention. This is a positive development. However, given the ever-increasing scientific certainty of the scope of climate change problem, I must point out that even greater and more near-term commitment is needed. My country stands with many others, including Members of the Alliance of Small Island States, who continue to believe that the so-called Toronto target of a twenty percent reduction by the year 2005 is both necessary and realistic. We were gratified by the indication from the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom today that his country will come significantly closer even than other EU countries to meeting the Toronto target. We also hope that by the opening of the Kyoto meeting, the United States will have overcome its reluctance displayed in Denver last week to join the EU countries in making a specific reductions commitment.

Our situation in Micronesia illustrates this urgency. To cite only one example, rising sea levels and more frequent storms already have resulted in salt-water inundation of the taro patches on our highly-populated atoll of Nukuoro, bring an end to a vital source of local food. Some smaller atolls in Micronesia already have had to be abandoned because of this difficulty. Thus, even island peoples who might seem comfortably removed from many of the Earth’s problems have vital stakes in the actions that must be taken by other nations who are primarily responsible for these problems.

The principles of sustainability are not strange to our Pacific Islands. We sustained ourselves for centuries on our islands without thinking much about the modern concept of the environment, but it involved a basic respect for the life which supported us. As we take our place in modern society we must employ modern applications, but the fact remains that island peoples of today are often better positioned than most to understand the principles of sustainability.

All of you, along with us, as occupants of the Planet, must listen to the quiet message that we, as stewards of some the Earth’s most vital resources, bring to this day. Help us, help all of us, including you yourselves, to see that the legacy of Rio is not lost.

Thank you, Mr. President.