H. E. Mr. Resio S. MOSES
Secretary of External Affairs of the
Federated States of Micronesia
at the 47th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations
New York, 7 October 1992
It is my high honor to address the Assembly at the commencement of its 47th Session, and in so doing, to mark my country’s first full year of membership in the United Nations. For a people who have long been ruled by others, the privilege of having at last an equal voice in the community of nations is uniquely fulfilling. With that voice I now express our gratitude for the openness and generosity that we encountered among the Members and within the Secretariat, as we undertook our initial participation in the work of this great Body.
Mr. President, we join the other Members in extending our heartiest congratulations to you upon your election to the Presidency of the 47th General Assembly. We wish also to thank your distinguished predecessor, His Excellency, Mr. Samir S. SHIHABI, for his truly outstanding service as President of the 46th Session of the General Assembly. It is fortunate indeed for ourselves and future generations that in the most challenging of times, this Body is availed of leadership by individuals possessing the highest skills, energy, dedication and integrity.
In speaking of such leadership, I must also, of course, mention with respect and appreciation our distinguished Secretary-General, His Excellency, Dr. Boutros BOUTROS-GHALI. Dr. BOUTROS-GHALI has already shown himself to be more than equal to the tremendous tasks associated with his high office. He is assured of our prayers and our continued support.
Last year, the Federated States of Micronesia was privileged to be one of seven Nations admitted to Membership in the early days of the 46th General Assembly. Subsequently within the 46th General Assembly, history of a very special kind was written when 13 other Nations were admitted to Membership, and so, I now gladly extend the warm congratulations of my Government and people to the Republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, San Marine, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan on their admission to the United Nations. We are confident that in sharing with them this unique moment in History we will maintain a common bond that transcends geographic differences and gives added meaning to the concept of the Brotherhood of Nations.
The extensive and comprehensive agenda to be addressed by this Assembly is testimony to the ever-increasing interconnectiveness of the World’s nations and their peoples. While we were a non-self-governing people, we of the Federated States of Micronesia strived long and hard to achieve Independence, only to find once we had it, that full self-sufficiency, is neither possible nor desirable in today’s world.
I had the honor, recently, to accompany my President, His Excellency Mr. Bailey Olter to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. That historic meeting served, among other things, to deepen our understanding of the possibilities for global international cooperation on a basis of common, but differentiated responsibilities. Among many memorable statements made at Rio by Heads of State, I was struck by a most appropriate quotation from Sir Francis Bacon offered by the distinguished President of Iceland, Her Excellency, Madame Vigis Finnbogadottir. Bacon said, “No one makes a greater mistake than he who decides to do nothing, because he can do so little.” The President’s suggestion of that thought in the context of the Earth Summit was truly inspired, but if I may be permitted, it also gives guidance to my country over the entire spectrum of multilateral cooperation.
We now realize that the Charter is meant to challenge every Member, large and small, developed and developing, to play its part in the implementation of collective decisions – to approach the question, “What can I do?,” not as a basis for inaction, but rather as a springboard for action within our means, however modest. Only by doing our rightful part do we earn the right to hope that the world community will deal effectively with such universal problems as the environment, poverty and war. Only by doing our rightful part do we earn the right to expect the direct assistance of the world community in dealing with those problems of social and economic development at home that are beyond our means to solve alone.
Thus, Mr. President, my Government wishes once again to thank all those in this Body and throughout the United Nations community for our kind reception here, and to renew, now with broader understanding, our commitment to the Charter and our obligations thereunder.
To the modest extent that the Federated States of Micronesia has made its presence known within the past year, it has been mostly in the context of the environment, and particularly in the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee for a Framework Convention on Climate Change. Since we are a country whose land area is comprised of low-lying, small islands, our entire nation finds itself in the frontline along with others similarly situated who will be the first to suffer devastating consequences of unchecked global warming. Rising sea levels would ultimately cover our islands, but long before that, our protective coral reefs would bleach and fall victim to increasing storm surges, our agricultural crops would be ruined and our freshwater sources rendered unfit. We are facing nothing less than the end of island civilizations that have endured for thousands of years.
We participated actively throughout all the sessions of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee, and we had no hesitation in signing the Framework Convention in Rio, because the final text of the Convention goes far to recognize the particular vulnerability of the low-lying island states to the consequences of human-induced climate change. The real effectiveness of the Convention, however, will be measured by its protocols yet to be negotiated, and in the operation of its Conference of the Parties and other mechanisms.
That statement is particularly applicable in the case of the Framework Convention because, as we stressed to the I.N.C., the IPCC scientific evidence shows a need for significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Even the modest emissions cuts to which the industrialized countries found themselves unwilling to commit at Rio, must immediately be replaced by more stringent goals set by the dictates of science – not politics.
It is ironic that the peoples of small island countries, in seemingly idyllic settings, distanced from the stresses of industrial societies, should be the peoples with the greatest sense of urgency to get on with the business of protecting the planet. It is, nevertheless, island people who are beginning to suffer the effects of global warming – island people who are witnessing the swift and disastrous alteration of ancient weather patterns – island people whose homelands will be the first victims of rising sea levels.
But, this sad reality does not mean that the rest of the world can afford simply to wait and see, for, unlike the case of the canary taken in a cage through a nineteenth-century mine shaft whose death revealed the presence of deadly gases, by the time the World witnesses the effects of global warming on the islands it will be too late for the rest of the World then to take steps to save itself.
Thus, Mr. President, we are encouraged by the adoption of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, but we look anxiously toward its prompt implementation and pray that its operation will quickly lead to actions and restraints by the industrialized nations on the scale necessary in order to reach the Convention’s objective. That objective is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in our atmosphere at levels which do not adversely affect the climate.
Stabilization at such a level cannot be achieved by halfhearted effort. As United States Senator Al Gore recently wrote in his book, Earth in the Balance, “The tide of this battle will turn only when the majority of people in the world become sufficiently aroused by a shared sense of urgent danger to join an all-out effort. ” Let us earnestly hope, Mr. President, that the signing of the Framework Convention by one hundred fifty-five countries at the Earth Summit evidenced such a shared sense, and signaled the beginning of that all-out effort.
The President of the Federated States of Micronesia also joined most of the other Heads of State at Rio in signing the Convention on Biological Diversity. We accept our State responsibility for conserving the biodiversity of our islands and waters, and for using those resources in a sustainable manner. We welcome the reference in the Convention to the precautionary principle with regard to applying measures to avoid or minimize threats to our biodiversity. We are reassured by the specific recognition in the Convention that small island states will need new and additional financial resources and appropriate access to relevant technologies in meeting their obligations. We look forward to an early convening of the Conference of the Parties.
Agenda 21, in both letter and spirit, brings into focus at long last the concerns of the developed and the developing world for securing an environmentally sustainable future. T believe that in a world no longer preoccupied with the fear of superpower conflict, Agenda 21 will come to be seen as the single most important social instrument ever negotiated. Of course, in legal effect it is only a guide, and despite its length it is still only a framework. But its future impact on the domestic and foreign policies of every nation is certain to be pervasive.
The establishment of the Commission on Sustainable Development is a landmark achievement of the UNCED, and with it, we see realistic hopes for turning Agenda 21 into concrete actions. We do strongly urge that the Commission be situated in New York. Developing countries must participate significantly in the work of the Commission, and in our case, being a small government with limited financial resources, we are far better able to attend activities here at UN Headquarters than anywhere else.
As a Pacific island country, we ascribe particular importance to Chapter 17 of Agenda 21, which addresses Protection of the Oceans. This is a subject many would have put aside, feeling that the oceans are so vast and our knowledge of them so limited that we are better off to concentrate on perfecting land-based sciences. But it appears Mankind is slowly realizing that human activities on the planet can significantly affect our oceans, and bring about disastrous consequences on our food supplies – even our weather. Thus we strongly support the calls in Agenda 21 for conferences to exchange experience on coastal zone management, and on sustainable development of small island States, and hope that these will take place on schedule.
Chapter 17 also addresses constructively the need for intergovernmental cooperation to control indiscriminate and harmful practices in harvesting the resources of the seas. While we welcome the approaching total ban on drift nets, which have been accurately called, the “curtain of death,” much needs yet to be done with reference to the high seas, and straddling fish stocks and highly migratory species of fish, to reverse already notable trends toward disappearance of species that were once thought inexhaustible. We support the call for a conference on those topics.
Chapter 18 of Agenda 21 recognizes the pressing need for improved climate forecasting, in the context of freshwater resources for human survival. The Federated States of Micronesia, along with many other island states in the middle of great oceans, has suffered repeatedly within recent years from droughts brought on by little-understood climate mechanisms. In addition, Pacific island states are already suffering widespread damage caused by tropical storms of increasing frequency, range and intensity, which we have little or no capacity to predict. This fact was stressed by the South Pacific Forum countries to the 46th General Assembly, which responded by adopting Resolution A/46/L.69, calling for relief measures that include improved forecasting capabilities. We would like to reiterate our deep gratitude to the many co-sponsors of that Resolution, and to the Assembly as a whole for its adoption. Our deep concern for the oceans and their resources also causes us to focus very closely on the provisions of Chapters 19 through 22 of Agenda 21, which deal with Management of Toxic Chemicals, Hazardous Wastes, Solid Wastes and Sewage, and Radioactive Wastes. In his address to the Rio Conference, President Olter expressed the hope of overcoming the attitude of many developed countries “that the Pacific Island Region is a great, unpopulated void” offering opportunities “for convenient disposal of toxic, radioactive or otherwise harmful wastes, and for the conduct of any dangerous or obnoxious activity that cannot for reasons of public safety be carried out on home territory.” We do maintain high expectations that what President Olter called the “world’s emerging sense of environmental ethics” will prevail over past attitudes that have brought so much grief and suffering to our Region.
There are already some good signs, notable among which is the decision by France recently to suspend nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific Region. We applaud France for taking this initiative, and pray that the ugly history of nuclear experimentation in the Pacific Region has reached a permanent end. But realistically, the end cannot be assured so long as nations continue to manufacture, stockpile and threaten to use, weapons of mass destruction. Thus, even our small islands have a large stake in the continued progress of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons disarmament, and we look forward to supporting the implementation and extension of comprehensive treaties on these subjects.
The Federated States of Micronesia especially welcomes the recent conclusion of negotiations on the Chemical Weapons Convention, and is pleased to be one of the original co-sponsors of the resolution to be considered by the 47th General Assembly endorsing the Convention. My government wants to express its gratitude and congratulations to those esteemed nations who successfully negotiated this long-awaited convention, and calls on this Assembly to adopt the resolution. I wish to recognize with appreciation the active role that Australia, from our Region, took in the negotiation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and for its outstanding contribution to the global movement toward arms control and disarmament.
Unfortunately, the forsaking of nuclear, chemical and biological weaponry serves to intensify the already serious problems associated with movement and disposal of wastes. Large stocks of chemical weapons must soon be eliminated, but uncertainties surrounding the technology for their disposal result in pressures on the less powerful and more remote peoples, such as Pacific islanders, to bear the associated risks. Frightening quantities of weapons-grade plutonium must either be safely stored or utilized in questionable enterprises that involve hazardous and secretive shipments through the waters of the maritime nations.
Up to this point the efforts of the world’s nations to grapple with these problems have produced a patchwork of conventions, some implemented, some not, most of which are of limited effectiveness due to technicalities and political self-interests. Worthwhile instruments such as the London Dumping Convention need to be strengthened on an accelerated basis. Vital arrangements such as the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal need to be implemented. The role of the International Atomic Energy Agency with regard to safeguards must be brought up to the pace of current events. But even if all these things are done, dangers and risks will continue to be imposed upon the poorer, less powerful and more remote peoples of the world unless the following principle is universally respected:
The nation originating the material bears the complete responsibility for the cost and safety of its storage, shipment or disposal. That nation shall adequately inform other nations potentially affected, and shall not utilize the global common in any action related thereto over their objection.
I am well aware of the implications of that statement both politically and in terms of international law, but unless the spirit it expresses can enter our international conscience and influence the behavior of nations, I fear that the passing threat of wartime holocaust will be replaced by an even less restrained, and in some ways equally horrifying danger.
The roads toward so many of the worthy goals to be sought by this Assembly, whether related to economics, the environment, development, human rights or international security, are haunted by the specter of poverty. Poverty causes much environmental degradation. Poverty makes human rights irrelevant to many people of our planet, and tempts others to exploitation. Poverty contributes to destabilization of democratic institutions and endangers the world.
No matter how dedicated are the efforts by governments toward sustainable development and lasting international peace, and no matter how massively those efforts might be funded, I fear that a single factor fueling the engine of poverty could render all the expenditures of resources ineffective – I refer to exploding and uncontrolled population growth. We are all familiar with the statistics, past, present and projected. They are particularly disturbing in that the greatest rate of growth occurs in the most poverty- stricken segments of the population. Clearly, this is one of the most sensitive and difficult problems to deal with in a multilateral setting, and I respect the diversity of views on the subject. For that reason I respect its treatment in Agenda 21, knowing that many preferred strong and direct statements. Nevertheless, we hope that the mechanisms of Agenda 21 will help to influence increases in population-related funding by the developed countries. We also look forward to the International Conference on Population and Development to be held in Cairo in 1994.
With regard to the protection of human rights, the Federated States of Micronesia is pleased to associate itself with the exemplary efforts by the United States of America and other like-minded nations for the implementation of the standards for the protection of human rights as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In doing so, the Federated States of Micronesia joins in the condemnation of all abuses of human rights by members of the international community. They insult our sense of decency and the values we attach to human life – the very values governments are established to protect.
Mr. President: Hardly a speaker in this debate has failed to voice support for the historic efforts of the entire United Nations organization to reorganize and reorient itself to cope with its emerging roles in advancing the cause of Mankind. We are no exception, and in our judgment the distinguished Secretary-General has provided wise leadership thus far along a most difficult path.
One of the most challenging current problems is to determine the fairest and most effective means of meeting the costs associated with the UN’s expanded role in the maintenance of international peace and security. We are all aware that these costs have virtually skyrocketed over the past several years, and the question of their proper allocation, we would suggest, is more complex than the simple application of formulae that served the purpose in former times. It is a question, naturally, involving the limits of the resources of small countries, but in our case I can say it also involves predictability. We are determined to meet all our obligations under the Charter, financial and otherwise, but the necessity that we budget strictly for developmental and other immediate requirements leaves us little flexibility to meet unforeseen demands of substantial proportions.
We look forward during this Session to participating in the exploration of ways and means to devise the fairest and most effective system for financing the role of this Body in the New World Order. We also look forward, Mr. President, with confidence that this role will grow stronger as the age of multilateral cooperation truly dawns, and the interdependence of all peoples of the world is seen to be the overshadowing practical reality of the future.
Thank you, Mr. President.