THE HONORABLE ELIUEL K. PRETRICK
SECRETARY (MINISTER) OF HEALTH
GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT
CAIRO, EGYPT, September 7, 1994
Mr. President, Madame Secretary-General, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored to address the conference on this important occasion for the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia.
Let me join those who have spoken earlier and convey my delegation’s congratulations to you on your unanimous election to preside over this conference. With your able stewardship, my delegation is confident that this conference will be a constructive process toward addressing the crucial issues on population and development.
I also would like to acknowledge and express my government’s gratitude to the Secretary- General of the Conference, Dr. Nafis Sadik, for her tireless efforts in bringing us through three preparatory meetings to this important occasion. We have admired her brilliant guidance and expertise in focusing our work throughout the process.
The Federated States of Micronesia covers an ocean area of approximately one million square miles. Within this vast ocean area are over six hundred islands varying in sizes but totaling a mere 200 square miles of habitable land area. In the Pacific region, the Federated States of Micronesia has one of the highest population growth rate of three (3%) percent annually. Under the most ideal circumstances the population density of our country is 1000 per square mile. There are several situations where the population density is 100 per.09 square miles.
While the size of our populations may seem insignificant when compared to other parts of the world, the impact of the rapid growth rate and population distributions on the sustainable development of our country is equal to that experienced by many larger and developed countries. The adverse effects associated with the rapid population growth are greatly amplified due to the small size of habitable land area in our country.
In this last decade, the population distribution in the Federated States of Micronesia, as in most countries, has been increasingly centralized in our municipal centers. This internal migration stems in part from economic programs that favor our municipal centers. The shift from a subsistence way of life to one that is dependent on a cash economy has increased the numbers of people who are compelled to migrate to the district centers to support their families. This internal migration has strained the limited resources and available services of our municipal centers bringing about further migration of our skilled people internationally. The effect of international migrations on our small industries that are so dependent on skilled human resources can only diminish our nation’s capacity building and development.
The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia recognizes the need to formulate and implement population strategies that bring about a balance between population, resources and developmental priorities as well as providing economic incentives for our outlying areas which promote a productive and sustainable growth. In doing so, we are aware that our national efforts in this field will have limited success without cooperation and assistance from the international community.
Recognizing some of our limitations with regards to capacity, the Pacific community met in Vanuatu last year to review some of the problems associated with population in the region with a view to input those concerns into the process for this conference. This regional partnership in the Pacific has helped focus some of our regional concerns associated with population and development. But, the diversity in the Pacific with respect to Cultures, national economies, resources and varying levels of development, make it difficult to implement equally, the outcomes of regional and international conferences. The partnership with the developed sector of the international community should be part of the equation of population and development. An example of this partnership is the National Census that will begin in the latter part of this month in the Federated States of Micronesia. This undertaking arising out of the partnership between the United States of America, the UNFPA and the States and National Government of the Federated States of Micronesia will finally fill in the existing information gap required for policy formulation, planning and monitoring of developmental projects in our country. The outcome of the census will not only provide for a better understanding of our population as it relates to national developmental policies and priorities, but it will be a contribution to the regional efforts for capacity building that will facilitate improved research, analysis and information in population and developmental issues that are important for effective planning and policy formulation in small island states.
I alluded earlier to the different scale of economic development in our Pacific region not to highlight our regional differences, but to impress upon this conference, that understanding these differences would lead us to producing a program of action that is sensitive and embracing of all the issues associated with population and development. The Program of Action arising out of this meeting must also consider the capacity of developing states to implement the outcome of this important conference. We have watched as the debate on the Program of Action has narrowed discussion of the issues along political and cultural lines, and we fear that one of the most important components, development, has been relegated to the side lines. While we feel that the other elements are also important in reviewing the population question, we hope that this meeting will broaden its basis of discussion to include sustainable development.
The Federated States of Micronesia views this conference and the Program of Action as instrumental in assisting our island country in our efforts to formulate and implement integrated population and development policies and strategies that lead to our sustainable development.
We commend the delegations that have worked steadfastly through PrepCom III, to bring forward the Draft Program of Action before this conference. Clearly, there are still some differing views on the some of issues in the draft document. In this connection, Mr. President, I wish to express the views of the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia on some of these outstanding matters.
First, my Government wishes to express its strong support for improvements in the empowerment of women. This element is consistent with my Government’s views at the Vienna Conference on Human Rights last year. Again, we wish to reiterate our support for stronger measures toward improvements in the economic and social status of women. This conference on population and development must place such measures at the center of its deliberations if we are to have a desirable impact on the unsustainable population growth rate. The international community must improve and provide access by women to education, health services, and economic opportunities. It is our belief that such empowerment is essential toward achieving a sustainable decline in the world’s population growth rate.
In our discussion with respect to empowerment of women, I urge delegations to exercise the most flexible approach on this issue. We have moved away from an earlier era where societies dictate what types of an education may be culturally appropriate for women, to an international community that seeks to broaden opportunities for all its people. Why, then do we see ourselves reversing this role when the issue turns to health. Women should have full access to all health services.
Fifty two percent (52%) of our country’s population base are young adolescents. Included in this group are young adolescent mothers. We cannot continue to rely solely on the traditional family life to educate this important segment of our communities on safe and responsible sexual practices. The government at the national and state level have included in the elementary school and college curriculums, courses that deals with population problems including cultural and religious resistance to sex education, changes in family size norms, use of concepts such as quality of life and small family practice as behavioral outcomes. Our island communities and government have taken a more assertive role in promoting responsible behavior to our young population with respect to reproduction and sexual practices. The Government of the Federated States of Micronesia affirmed its commitment to the well being of children by its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child last year. In this connection, my Government wish to express its support and endorsement of the goals of the World Summit for Children on reducing infant mortality, maternal mortality, access to primary education and closing the gender gap in education, which are contained in the draft document before this conference.
It is with this view in mind that we approach the issue of defining such term and practices as contained in the draft program of Action regarding family planning, fertility rituals, safe motherhood. The people of the Federated States of Micronesia have a divergence of views on these subjects, however, as a government charged with representing these divergent views, we must provide the broadest basis to ensure that we take into account such diversity. In this connection, we wholeheartedly support the broadest interpretation of the words, in the belief that the Program of Action, which is to be the outcome of this conference, provides a flexible and encompassing view of all nations in the population field. Such a broad framework need not be the sole basis for governments to formulate their policies, but rather each nation will draw from it, what measures which are consistent with its Jaws, culture and relevant international standards.
Several years ago a task force was empaneled by the President of our country to develop a population policy as it became critically obvious that such a policy must be in place for the nation’s development. The report from the task force is being reviewed by members of our government and our National Congress and will be influenced by the outcome of this conference.
The FSM realizes that the Program of Action that emerges from this Conference cannot by itself, slow down population growth, and reduce wasteful patterns of production and consumption. The achievement of these goals requires political will and commitment from government, communities and individuals. This commitment, in turn, requires considerable resources. The Federated States of Micronesia firmly believes that the global consensus on the issues and how to address them is an important first step which should be one outcome of this conference.
Finally, Mr. President, we wish to express our support for the need to integrate more fully into the population and development process the participation of non-governmental organizations. Our delegation to PrepCom III as well as here in Cairo has and will continue to benefit from the participation of NGO’s. It is our firm belief that this process, including the implementations of the outcomes of this historic conference, will require the full participation of non-governmental organizations and private organizations. To this end, my Government has made it a point to include NGO representatives as part of our delegation to this conference.
In closing, I would like to express my delegation’s warm thanks to the Government of Egypt for being host to this important conference, for the excellent facilities and arrangements, and for many special courtesies extended to my delegation. The rich history of this country and the beauty of Cairo can only inspire our work at this conference.