H. E. MR. JACOB NENA
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA
SPECIAL SESSION OF THE
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
FOR THE OVERALL REVIEW AND APPRAISAL OF THE IMPLEMENTATION OF AGENDA 21
New York, June 23, 1997
Check Against Delivery
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
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
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.