The independent, sovereign nation of the FSM, with a constitutional Government, was formed in 1979. FSM comprises part of what was generally known as the Eastern and Western Caroline Islands. It covers the largest and most diverse part of the greater Micronesian region. The federation is formed by the four States of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae (Figure 2).
FSM consists of 607 small islands, 74 of which are inhabited. The islands are spread over a vast region in the Western Pacific, between one degree south and 14 degrees north latitude, and between 135 and 166 degrees east longitude. The distance between the eastern-most State (Kosrae) and the western-most State (Yap) is 1,700 miles (2,700 km). Much of FSM lies just above the equator, about 2,500 miles (4,000 km) southwest of Hawaii and about 1,900 miles (3,000 km) north of eastern Australia. While the total land area of the FSM is only 271 square miles (702 km²), its vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ) covers an area of over one million square miles (2.5 million km²)
Political and Legislative
A Compact of Free Association (the Compact) was signed by the United States of America (USA) and FSM in 1986, leading to the trusteeship termination by the United Nations (UN) in 1991. This Compact agreement established a continuous close relationship between the FSM and the USA, through agreed mutual obligations and fiscal assistance. The Compact also grants FSM citizens access to USA federal programs, and favorable provisions for traveling to, and working in, the USA.
The FSM has four levels of governance – National, State, municipal, and traditional. The National Government, headquartered at Palikir on Pohnpei Island has three branches. Under FSM’s Constitution, Article V, Section 3, Congress may establish a Chamber of Chiefs, but to date, this has not been implemented. The legislative power of the National Government is vested in the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia. The Congress is comprised of four members (one from each State) elected for four-year terms and ten members (allocated to the States based on population) elected for two-year terms. The Executive power is vested in the President and Vice-President, elected by the Congress from amongst members serving four-year terms. Judicial power is vested in the FSM Supreme Court, headed by a Chief Justice who is assisted by up to five Associate Justices.
Each of FSM’s four State Governments has its own constitutional Government, consisting of the three branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. All States have a Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Executive offices are selected by the current Governor and approved by the State legislature. Each State may have fewer or more offices depending on their priorities and needs. Yap is the only State with a traditional leadership branch. This traditional leadership is made up of the Council of Pilung and the Council of Tamol, made up of the traditional chiefs of Yap Island proper, and from the neighbouring islands and atolls in Yap State, respectively.
The National Constitution of the FSM is the foundation of all legal authorities and decision-making processes for the Nation. There are four States in FSM, which have their respective constitution. The state constitutions allow the states to enact state legislation consistent with state powers as provided for in the FSM Constitution. The FSM Constitution provides concurrent powers for the States to function as semi autonomous governments in enacting legislation that address concerns and issues related to managing natural resources and to achieving sustainable development.
Under the Compact II, Article VI and Section 161 of Title II, FSM is committed to applying the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and “to develop and implement standards and procedures to protect its environment”. Responsibility for environmental and related issues is shared between the FSM National Government and the individual FSM State Governments.
Each FSM State has its own set of environmental and related laws and regulations geared to alleviate further damage to the nation’s fragile environment that is caused either by excessive human activity or by climate change. States take the lead role in ensuring that development is avoided in vulnerable areas as well as ensuring that critical natural systems are protected. Each State has made efforts to control development and manage natural resources through the creation of land use plans, coastal zone plans, legislation and regulations. The National Government provides guidance and technical assistance to the States when needed and requested on matters related to planning, economic development, natural resources, fisheries, and the environment.
In June, 2012, FSM Environmental Protection Act became Public Law. Its purpose is to:
>reflect the current functions and responsibilities of the National Government in the area of environmental management and protection;
>eliminate duplication of responsibilities between the National and State Governments in the area of environmental management and protection; and
>provide the Office of Environment and Emergency Management (OEEM) with the necessary legal authority to implement, via regulation, the multilateral environmental agreements that FSM had already ratified, including the UNFCCC.
The FSM Environment Sector Plan 2010-2015, prepared in accordance with the FSM Strategic Development Plan (SDP) 2004-2023, identifies achieving higher rates of compliance with environmental laws as a high priority for FSM National and State Governments. Among the most serious problems of environmental governance in FSM is that the laws and regulations are not enforced consistently or effectively. The new Environment Protection Act endeavors to address this and related issues, in part by strengthening enforcement action and by requiring the Director of OEEM to provide, on an annual basis, an environmental quality report covering the status and conditions of the environment of FSM, and a review of the programs and activities of the National Government, State Governments, municipal Governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), with particular reference to their effect on the environment of the country.
Each of the four States is centred on one or more main high islands. All but Kosrae State includes numerous outlying atolls. The capital of FSM, Palikir, is located in Pohnpei State. Many of the islands in FSM are extinct shield volcanoes, with steep and rugged centers that are densely vegetated and eroded. Mangroves grow around the coastal fringes. Land elevations range up to about 2,500 feet (760 m). Other islands are relatively flat, small and swampy, with low-lying, forested atoll islets, typically one to five m above mean sea level.
Based on results from the 2010 census, there were an estimated 102,843 persons in FSM (Population: Yap – 11.1%; Chuuk – 47.3%; Pohnpei – 35.2%; Kosrae – 6.4%) residing in 16,767 households (Households: Yap – 13.8%; Chuuk – 41.9%; Pohnpei – 37.5%; Kosrae – 6.8%) .
National Climate Change Priorities
In the 2004–2023 National Strategic Development Plan (SDP), Strategic Goal 1 in the Environment Section recognised the need to mainstream climate change into national planning, as well as in all economic development activities. In December 2009 the President of the FSM issued an Executive Order directing all relevant sectors to update existing plans and complete them in order to bolster responses towards mitigating and adapting to climate change. The sectors included agriculture (and food security), energy, water, infrastructure, transport, finance, health, and gender.
- Raising awareness of climate change among the general population;
- Developing coastal management plans in all four States; and
- Developing ways to “climate proof” facilities and structure that support social and other services;
- Use ecosystem-based approaches where applicable;
- Encourage and strengthen the application of traditional knowledge on conservation practices and other relevant areas; and
- Develop and implement appropriate strategies to improve food production and other relevant sectors.
The specific priorities include:
- Developing a national climate education programme implemented through state, non-governmental organisations and community groups;
- Installing and maintaining climate-monitoring stations throughout FSM;
- Prepare maps of inundation risk and vulnerability and develop an inundation timeline that can inform state and national plans;
- Creating a national climate risk management plan and road map for managing climate risk, supported by individual state plans that emphasise community-based adaptation; nad
- Building food and water resiliency.
While each state has its own strategic development plan, Kosrae is the only State with a climate-responsive Strategic Development Plan (2013−2024). The SDP recognises that “the most prudent approach to addressing effects of naturally occurring events (climate change or disaster risks) long term would be to divert development and settlement along the coast to inland and higher grounds” (SDP 2013−2024, p. 29). The Environmental Results and Targets No. 6 states that by 2023 capacity is strengthened at all levels to climate change adaptation, and management and mitigation of risks of disasters enhanced so that communities are resilient to impacts of climate change and disaster risks. Resilience to climate change is also included within strategies for agriculture.
For more information, download the FSM Second National Communication Report.
The Strategic Development Plan (SDP) for FSM provides a road map for social and economic development for the 20 years 2004−2023. The SDP and the Infrastructure Development Plan (IDP) both recognise the need for mitigation and adaptation measures to limit the impacts of climate change. The SDP has four main objectives:
- Stability and security — to maintain economic assistance at levels that support macroeconomic stability; achievement of this objective requires levels of funding close to prevailing levels, to avoid the large periodic step-downs in funding that were characteristic of the first fourteen-year Compact funding package.
- Improved enabling environment for economic growth — to be achieved through the FSM commitment to economic reform and the provision of an enabling environment to support open, outward-oriented and private sector-led development.
- Improved education and health status — use of the annual Compact grant to support the provision of basic services in education and health.
- Assured self-reliance and sustainability — to be achieved through establishment of a trust fund that would, after a period of time, replace the annually appropriated transfers from the USA.
FSM’s Vice President chairs a FSM Sustainable Development Council (SDC) that is a high level interdepartmental advisory body to the government on matters concerning the integration of the environment and development. Set up in 1995 formerly as the President’s Council on Environmental Management and Sustainable Development, the role is to advise and make recommendations to the President on matters affecting the environmental management and sustainable development of FSM. The objective of the Council is to improve the coordination of all sustainable development activities, including climate change and strengthen the council to better coordinate capacity assessments and flows of financial assistance into FSM.
FSM developed a Multi-State Hazard Mitigation Plan in 2005, and in 2009 a national Climate Change Policy was adopted. The country developed a combined Policy for Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management in 2013. This is being implemented through State Joint Action Plans for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management.
The FSM Environmental Protection Act designates OEEM as the focal point for all Government climate change activities. As a result, it is the coordinating agency for all climate change projects and activities. Importantly, through the common institutional platform of OEEM, FSM is pursuing an integrated approach to climate change and DRM. OEEM provides technical assistance for the implementation of activities relating to climate change and DRM, and provides scientific, technical and policy oversight.
- Agriculture/forestry including food security: Department of Resources and Development;
- Disaster management;
- Education: Department of Education;
- Environment: Office of Environment and Emergency Management;
- Health: Department of Health and Social Affairs;
- Infrastructure: Department of Transportation, Communication and Infrastructure;
- Marine/Coastal Resources and Pelagic Fisheries: Department of Resources and Development (DRD) and National Oceanic and Resource Management Authority;
- Water resources;
- Weather service; and
- Office of the President
Over the years FSM has worked closely with SPREP’s Pacific Islands Climate Assistance Program, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), including the former Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Country Studies. This included developing appropriate National strategies for addressing climate change at various levels.
Environmental agencies, both Government and NGOs, are active in addressing climate change by undertaking initiatives to protect the health and natural resources as an effective way to adapt. Government environmental agencies, especially, execute environmental laws and regulations of the US obligated under Compact II and those initiated by the FSM at the National, State, and local levels (Namakin, 2008). As noted above, responsibility for environmental issues is shared between the FSM National Government and the four State Governments. The States take the lead role in ensuring that development avoids vulnerable areas and that critical natural systems are protected.