- Federated States of Micronesia
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Reviews of Kiribati and Palau are not included in this issue.
Federated States of Micronesia
The period under review featured three major themes that continue to affect the future of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). They include climate change, China's presence in the northwest Pacific, and the independence movement by Chuuk State. These topical issues highlight the ongoing challenges that have yet to be resolved by the FSM but must be addressed in order to protect its future integrity.
In March 2019, a new administration came to power after congressman-at-large David Panuelo won the election in Pohnpei State. He defeated the previous president, Peter Christian, after a very intense election campaign. Many political observers claimed that Christian lost the election because of his son-in-law's involvement in a financial bribery scandal. The son-in-law, who worked for the FSM Department of Transportation, Communication and Infrastructure, bribed Hawai'i businessman Frank James Lyon on several occasions in exchange for Lyon to secure a contract to undertake road construction in the FSM (pit, 12 March 2019). He was arrested at Honolulu International Airport by fbi officials and later jailed in a US federal prison for his actions. Christian, however, regained the at-large seat after Panuelo vacated it to become the new president of the FSM. President Panuelo and Christian will be contesting the seat again in 2023. Despite this new administration, the FSM is pressing on with confronting its challenges to its future.
Climate change remained under an intense political spotlight in 2018–2019, particularly after many of the FSM's low-lying islands experienced an increasing number of king tides and storms, which caused serious damage to properties, agricultural crops, and drinking water. The looming threat has been sea-level rise, which has been presenting ongoing challenges for the people of the FSM. Adaptation to climate change has required the people of the FSM to resort to their traditional knowledge of conservation, in addition to new and low-cost technical knowledge borrowed from the outside world. Adaptation is urgent; without it, Islanders' prospects for continuing to live in the sea environment would be in question. The use of Indigenous environmental knowledge, such as elevating taro patches, using copra fibers to plant crops, digging canals using locally designed drainage systems, and following the topography of the land, exemplifies Islanders' persistence, strength, and ongoing use of local devices for adapting to consequences of climate change.
The people of the FSM are closely connected to the sea, on which many of their livelihoods depend. This dependency on the sea means that those living on low-lying islands and [End Page 188] around the coastal areas on the high islands are keenly aware of the land's fragility and the impacts of climate change. It has affected their livelihoods and thus their health. Islanders are historically the custodians of their islands, a role they have been practicing since time immemorial. They are expert conservationists with a deep understanding of the land and sea environment, having made the islands their home many centuries ago. They understand that their environment demands constant, delicate management to keep their limited resources in equilibrium. Conservation thus means having a holistic understanding of human behavior toward the physical environment, an intricate knowledge of the changing weather system, and an ability to utilize the best available, culturally compatible practices (Samson 2019).
In response to the threats arising from climate change, the FSM government has adopted a policy that identifies survivability as an uncompromising priority. In its official policy statement, the FSM government stated that its role is "to mitigate climate change… at the international level, and adaptation at… community levels to reduce the FSM's vulnerability to climate change's adverse impacts" (Federated States of Micronesia 2009, 1). Mitigation means, among other things, the promotion of the Paris Accord, which calls for reducing emissions in order to control temperature rise, as advocated by the "Tuvalu Deal" (ie, keeping world temperature increase below 2.5 degrees Celsius to give the low-lying islands in the Pacific a chance to prolong their survivability...