21st Micronesian Presidents’ Summit paddles together for stronger Micronesia

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On 13 February 2023, the government of the Federated States of Micronesia hosted the 21st Micronesian Presidents’ Summit or MPS in Palikir.

Operating under the theme “Paddling Together for a Stronger Micronesia,” FSM President David W Panuelo welcomed Taneti Maamau, president of the Republic of Kiribati, Surangel S. Whipps Jr., president of the Republic of Palau, Russ Joseph Kun, president of the Republic of Nauru, and Kitlang Kabua, foreign minister of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, for a series of formal and informal discussions on topics ranging from the implementation of the Suva Agreement — which was also the primary purpose of the meeting — to the current status of the One UN Micronesia House or the United Nations Multi-Country Office.

In the opening of the MPS, President Panuelo expressed his personal gratitude to President Kun as outgoing chair of the MPS, and acknowledged Nauru’s key role in advancing the MPS’ agenda. The presidents of the MPS welcomed the decision by Kiribati to return to the Pacific Islands Forum, and acknowledged with appreciation Kiribati’s reaffirmation that their brotherhood and sisterhood with the MPS was never fractured.

Prior to the convening of the MPS, President Panuelo invited Sitiveni Ligamamada Rabuka, prime minister of the Republic of Fiji and chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, to address the MPS. In his public remarks during the opening of the MPS, the prime minister stated that “Micronesia has so much to showcase to the region and to the world…[Micronesians are] leaders in climate and ocean advocacy, and collectively you are the largest custodian of our Blue Pacific. This is why your voice is so important in our regional settlements. Excellencies,” the prime minister said, “The [Blue Pacific] region and the future of our Forum Family is now in your hands. We are looking to you, all of you, for your leadership.”

The presidents discussed the terms of the Suva Agreement and unanimously expressed their satisfaction of the critical reforms in the agreement.

President Panuelo, keenly aware of the importance of Micronesian unity and solidarity and how such unity and solidarity would impact the larger Pacific Island Forum Family and Blue Pacific Continent, served as chair of the meeting, including during the Presidents’ Retreat. During the retreat, the five MPS presidents agreed to endorse the candidacy of Nauru to be the next secretary-general of the Pacific Islands Forum beginning in 2024; endorsed the location of the Pacific Islands Forum sub-regional office for the North Pacific to be in the Republic of Kiribati; endorsed the location of the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner in Palau; and expressed support for the candidacy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands for the post of Pacific Ocean commissioner.

When asked to provide a statement, President Panuelo said: “Sometimes the route to victory is through humility, and sometimes a perceived loss is the greatest gain imaginable. The MPS has five members, and we had four items of elemental importance to take care of — that is, who gets what, and who hosts what. As chair of the MPS and as an advocate for Pacific unity, I felt that it was, in part, the FSM’s responsibility to ensure that our collective Micronesian subregion emerges stronger together — for our own sake, as well as the sake of the Pacific at large. As much as our citizens may hear talk of the FSM aligning itself with this major power or that major power in international media reports and political strategy papers, the reality is that, as Pacific Islanders, we stand with the Pacific before we stand with anyone else — and, as Micronesians, we seek consensus and solidarity amongst ourselves first and foremost. That unity and solidarity isn’t simply mere talk; it’s the bedrock of our decision-making process, and essential for our collective security and development as laid out in the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. The MPS was a victory through humility; and what might be perceived as a loss for the FSM is, in fact, our greatest gain, for we have strengthened our Micronesian subregion, and will further strengthen our Blue Pacific Continent. There is enormous value, for example — for all of us in the FSM and all of us in the Pacific — for our brothers and sisters in Kiribati to walk away from a meeting such as this feeling our Nation’s extension of peace, friendship, cooperation, and love in our common humanity, and having that peace, that friendship, that cooperation, and that love, become concretized — such as in the form of hosting the subregional office of the Pacific Islands Forum. It will be Kiribati’s first such major international office on their shores. They deserve it, and it makes my heart glad. As chair, I really want to make sure that my MPS brothers and sisters are happy.”

The 21st MPS concluded with the agreement that the Republic of Kiribati will host the 22nd Micronesian Presidents’ Summit

SOURCE: FSMIS/PACNEWS