Freedom in the World 2013 - Micronesia
|Publication Date||16 March 2013|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2013 - Micronesia, 16 March 2013, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/51488f08c.html [accessed 31 March 2015]|
Freedom Rating: 1.0
Civil Liberties: 1
Political Rights: 1
Congress passed legislation in 2012 to improve the collection of tax revenues, and also adopted resolutions to promote renewable energy projects. In March, Micronesia passed a National Trafficking Act, and approved the country's accession to the UN Convention Against Corruption and to two UN protocols to protect children.
The United States administered Micronesia, which included the Marshall Islands and other Pacific island groups, between 1947 and 1979 as a United Nations Trust Territory. In 1970, the Northern Marianas, Marshall Islands, and Palau demanded separate status from Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk, and Yap; the latter four territories, representing 607 islands, became the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The FSM adopted a constitution and became an independent country in 1979.
In 1986, the FSM signed its first Compact of Free Association with the United States, which provides the FSM with economic and defense assistance in exchange for allowing U.S. military bases on the islands. FSM citizens also receive visa-free entry to the United States for health services, education, and employment.
Compact funds represent about one-third of the FSM's national income. An amended compact came into effect in 2003 to extend this core commitment for another 20 years. The federal Congress agreed in 2005 to distribute larger shares of compact funds to each of the FSM's four states. A new system to track funded projects was adopted in 2009 to improve transparency and accountability in the use of compact funds.
Legislative elections held in March 2011, in which all candidates were independents, were deemed free and fair. President Emanuel Mori and Vice President Alik L. Alik were reelected in May.
The FSM has been expanding its ties with China, which is one of four countries in which the FSM has a permanent embassy. In 2010, China was named the preferred candidate for exclusive fishing rights in FSM waters. Chinese aid to the FSM includes financing an expansion of the Chuuk airport terminal and providing scholarships for FSM students to study in China.
In 2012, Congress passed legislation to improve the efficiency of the country's tax collection system, and also adopted resolutions pledging to reduce the FSM's reliance on fossil fuels and promote renewable energy sources.
Political Rights and Civil Liberties
The FSM is an electoral democracy. The unicameral, 14-member Congress has one directly elected representative from each of the four constituent states, who serve four-year terms. The other 10 representatives are directly elected for two-year terms from single-member districts. Chuuk state, home to nearly half of the FSM's population, holds the largest number of congressional seats, which has been a source of resentment among the three smaller states. The president and vice president are chosen by Congress from among the four state representatives to serve four-year terms. By informal agreement, the two posts are rotated among the representatives of the four states. Each state has its own constitution, elected legislature, and governor; the state governments have considerable power, particularly in budgetary matters. Traditional leaders and institutions exercise significant influence in society, especially at the village level.
There are no formal political parties, but there are no restrictions on their formation. Political loyalties are based mainly on geography, clan relations, and personality.
Official corruption is a problem and a major source of public discontent. In September 2012, the public auditor reported many fundamental weaknesses in the government payroll system, with paychecks going to employees had been fired and overpayments for unauthorized work hours, among other problems. In March, lawmakers approved the FSM's accession to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.
The news media operate freely. Print outlets include government-published newsletters and several small, privately owned weekly and monthly newspapers. Each state government runs its own radio station, and the Baptist church runs a fifth station. Television stations operate in three of the four states. Cable television is available in Pohnpei and Chuuk, and satellite television is increasingly common. Use of the internet is growing, but low income and small populations make it difficult for service providers to expand coverage.
Religious freedom is respected in this mainly Christian country. There are no reports of restrictions on academic freedom, but lack of funds negatively affects the quality of and access to education.
Freedom of assembly is respected, and citizens are free to organize civic groups. A small number of student and women's organizations are active. No labor unions exist, though there are no laws against their formation. No specific laws regulate work hours or set workplace health and safety standards. The right to strike and bargain collectively is not legally recognized. The economy is dependent on fishing, tourism, subsistence agriculture, and U.S. assistance.
The judiciary is independent, but it lacks funds to improve the functioning of the courts. The small national police force is responsible for local law enforcement matters, while the United States provides for national defense. There are no reports of abuses or inhumane treatment by police or prison officials, though there is a cultural resistance among the populace to rely on police and the judiciary.
Women enjoy equal rights under the law, including those regarding property ownership and employment. Although well represented in the lower and middle ranks of the state and federal governments, there are no women in Congress, and social and economic discrimination against women persists in this male-dominated culture. Domestic violence is a problem, and cases often go unreported because of family pressure or an expectation of inaction by the authorities. Offenders rarely face trial, and those found guilty usually receive light sentences.
Micronesia is a source country for women trafficked into prostitution. In March 2012, lawmakers adopted the Human Trafficking Act to allow prosecution of activities related to human trafficking conducted in the FSM or by FSM nationals. Lawmakers also approved FSM's accession to the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.