14 January 1998

The Committee on the Rights of the Child this morning started its consideration
of an initial report from the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia
on efforts to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Nina Eejima, Assistant Attorney General at the Micronesian Department of
Justice, presented her Government's report and said that the country was one
on the poorest political entities of the Pacific Islands and had the highest
incidence of leprosy and Vitamin A deficiency in the world.

Committee members queried the delegation on issues such as child labour,
abortion, adoption, malnutrition, infant mortality, and customary and traditional
practices affecting children.

As one of the 191 States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
the Federated States of Micronesia must present periodic reports on how it
was implementing the provisions of the treaty.

When the Committee reconvenes at 3 p.m. this afternoon, it will continue its
consideration of the report of the Federated States of Micronesia. Report of
Federated States of Micronesia

The report (document CRC/C/28/Add.5) states that children in that country
today are faced with an ever-changing social, cultural and religious environment.
Many of the traditional values and social systems are deteriorating as the nation
moves away from a subsistence economy and towards a cash-based economy.

The report, reviewing efforts to implement the Convention on an
article-by-article basis, says that the effects of cultural change may contribute to
developmental difficulties for many adolescents. There appears to be an
increased number of youth gangs and juvenile crimes as well as a rise in school
absent rates throughout the nation. The suicide rate among adolescents is

The report affirms that the Government has encountered a series of constraints
in fully implementing the provisions of the Convention due to economic
difficulties. Because of insufficient educational resources, many children leave
school at eighth grade. Child abuse and neglect are a growing problem and the
school-aged population does not have access to health care.

Presentation of Report

NINA EEJIMA, Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice of the
Federated States of Micronesia, stated that economically, the country was one
of the poorest political entities of what was called the United States-Associated
Pacific Islands. In addition, it had the highest incidence of leprosy and Vitamin
A deficiency in the world.

Ms. EEJIMA said that among the nation's children, largely preventable
communicable diseases were still the leading causes of death. Because of the
high mortality rate among children, the country received special resources from
the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to combat malnutrition among
select groups of children, she added.

There was much to be done in order for the Federated States of Micronesia to
live up to the letter and spirit of the Convention. "We believe that acceding to
the treaty was the right thing to do. However, getting the political and grass
roots support to make the Convention work is another thing altogether," Ms.
EEJIMA said.


In response to questions raised by Committee experts, Ms. Eejima said that the
relationship with the United States was based on reciprocity required between
two sovereign States. However, the United States had free military access
according to the agreement reached between the two States and which would
end in 2001. She said that her country was the former United States Trust
Territory and had continued to receive financial and technical assistance in the
field of health and education.

The delegate said that the level of development among the four islands making
up the Federated States of Micronesia was unequal. Only the Pohnpei State,
which was the seat of the national Government, was more developed
economically while the other States were engaged mainly in subsistence
activities like farming and fisheries. A question was raised concerning the status
of customary law to which Ms. Eejima said that customary and traditional laws
played a vital role in the society. Their respect by courts in their proceedings
was mandated by the Constitution itself. Customary laws were implicated in
almost all legal aspects of the society. Customary marriages and child adoptions
were recognized by the Constitution.

Concerning customary adoption of children, the delegate said that it was a
widely accepted and acknowledged practice in Micronesia. The structure of the
extended family had permitted the adoption of children without the express
knowledge of the authorities. However, the child knew his or her biological
parents and their relation continued normally.

Having a child out of wedlock was not a stigmatizing incident in the Micronesian
society, Ms. Eejima said. If the mother did not want to keep the child, any
member of the extended family could adopt the child. This happened without
breaking off relations with the natural mother.

As regards child labour, Ms. Eejima affirmed that there were no national laws
pertaining to child labour. Although child labour existed, it was not labour of an
exploitative kind. Children participated in fishing and agricultural activities on
behalf of their families. The Government’s Division of Labour was currently
reviewing existing legislation to determine the need for child labour safeguards.

Children had the right to freedom of expression and to assembly. They were
protected from any cruel punishment, the delegate said. In a country where
sharing and communal work were part of the culture, there was inherent an
equal treatment of all people, including children, she added.

Regarding abortion, Ms. Eejima said that the Government had no official
position on the issue. She said that she had no specific knowledge of individual
doctors practising abortion. However, there were stories of pregnant women
taking plant extracts to induce early abortions. The rate of infant mortality was
20 per thousand.

On the participation of non-governmental organizations in the promotion of the
rights of children, Ms. Eejima said that community based organizations like
church groups provided a conduit through which children's concerns could be
raised and respected.

The national Government of Micronesia had no official position on the question
of caste practised in some smaller communities of the country, the delegate said.
However, there was no major problem in the society in which children were
discriminated against or deprived of their rights.