UPR of the Federated States of Micronesia: Mixed progress on women's rights

18.11.2010

The delegation of the Federated States of Micronesia underwent its universal periodic review (UPR) on Tuesday, November 9, 2010. At the head of the delegation was Jackson Soram, Foreign Service Officer at the Federated States of Micronesia's National Government. Originally scheduled to take three hours, the review concluded ahead of time due to a limited number of speakers. Only 24 States spoke overall, compared with 56 at the review of the United States of America, the previous week.

Micronesia introduced its report by discussing at length the large extent to which human rights are enshrined in the State's national constitution. The principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sex, ancestry, or ethnicity, is law, while the constitution also guarantees the rights of individuals to own property, and to enjoy freedom of expression, the right to assembly, and freedom of religion, as well as universal rights to education and healthcare. The constitution also covers the rights of disabled persons, the presumption of innocence before trial in court, and it bans all forms of capital punishment. The delegation also went into detail on Micronesia's efforts to ensure gender equality in the country, such as a recent awareness-raising campaign on domestic violence against women. Micronesia's representatives also spoke of the heavy emphasis placed on women's rights in the recently-formulated Development Plan, which is meant to outline the policy direction of the island State for the next 20 years.

Turning to other spheres, the delegation pledged to sign the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and informed other States of improvements in education which have enabled a high overall literacy rate. Before turning to an interactive dialogue, Mr Soram brought up the issue of climate change, emphasising the worrying impact this phenomenon could have on Micronesia. He spoke of the dangers of rising sea levels and said that all States should prioritise combatting climate change, arguing that a failure to do so would be a direct violation of the human rights of all Micronesians.

Many States expressed appreciation for improvements in Micronesia's health sector, particularly on issues of HIV/AIDS awareness and disabilities, and for improvements in the education sector, namely the implementation of free primary education for all individuals.[1] Meanwhile, Slovenia endorsed Micronesia's abolition of the death penalty, while China singled out Micronesia's special focus on environmental issues as being praiseworthy. Micronesia was also commended for signing certain international treaties, steps which were viewed especially positively in light of the State's lack of financial and human resources.[2] Numerous States recommended Micronesia continue along this path and ratify more treaties, particularly the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[3]

Progress in the field of women's rights was also noted, with Australia singling out the establishment of an annual women's conference as a worthy example of this trend. Some States nevertheless expressed concern over present limitations in women's rights, with a visible gender gap still persisting in the areas of health, education and employment.[4] Recommendations offered in this regard ranged from putting into law a minimal period of maternity leave for women employees, to advising more thorough legislation on marriage issues.[5] Other recommendations made by States included requests for Micronesia to enact tougher laws against human trafficking,[6] domestic violence,[7] and in the area of children's rights, where proposals included the introduction of a minimum criminal age and more restrictive legislation regarding child labour.[8]

Responding to concerns about human trafficking, the Micronesian delegation said a national taskforce had recently been set up to analyse the issue in greater detail and offer solutions. Regarding violence against women, Micronesia pointed to new policies focused specifically on harassment in the workplace as an example of the serious manner in which the island State was combating gender inequality and violence. The delegation stressed that Micronesia's lack of resources made it difficult for them to accede to more international treaties, but nevertheless gave assurances that the country would continue looking into different treaties with the aim of joining more in the future.

Overall, 73 recommendations were made. Micronesia said it required more time to look into these in greater detail, but offered to give its replies before the beginning of the 16th session of the Human Rights Council in March 2011. The delegation did, however, make some notable voluntary pledges to become party to a greater number of international treaties. These included a pledge to ratify the optional protocols on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, as well as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

[1] Cuba, Hungary, Mexico, Turkey

[2] Algeria, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey

[3] Algeria, Argentina, Chile, Ecuador Indonesia, Mexico, Slovakia, Spain, United Kingdom

[4] Algeria, Argentina, United States of America

[5] Brazil, Slovakia, Spain

[6] Ecuador, Germany, The United States of America

[7] France, New Zealand

[8] Ecuador, Hungary, Slovakia, Thailand