The independent, sovereign nation of the Federated States of Micronesia was formed in 1979. FSM comprises part of what was generally known as the Eastern and Western Caroline Islands, formed by the four States of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae. It covers the largest and most diverse part of the greater Micronesian region. FSM consists of 607 small islands, 74 of which are inhabited. The islands are spread over a vast region in the Western Pacific. Much of FSM lies just above the equator, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii and about 1,900 miles north of eastern Australia. While the total land area of the FSM is only 271 square miles, its vast exclusive economic zone (EEZ) covers an area of over one million square miles.
Each of the four States is centred on one or more main high islands. All but Kosrae State includes numerous outlying atolls. The capital of FSM, Palikir, is located in Pohnpei State. Many of the islands in FSM are extinct shield volcanoes, with steep and rugged centers that are densely vegetated and eroded. In 2018, the population was estimated at 103,643 residents.
The FSM has four levels of governance – national, state, municipal and traditional. The national government, headquartered at Palikir on Pohnpei Island, has three branches. The legislative power of the national government is vested in the Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia. The Congress is comprised of four members (one from each State) elected for four-year terms and 10 members (allocated to the States based on population) elected for two-year terms. The executive power is vested in the president and vice-president, elected by the Congress from amongst members serving four-year terms. Judicial power is vested in the FSM Supreme Court, headed by a Chief Justice who is assisted by up to five Associate Justices.
The National Constitution of the FSM is the foundation of all legal authorities and decision-making processes for the Nation. Each of the four states in FSM has its own constitution. The state constitutions allow them to enact state legislation consistent with state powers as provided for in the FSM Constitution. The FSM Constitution provides concurrent powers for the States to function as semi autonomous governments in enacting legislation that address concerns and issues related to managing natural resources and to achieving sustainable development.
Under the Compact II, Article VI and Section 161 of Title II, FSM is committed to applying the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 and “to develop and implement standards and procedures to protect its environment.” Responsibility for environmental and related issues is shared between the FSM National Government and the individual FSM State Governments.
Each FSM state has its own set of environmental and related laws and regulations geared to alleviate further damage to the nation’s fragile environment that is caused either by excessive human activity or by climate change. States take the lead role in ensuring that development is avoided in vulnerable areas as well as ensuring that critical natural systems are protected. Each state has made efforts to control development and manage natural resources through the creation of land use plans, coastal zone plans, legislation and regulations. The national government provides guidance and technical assistance to the states when needed and requested on matters related to planning, economic development, natural resources, fisheries and the environment.