President Panuelo delivers Keynote Address reinforcing the nation’s commitment to human rights, differently abled persons, & children

FSM Information Services


321PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On December 11th, 2020, His Excellency David W. Panuelo—President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)—delivered an address for International Human Rights Day.

Immediately prior to the address, the President received members of the FSM’s community of persons with disabilities wherein he recognized their efforts to take actions today for our Nation’s prosperity tomorrow.

Human Rights Day celebrates the 1948 signing of the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights; that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person; all human beings are equal before the law, and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.”

President Panuelo spoke at length about the relationship between how human rights as an abstract philosophical concept are concretized through specific actions that societies take, noting for example that the right to a secure environment is translated into effective action towards environmental stewardship and protection. In this respect, the President described the World’s success at removing hydrofluorocarbons from the atmosphere through the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances, and expressed the Nation’s collective thanks to U.S. President-Elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. for his commitment to rejoin the Paris Agreement in the first days of his administration.

The bulk of the President’s address focused on differently abled persons and children.

“Because a person is defined by what they can control, such as their character, their attitude, and their actions,” the President said, “and not what they cannot control, such as their gender, their ethnicity, or whether they were born with disabilities or not, it is important that society treats all people fairly. People with different needs are, first and foremost, people—and as such they deserve our love and respect. For this purpose, in the context of the FSM National Government, I am instructing all of our line departments and agencies to designate handicap parking spaces reserved exclusively for persons with disabilities.”

The President noted that more than ten percent (10%) of the Nation’s student population has some form of disability, and that the funding the FSM receives through the U.S. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is insufficient for this purpose, and must be supplemented by National and State funding and programmatic support. “Per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,” President Panuelo said, “Our Nation is in the process of drafting relevant child protection policy and legislation. Our partners at the [United Nation’s Children’s Fund/UNICEF] are fully committed to support us in this work…and our National and State Departments of Education are working together to determine how we can increase both the number of activities for students in special education programs, as well as how to ensure that special education students are not left behind.”

Prior to the public address on human rights, President Panuelo received members of the FSM’s community of differently abled citizens. The purpose of the meeting was for the President to formally show the Government’s recognition of the hardships facing this community, and to congratulate them for their continued contributions towards taking actions today for our Nation’s prosperity tomorrow.

In the meeting with differently abled citizens, President Panuelo received advice that the FSM National Government may find it useful to subsidize scholarship programs specifically focused on training teachers with an emphasis on children with special needs. The President has since instructed the FSM Department of Education to explore this.

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