Federated States of Micronesia - Overview

Although FSM has a national legislative framework for DRM by way of the Disaster Relief Assistance Act 1989 and the National Disaster Relief Plan 2016, much of the responsibility for disaster management lies at the state level. The role at the federal level has been described as “facilitative” in this field. In the period 2015–2017 the four states developed Joint State Action Plans for Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change (JSAPs) which now provide the framework for inter-governmental co-operation in the field under the overall umbrella of the National Integrated Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Policy (2013).


The national legislative framework for disaster risk management in FSM is provided by the Disaster Relief Assistance Act 1989. This places responsibility for national DRM co-ordination with the President and a designated government agency. Under the Disaster Response Plan 2016 this is the Office for Environment and Emergency Management (OEMM). Strategic oversight is provided by the National Disaster Council (NDC). This is chaired by the Director of the OEMM and comprises the heads of the various government agencies and departments. The NDC provides both political direction, in the form of the policy development in the field of DRM (including development of the Disaster Response Plan), and co-ordination in the event of a disaster. Primary decision-making responsibility in both instances lies with the President but usually acting under the advice of the NDC. For example, a state of disaster is declared by the President upon request by a state governor and with upon the advice of the NDC.


This primary role for the President is mirrored at the state level, where the elected Governor holds the primary decision-making power both in relation to disaster preparedness and response. Within each state the organisation of DR varies. Although the plan envisages a State Disaster Committee in each state, it is not clear that these exist in every state. These bodies, like the NDC, are responsible for planning for disasters and providing overall management of the response under the overall direction of the governor. These are chaired by the state appointed Disaster Management Officer and comprise relevant state Secretaries and other heads of agencies. National and State Co-Ordination teams operate alongside the Disaster Committees to manage the provision of disaster relief and response, under the direction of the national or state Disaster Co-Ordination Officers (who are the managers of the relevant DM agency). Beneath the state level, local DM Committees are established. Given the
continued dominance of traditional forms of customary governance throughout much of FSM these play a significant practical role in DRM. However, their specific role is not outlined in the national Disaster Plan beyond that they should be supported to develop DRM plans and provide response during events.


During disasters, operations are handled through National and State Emergency Operations Centres (NEOC and SEOCSs). Alongside the formal DRM governance structures, an informal DRM “network” operates, coordinated by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). This comprises a number of international and national NGOs (including the Red Cross) as well as representatives from development partners.
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is a federal republic in free association with the United State of America and a member of the North Pacific Compact along with Palau and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. It is a large archipelago that comprises four states (Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap). The division of powers is based upon a subsidiarity clause in the constitution whereby all power lies at the state level unless explicitly granted to the national level or when it is “indisputably” national in nature. In addition, the free association model means that FSM has a quasi-federal relationship with the US. Defence matters are undertaken by the US which also operates the postal services. FSM also has no national banking system and uses the US dollar as its national currency.


The FSM constitution operates according to a modified US model, although at the national level the state operates a de facto parliamentary system through a unicameral Congress of 14 members. Congress comprises four members representing each of the states and 10 representing individual constituencies based upon population size. This body elects the President and Vice-President. The President appoints a cabinet which acts as the political executive in FSM. This comprises the Secretaries of the seven executive departments and the four “cabinet level” agencies. Currently, there are no political parties represented in the FSM government.


The FSM system is highly decentralised with a significant level of autonomy given to each state. This includes significant financial autonomy (states receive 50% of all state taxation). Their authority in development matters, climate change mitigation and Disaster Risk Management is particularly relevant to this study. In addition, each state has an individual relationship with the United States, including direct aid funding as part of the Compact agreement. The decentralisation of DRM responsibility means that organisational capacity varies between each state.