PALIKIR, POHNPEI. May 24, 2021– Vice Speaker Esmond B. Moses hosted a handover ceremony at the temporary Congress Chamber and was joined virtually by Kevin Petrini, Deputy Resident Representative of the UNDP Pacific Office along with Hassan Nasir Mirbahar, Parliament Development Specialist, to receive Information Communication Technology (ICT) equipment from the Japanese Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia: His Excellency Hidenobu Sobashima.
On May 18, 2021, the Congress received ICT equipment that included web-conference systems, video cameras, television screens and related accessories that were made available through the UNDP’s ‘Strengthening Legislatures' Capacity in Pacific Island Countries' (SLIP) Project and funded by the Government of Japan.
Ambassador Hidenobu believes that the ICT equipment will “further empower the Congress, which should contribute to the sustainable economic and social development of the FSM.” He noted that the Government of Japan has been extending its cooperation directly to the FSM and also through international organizations such as UNDP, “we are glad to acknowledge that through our cooperation, the FSM has become the first Pacific legislature to convene virtual sessions.”
In March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic had locked down the FSM borders and imposed travels restrictions on an island nation which forced the Congress to reassess the fulfillment of its constitutional mandates and how to address pending national issues.
Vice Speaker Moses said, “Last year, we met with a predicament that humanity had never faced before. As COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, we decided to organize a virtual session following the travel restrictions. I want to thank our staff who made this possible through their hard work. We conducted a lot of mock sessions and when we were sure, we called a five-day session to begin.”
On April 13, 2020, the 21st FSM Congress launched its first virtual session and as Vice Speaker shared, “we had gigantic tasks in front of us as we had to deal with stimulus package, legislations and reviewing of the government’s proclamation of emergency.
“The success of the first five days of online session led us to extend the session to five more days. We were able to complete those sessions and a few others successfully,” noted the Vice Speaker.
Moses concluded his remarks saying that “collaboration and cooperation are essential parts of humanity. They help us overcome many challenges and problems. With the many challenges we faced in organizing virtual sessions, the Government of Japan and UNDP stepped into to help us resolve these challenges by providing us technical assistance along with hardware and software solutions. I wish to thank both of them on behalf of the Congress and our people.”
The UNDP Deputy Representative a.i. for the Pacific Office, Kevin Petrini also thanked the Government of Japan for their generous support “in FSM and other Pacific countries, helping us and our partner parliaments and governments achieve many milestones on institutional development, pandemic response and recovery, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”
Mr. Petrini praised the FSM Congress as the first Pacific parliament to organize virtual sessions, leading the way for other Pacific parliaments to learn from its experience. “As many organizations were grappling with adapting to the Pandemic related restrictions, Congress led the way for the Pacific by quickly deploying ICT solutions to convene its sessions virtually,” Petrini said.
He thanked the Congress leadership for their vision and the Congress staff for their hard work to activate ICT solutions for the Congress sessions. Petrini concluded his statement by reiterating that UNDP “stand ready to provide further support to enable Congress to continue its operation during the Pandemic and other emergencies.”
The FSM Congress has benefitted from various programs made available through UNDP, especially through its SLIP project. A project that seeks to provide support for island parliaments or legislatures to become more effective and efficient through strengthening the work of their committees related to legislation and oversight, and building the capacities of legislators and professionalism of staff.
Specific to the legislative branch, the SLIP project is funded by the Government of Japan for three years to support and strengthen six legislatures in the Pacific, namely: Fiji, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the FSM.
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