Freedom in the World

Micronesia

Micronesia

Freedom in the World 2015

2015 Scores

Status

Free

Freedom Rating
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1.0

Civil Liberties
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1

Political Rights
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1
Overview: 


The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)—consisting of the four states of Yap, Chuuk, Pohnpei, and Kosrae—relies on economic and defense assistance from the United States for about a third of its revenue. This assistance, provided under a Compact of Free Association, also gives FSM citizens visa-free entry to the United States for education, work, and social services. In exchange, the United States maintains military bases in the islands. China has also become an important donor in recent years, funding several major projects.

In March 2014, FSM agreed to allow U.S. Navy ships to conduct maritime surveillance in its territorial waters in an effort to combat illicit transnational maritime activities.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

Political Rights: 37 / 40 [Key]

A. Electoral Process: 12 / 12

FSM’s unicameral, 14-member Congress has one directly elected representative serving four-year terms from each of the four constituent states. The other 10 representatives are directly elected for two-year terms from single-member districts. Chuuk state, home to nearly half of the total population, holds the largest number of congressional seats, which has been a source of resentment among the three smaller states. The president and vice president are chosen by Congress from among the four state representatives to serve four-year terms. By informal agreement, the two posts are rotated among the representatives of the four states. Each state has its own constitution, elected legislature, and governor; the state governments have considerable power, particularly in budgetary matters. Traditional leaders and institutions exercise significant influence in society, especially at the village level.

President Emanuel Mori and Vice President Alik L. Alik were elected to second terms in 2011. Elections in 2013 for the 10 single-district seats were considered free and fair.

In June 2014, Mori recommended reducing the required approval for constitutional amendments from 75% to 66% as well as shifting to a direct election model for the presidency. No changes had been made at year’s end.

 

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 15 / 16

There are no formal political parties, but there are no restrictions on their formation. Political loyalties are based mainly on geography, clan relations, and personality. All candidates ran as independents in the 2013 parliamentary elections.

 

C. Functioning of Government: 10 / 12

Official corruption is a problem and a major source of public discontent. A tracking system was adopted in 2009 to meet U.S. demand for transparency and accountability in the use of compact funds. A 2012 public audit report found fundamental weaknesses in the public payroll system, such as paychecks going to past employees and overpayment for unauthorized work hours. In the same year, lawmakers agreed to improve the efficiency of tax collection and acceded to the UN Convention against Corruption.

 

Civil Liberties: 56 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 16 / 16

The news media operate freely. Print outlets include government-published newsletters and several small, privately owned weekly and monthly newspapers. Each state government runs its own radio station, and the Baptist church runs a fifth station. Television stations operate in three of the four states. Cable television is available in Pohnpei and Chuuk, and satellite television is increasingly common. In April 2014, legislators passed the Telecom Liberalization Act, under which an independent telecommunications regulatory authority—the country’s first—will be established in 2015. Internet use is growing, but low income and small populations make it difficult for service providers to expand coverage. Funding from the World Bank for a system of submarine cables is expected to expand broadband internet access.

Religious freedom is respected. There were no reports of restrictions on academic freedom in 2014, but lack of funds negatively affects the quality of and access to education.

 

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 11 / 12

Freedom of assembly is respected, and citizens are free to organize in civic groups. Several students’ and women’s organizations are active. No labor unions exist, though there are no laws against their formation. No specific laws regulate work hours or set workplace health and safety standards. The right to strike and bargain collectively is not legally recognized.

 

F. Rule of Law: 15 / 16

The judiciary is independent but lacks resources to improve the efficiency of the courts. The small national police force is responsible for local law enforcement, while the United States provides national defense. There were no reports of abuses or inhumane treatment by police or prison officials in 2014.

In November 2014, a group of 35 asylum seekers from India and Nepal and their two Indonesian boat operators landed in Yap. They claimed that human smugglers had promised them access to Australia. This was the first arrival of asylum seekers in FSM, though the men did not formally apply for asylum in the country. The migrants were given medical attention, food, and water, and they remained in a temporary shelter by their vessel at year’s end.

Same-sex sexual activity is legal, but no laws protect against hate crimes or discrimination based on sexual orientation.

 

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 14 / 16

Women enjoy equal rights under the law, including those regarding property ownership and employment, though societal discrimination against women persists in the male-dominated culture. Although well represented in the lower and middle ranks of the state and federal governments, women do not hold seats in Congress. A constitutional amendment in 2012 created four new congressional reserved seats for women, which will take effect in the 2015 parliamentary elections. Domestic violence is a problem, and cases often go unreported because of family pressure or expectations of inaction by the authorities. Offenders rarely face trial, and those found guilty usually receive light sentences.

The Human Trafficking Act of 2012 makes all trafficking activities a criminal offense. FSM is a Tier 2 country in the U.S. State Department’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report for showing efforts to comply with minimum standards to prevent and prosecute trafficking and assist victims as established by the U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

 

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received

Y = Best Possible Score

Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology