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Minute on the renegotiation of the Compacts of Free Association between the U.S.A. and the Federated States of Micronesia and the Republic of the Marshall Islands

Adopted by the Central Committee, Geneva, 26 August - 3 September 2002.

26 August 2002

Adopted by the Central Committee, Geneva, 26 August - 3 September 2002.

At the end of World War II the USA was given trusteeship of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands by the United Nations, with an obligation to assist the two Pacific nations in becoming self-sufficient and independent. These islands, located in Pacific halfway between Hawaii and Australia, were seen as militarily strategic by US policy-makers, and from 1946 to 1958 the USA conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands.

Since 1986, the US relationship to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has been defined by Compacts of Free Association, which expired in 2001 and are under re-negotiation until October 2003. In early September 2002, a delegation of church representatives from the RMI, hosted by two US churches, will visit Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress concerning the Compacts, which were negotiated by Micronesians and Marshallese unaware of the full consequences of the nuclear testing and of the true costs both of independence and of the clean-up from the testing.

In the year prior to the Vancouver Assembly (1983), the World Council of Churches sent a delegation to Micronesia and the Marshall Islands as part of the pre-Assembly visits and through them learned of the health problems suffered by the people as a result of the nuclear testing, and of the forced relocation of people from some of the atolls of the Marshall Islands to accommodate US military requirements. Several weeks before that Assembly, a four-member delegation, including a nuclear physicist, was sent to the Marshall Islands and Micronesia to assess the health impact of radiation on the people and the social and human costs of the US military presence there. This delegation's report was received in Vancouver, where Ms Darlene Keju-Johnson, a Marshallese woman, gave a powerful personal testimony in which she informed Assembly delegates that the problem of nuclear exposure was far greater than the US had admitted. She pointed out that the US restricted its health care for her people to those of just two atolls. Darlene died in 1996 at age 45 of breast cancer.

While the WCC's comprehensive report laid an excellent foundation, little follow-up has been given in recent years. A University of Hawaii study has now been released that shows that the 67 nuclear detonations carried out in the atolls were roughly the equivalent of ten Hiroshima-sized bombs per week throughout the testing period. Likewise, a recently declassified US government document, "The Solomon Report," reveals an effort to keep both of these Pacific countries permanently tied to the USA through "strategic economic dependency". To all this must now be added the environmental impact of global warming on sea-level islands.

The Central Committee therefore requests the WCC to monitor developments related to the renegotiations of the Compacts of Free Association, to study the issues and concerns of the peoples of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, and in cooperation with the US churches to explore ways to support their advocacy for just compensation and the removal of unfair provisions of the Compacts. This work should be linked with similar efforts being made by the Council to advocate for just compensation for the damage caused to the lands and peoples of all the peoples in the Pacific, including especially those in and near Tahiti, who have been deeply affected by French nuclear testing.