FSM Information Services
President Panuelo & Vice President Palik Receive U.S. Peace Corps Exploratory Team
PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On March 23rd, 2023, His Excellency David W. Panuelo—President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)—and the Honorable Aren B. Palik, Vice President of the FSM, received a high-level delegation from the U.S. Peace Corps who are in the country on an exploratory mission to assess a possible return of Peace Corps Volunteers. The President had previously written to the Peace Corps, and met with their Chief Executive Officer, on the margins of the U.S.-Pacific Islands Summit so as to request their reinstatement to the FSM.
In the FSM’s context, Peace Corps Volunteers began arriving in 1966, serving exclusively in the Education Sector until 1970 when Volunteers were asked to serve in the Agriculture, Community Economic Development, and Youth in Development Sectors. When the FSM became a Constitutional Government in 1979, Peace Corps Volunteers worked in sanitation, forestry, and fisheries. From 2000 to 2005 Peace Corps Volunteers worked on natural resource conservation, community building, and youth development; and from 2006 to 2018 at the time of closure, Peace Corps Volunteers worked exclusively in the Education Sector.
Peace Corps assists by providing volunteers who build capacity and help interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women in six sectors: Agriculture, Community Economic Development, Education, Environment, Health, and Youth in Development. Volunteers serve a minimum of 27 months with possible extensions for up to five years. Crucially, Peace Corps only operates where explicitly invited and requested by relevant national, state, and community representatives, and with an aim to enhance capacity and resilience. In this respect, the U.S. Peace Corps is analogous to the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
In the meeting with U.S. Peace Corps representatives, President Panuelo described that some of the cited reasons (either formally and publicly or informally) for Peace Corps’ pullout of the FSM were no longer applicable. For example, in 2018 at the time of closure, Caroline Islands Air (an FSM State-Owned Enterprise) was unable to provide guaranteed medical evacuation to Volunteers; on March 24th, 2023, Caroline Islands Air received an additional air asset, and has the appropriate technical and managerial staff to accommodate urgent travel needs. Additionally, the Nation’s communications capacity is greatly strengthened, with persons able to access 3G and 4G networks via their telephone on many islands.
As for where Peace Corps might be able to offer assistance to the FSM, while President Panuelo and Vice President Palik reiterated their appreciation that the Peace Corps will meet with the State Governments’ respective Executive and Legislative Branches, and that the States’ should ultimately be able to determine where and how the Peace Corps cooperates with the FSM, it was suggested that the Agriculture Sector might result in the greatest assistance. “We do express the importance of food security to our country,” the President said. “Counterparts for the Volunteers could include, for example, the Agricultural Divisions of the State Governments, and the non-government organizations in the FSM.”
“That’s just an idea though,” the President continued. “It’s our hope that the FSM’s States will be the ones to ultimately choose the direction of how Peace Corps will cooperate with the FSM.”
The Peace Corps assessment team is visiting all four of the FSM’s States after having completed a recent visit to the Republic of Palau. To the knowledge of the FSM Government, the Republic of the Marshall Islands has also asked for the Peace Corps to send them an assessment team. It is the opinion of the FSM National Government that the U.S. Peace Corps ought to return to every Pacific Island Country, including all three possessing a Compact of Free Association with the United States.