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FSM Congress Advances Its Digital Capacity To Continue Functioning Online

(Pohnpei, FSM) The Congress of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) has boosted its digital capacity to continue its sessions and committee meetings online, which it had started last year following the outbreak of COVID-19. The upgrade is being supported through the information and computer technology (ICT) equipment recently handed over to the Congress.

The ICT equipment worth US$40,000, including web-conference system, video cameras, TV screens and related accessories, was provided by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) through its "Strengthening Legislatures' Capacity in Pacific Island Countries' (SLIP) Project funded by the Government of Japan.

Hon. Mr Esmond B. Moses, Vice Speaker of Congress 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.”

He added that “we had gigantic tasks in front of us as we had to deal with stimulus package, legislation and reviewing the proclamation of emergency by the government. 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. But we were still hampered by lack of equipment.”

“Collaboration and cooperation are essential parts of humanity. They help us overcome many challenges and problems. With the 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 and hardware and software solutions. I wish to thank both of them on behalf of Congress and our people,” added Hon. Mr Moses.

The digitalization has enabled Congress to approve stimulus packages, continue committee meetings, and oversee government actions as per citizens' urgent needs. It also facilitated Congress to participate in webinar series coordinated by UNDP and other organizations, where many Pacific and global parliaments have benefitted from Congress's experience.

H.E. Mr Sobashima Hidenobu, the Ambassador of Japan to FSM, said, “The Government of Japan has been extending its cooperation to FSM both directly and through international organizations such as UNDP. We are glad to acknowledge that through our cooperation the FSM Congress has become the first Pacific legislature to convene virtual sessions.”

He added, “I hope the ICT equipment handed over to the Congress today will further empower the Congress, which should contribute to the sustainable economic and social development of FSM.”

Mr Kevin Petrini, Deputy Resident Representative a.i. of the UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, in his remarks during the handover ceremony, said the FSM Congress is the first Pacific parliament to organize virtual sessions, leading the way for other Pacific parliaments to learn from its experience. He thanked the Congress leadership for their vision and secretariat for their hard work in deploying the ICT solutions. “I wish to reiterate that we stand ready to provide further support to enable Congress to continue its operation during the Pandemic and other emergencies.”

“I thank 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),” he added.

UNDP, through different programmes supported by multiple donor countries, has provided support to Congress of FSM and other Pacific parliaments for several years. The programmes focus on key areas such as professional development of Members and staff of Parliament, the improvement of Committees' legislative and oversight work, and support to parliamentary outreach and citizen engagement roles. They also support the institutional development of parliaments by helping them update their rules of procedures, develop strategic plans, policies and standard operating procedures.

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