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The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) is located immediately north of the Equator. It consists of four separate states – Kosrae, Pohnpei (Ponape), Chuuk (Truk) and Yap, spread over a huge area of the Pacific. The four main islands are ‘high islands’ of volcanic origin with coral atolls distant from them. All the islands are cyclone prone.

Historically, outer islanders were dominated by high islanders, especially in Yap, and they are discriminated against in terms of access to employment, land, housing and other services, though they have full political rights. Most outer islanders live in distinct, often virtually segregated, areas in the urban centres. There has been some migration from Palau and the Philippines (partly balanced by migration since 1986 to Guam, Hawai’i and Saipan) and considerable recent migration to the United States, hence the total FSM population is currently falling.

Main languages: English, Pohnpeian, Chuukese, Yapese, Kosraean, Ulithi-Woleaian, Pingelapese, Mokilese, Nukuoran, Kapinga

Main religions: Christianity (mainly Roman Catholicism)

Minority groups include Polynesians. The Federated States of Micronesia is the most complex state in Micronesia, geographically and culturally. The relatively large extent of land on the central high islands has meant that there has been considerable migration from the outer coral islands, especially in Pohnpei and Chuuk.

Outer islanders are culturally distinct from high islanders; in Pohnpei two outer islands have Polynesian populations but most outer islanders speak different languages, and have different forms of social organization, than those in the centre.

The four separate states – Kosrae, Pohnpei (Ponape), Chuuk (Truk) and Yap -function as separate entities in some contexts. There is a federal Congress with fourteen members and four state legislatures. Tensions over limited economic development, accusations of corruption and constraints of distance have resulted in strong secessionist movements, notably in Yap (linked to the other states by air only through Guam) and in the Faichuk district of Chuuk. Legislation was introduced into Congress in 2005 to make Faichuk a separate state, but has not been approved. The FSM has few resources other than fish, but there is concern over over-fishing, the minimal private sector and high levels of unemployment. Two thirds of all employment is in the public sector and FSM is exceptionally dependent on US aid. An amended Contract of Free Association was signed in 2004 which guarantees American aid, most of which is directed into a trust fund.

Minority based and advocacy organisations

Sources and further reading