The Compact of Free Association (COFA) is an international agreement establishing and governing the relationships of free association between the United States and the three Pacific Island nations of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau. These nations, together with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, formerly composed the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a United Nations trusteeship administered by the United States Navy from 1947 to 1951 and by the U.S. Department of the Interior from 1951 to 1986 (to 1994 for Palau).
The compact came into being as an extension of the U.S.–U.N. territorial trusteeship agreement, which obliged the federal government of the United States "to promote the development of the people of the Trust Territory toward self-government or independence as appropriate to the particular circumstances of the Trust Territory and its peoples and the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned". Under the compact, the U.S. federal government provides guaranteed financial assistance over a 15-year period administered through its Office of Insular Affairs in exchange for full international defense authority and responsibilities.
The Compact of Free Association was initialed by negotiators in 1980 and signed by the parties in the years 1982-1983. It was approved by the citizens of the Pacific states in plebiscites held in 1983. Legislation on the Compact was adopted by the U.S. Congress in 1986 and signed into law on November 13, 1986.
Each of the associated states actively participate in all Office of Insular Affairs technical assistance activities. The U.S. treats these countries uniquely by giving them access to many U.S. domestic programs, including disaster response and recovery and hazard mitigation programs under the Federal Emergency Management Agency, some U.S. Department of Education programs including the Pell Grant, and services provided by the National Weather Service, the United States Postal Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Communications Commission, and U.S. representation to the International Frequency Registration Board of the International Telecommunication Union. The Compact area, while outside the customs area of the United States, is mainly duty-free for imports.
Most citizens of the associated states may live and work in the United States, and most U.S. citizens and their spouses may live and work in the associated states. In 1996, the U.S. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act removed Medicaid benefits for resident foreigners from the states, even after the five-year waiting period that most other resident aliens have.
The COFA allows the United States to operate armed forces in Compact areas and to demand land for operating bases (subject to negotiation), and excludes the militaries of other countries without U.S. permission. The U.S. in turn becomes responsible for protecting its affiliate countries and responsible for administering all international defense treaties and affairs, though it may not declare war on their behalf. It is not allowed to use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons in Palauan territory. In the territories of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia it is not allowed to store such weapons except in times of national emergency, state of war, or when necessary to defend against an actual or impending attack on the U.S., the Marshall Islands, or the Federated States of Micronesia.
Citizens of the associated states may serve in America's armed forces, and there is a high level of military enlistment by Compact citizens. For example, in 2008, the Federated States of Micronesia had a higher per-capita enlistment rate than any U.S. state, and had more than five times the national per-capita average of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan (9 soldiers out of a population of 107,000).
In 2003, the Compacts with the RMI and FSM were renewed for 20 years. These new Compacts provided US$3.5 billion in funding for both countries. US$30 million will also be disbursed annually among American Samoa, Guam, Hawaii, and the Northern Mariana Islands in "Compact Impact" funding. This funding helps the governments of these localities cope with the expense of providing services to immigrants from the RMI, FSM, and Palau. The U.S. usage of Kwajalein Atoll for missile testing was renewed for the same period. The new Compacts also changed certain immigration rules. RMI and FSM citizens traveling to the U.S. are now required to have passports. The U.S. Postal Service was given the option to apply international postage rates for mail between the U.S. and RMI/FSM (phased in over five years). The USPS began implementing the change in January 2006, but decided to resume domestic services and rates in November 2007.
The renewed Compact (commonly called "Compact II") for FSM took effect on June 25, 2004, and for RMI on June 30, 2004.
The economic provisions of the Compact for Palau which provided $18 million in annual subsidies and grants, expired on September 30, 2009, and the renewal talk was concluded in late 2010. U.S. financial support for Palau is based on a continuing resolution passed by the U.S. Congress. The Compact Trust Fund set up to replace U.S. financial aid underperformed because of the Great Recession. The military and civil defense provisions remained until 2015.
The United States' administration of the former trust territories now covered under the Compacts of Free Association has been subject to ongoing criticism over the past several decades. A 1961 United Nations mission report initially noted deficiencies in "American administration in almost every area: poor transportation, failure to settle war damage claims; failure to adequately compensate for land taken for military purposes; poor living conditions[;] inadequate economic development; inadequate education programs; and almost nonexistent medical care." In 1971, congresswoman Patsy Mink further noted that "[A]fter winning the right to control Micronesia, [the U.S.] proceeded to allow the islands to stagnate and decay through indifference and lack of assistance. . . . [T]he people are still largely impoverished and lacking in all of the basic amenities which we consider essential – adequate education, housing, good health standards, modern sanitation facilities."
After the compacts, criticism was also received by the United States House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific regarding the unfulfilled commitments of the United States to address the impacts of U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, which were included as part of the Pacific Proving Grounds. Speakers noted that while section 177 of the Compact of Free Association recognized the United States' responsibility "to address past, present and future consequences of the nuclear testing claims," less than $4 million was awarded out of a $2.2 billion judgement rendered by a Nuclear Claims Tribunal created under the RMI Compact, and the United States Court of Claims had dismissed two lawsuits to enforce the judgement. With respect to these unaddressed claims, medical practitioners also noted the potential widespread impacts of nuclear testing within the Pacific Proving Grounds, indicated by the prevalence of both radiogenic diseases, as well as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity associated with "[a] forced changed in dietary patterns and lifestyle" resulting from U.S. administration after the testing. In 2011, lawmakers further noted that the U.S. Congress had continuously failed to cover the costs of promised medical care and services to displaced Compact citizens who migrate to the United States for health care, education, and employment opportunities, particularly since the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.
Questions regarding U.S. responsibility have also been raised regarding the issue of numerous derelict war ships and oil tankers abandoned or destroyed by the U.S. military in atolls and islands throughout the Compact area.
In 2009, the State of Hawaii, under the administration of then-Governor Linda Lingle, attempted to restrict health care access for Compact citizens by eliminating all Compact residents of Hawaii from Med-QUEST, the state’s comprehensive Medicaid coverage plan. COFA residents were instead subject to Basic Health Hawaii, a limited health care plan under which "transportation services are excluded and patients can receive no more than ten days of medically necessary inpatient hospital care per year, twelve outpatient visits per year, and a maximum of four medication prescriptions per calendar month. . . . BHH covers dialysis treatments as an emergency medical service only, and the approximate ten to twelve prescription medications dialysis patients take per month are not fully covered. BHH . . . caus[es] cancer patients to exhaust their allotted doctors' visits within two to three months".
Noting that such a policy likely constituted unlawful discrimination in violation of the Equal Protection Clause, federal District Court Judge John Michael Seabright issued a preliminary injunction against the implementation of Basic Health Hawaii. In finding a high likelihood of irreparable harm, Judge Seabright took note of the "compelling evidence that BHH's limited coverage . . . is causing COFA Residents to forego [sic] much needed treatment because they cannot otherwise afford it". Lingle's successor, Governor Neil Abercrombie continued the state's appeal of the injunction to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which ruled in favor of the state. When the United States Supreme Court refused to hear the case, the Abercrombie administration removed most COFA residents from Med-QUEST and transferred them onto Affordable Care Act plans. In other states, notably Arkansas, which has a significant population of Marshallese, COFA residents have not been eligible for Medicaid.
The problem of more than 1000 WWII shipwrecks, amounting to over 3 million tons sunk across the pacific, has been with us for 60 years and will not fade away by continuing to ignore the issue; see also WWII wrecks ‘threaten Micronesia’ Archived 2011-11-15 at the Wayback Machine; Assessing potential oil spills from WWII Wrecks Archived 2012-04-26 at the Wayback Machine
A referendum on the Compact of Free Association was held in the Marshall Islands on 7 September 1983. Voters were asked whether they approved of the Compact of Free Association with the United States, and if not, what status they preferred. The Compact was approved by 58.0% of voters, rendering the outcome of the second question irrelevant.1983 Micronesian Compact of Free Association referendum
A referendum on the islands' status was held in the Federated States of Micronesia on 21 June 1983. Voters were asked two questions. The first was on whether they approved of the Compact of Free Association between the FSM and the United States. The second was what their preference was if Free Association was rejected. Voters were presented with the option of independence or an alternative which they had to fill in on the ballot form.The first question was approved by 76.88% of voters, rendering the outcome of the second question (58.04% in favour of independence) moot.1983 Palauan Compact of Free Association referendum
A referendum on the Compact of Free Association was held in Palau on 10 February 1983. Voters were asked three questions:
Whether they approved of the Compact of Free Association between Palau and the United States
Whether they approved of an agreement which placed restrictions on the USA with regard to storing and using radioactive, chemical and biological materials in Palau
What their preference for a future political status was if the Free Association (question one) was rejected. They were offered the choice of either "a relationship with the United States closer than Free Association" or independence.The first two propositions were both approved, nullifying the need for the results of the third. Voter turnout was 78.5%.1984 Palauan Compact of Free Association referendum
A second referendum on the Compact of Free Association was held in Palau on 4 September 1984, after the previous referendum had failed to achieve the 75% in favour necessary. Voters were asked two questions:
Whether they approved of the proposed Compact of Free Association between Palau and the United States
What their preference for a future political status was if the Free Association (question one) was rejected. They were offered the choice of a closer relationship than Trusteeship, or independence.The first question was approved by 67.1% of voters, making the outcome of the second question (in which 3,378 blank ballots had been cast, more than either of the choices given) irrelevant. Voter turnout was 71.3%.1990 Palauan Compact of Free Association referendum
A seventh referendum on the Compact of Free Association was held in Palau on 6 February 1990, after the previous six referendums had failed to achieve the 75% in favour necessary. Voters were asked whether they approved of the Compact of Free Association between Palau and the United States signed on 10 January 1986. Although it was approved by voters, the quorum of 75% in favour was not reached, resulting in the referendum failing.1993 Palauan Compact of Free Association referendum
An eighth referendum on the Compact of Free Association was held in Palau on 9 November 1993, after the previous seven referendums had failed to achieve the 75% in favour necessary. Voters were asked whether they approved of the Compact of Free Association between Palau and the United States signed on 10 January 1986. It was approved by 68.4% of voters, with a turnout of 64.4%. This time the referendum was passed, due to the constitutional amendment approved in a referendum the previous year that had lowered the threshold to a 50% majority.Associated state
An associated state is the minor partner in a formal, free relationship between a political territory with a degree of statehood and a (usually larger) nation, for which no other specific term, such as protectorate, is adopted. The details of such free association are contained in United Nations General Assembly resolution 1541 (XV) Principle VI, a Compact of Free Association or Associated Statehood Act and are specific to the countries involved. In the case of the Cook Islands and Niue, the details of their free association arrangement are contained in several documents, such as their respective constitutions, the 1983 Exchange of Letters between the governments of New Zealand and the Cook Islands, and the 2001 Joint Centenary Declaration. Free associated states can be described as independent or not, but free association is not a qualification of an entity's statehood or status as a subject of international law.
Informally it can be considered more widely: from a post-colonial form of amical protection, or protectorate, to confederation of unequal members when the lesser partner(s) delegate(s) to the major one (often the former colonial power) some authority normally exclusively retained by a sovereign state, usually in such fields as defense and foreign relations, while often enjoying favorable economic terms such as market access.
According to some scholars, a form of association based on benign protection and delegation of sovereignty can be seen as a defining feature of microstates.A federacy, a type of government where at least one of the subunits in an otherwise unitary state enjoys autonomy like a subunit within a federation, is similar to an associated state, with such subunit(s) having considerable independence in internal issues, except foreign affairs and defence. Yet in terms of international law it is a completely different situation because the subunits are not independent international entities and have no potential right to independence.August 1987 Palauan Compact of Free Association referendum
A sixth referendum on the Compact of Free Association was held in Palau on 21 August 1987, after the previous five referendums had failed to achieve the 75% in favour necessary. Voters were asked whether they approved of the Compact of Free Association between Palau and the United States signed on 10 January 1986. It was approved by 73.0% of voters, with a turnout of 74.7%.Compact
Compact as used in politics may refer broadly to a pact or treaty; in more specific cases it may refer to:
The Compact, the agreement between the government and the voluntary and community sector in England
Blood compact, an ancient ritual of the Philippines
Compact government, a type of colonial rule utilized in British North America
Compact of Free Association whereby the sovereign states of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Republic of Palau have entered into as associated states with the United States.
Mayflower Compact, the first governing document of Plymouth Colony
United Nations Global Compact
Global Compact for Migration, a UN non-binding intergovernmental agreementDecember 1986 Palauan Compact of Free Association referendum
A fourth referendum on the Compact of Free Association was held in Palau on 2 December 1986, after the previous three referendums had failed to achieve the 75% in favour necessary. Voters were asked whether they approved of the Compact of Free Association between Palau and the United States signed on 10 January 1986. It was approved by 66.0% of voters, with a turnout of 82.0%.Economy of the Marshall Islands
The government of the Marshall Islands is the largest employer, employing 30.6% of the work force, down by 3.4% since 1988. GDP is derived mainly from payments made by the United States under the terms of the amended Compact of Free Association. Direct U.S. aid accounted for 60% of the Marshall Islands' $90 million budget. The economy combines a small subsistence sector and a modern urban sector.February 1986 Palauan Compact of Free Association referendum
A third referendum on the Compact of Free Association was held in Palau on 21 February 1986, after the previous two referendums had failed to achieve the 75% in favour necessary. Voters were asked whether they approved of the Compact of Free Association between Palau and the United States signed on 10 January 1986. It was approved by 72.2% of voters, with a turnout of 71.3%.History of the Jews in Palau
The history of the Jews in Palau is a relatively recent development, beginning with the arrival of the Israeli-born couple Tova and Navot Bornovski, and their children, who moved to Palau in 1993 to operate the Fish 'n Fins diving center and the Barracuda Restaurant. The family expanded and added two children, who were the first recorded Jewish children born on Palau. Both children have native middle names.The most prominent Jewish citizen in today's Palau is Larry Miller, Associate Justice of the Palau Supreme Court. Stuart Beck, a Jewish-American lawyer that helped negotiate the Compact of Free Association which established Palau as an independent nation in 1994, holds honorary citizenship and was named Palau's first Permanent Representative to the United Nations in 2003.Two cyclists from Palau represented the country at the 2009 Maccabiah Games, marking the first time that Palau sent athletes to that international sporting event.Insular area
An insular area of the United States is a U.S. territory that is neither a part of one of the 50 states nor of a Federal district. Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution grants to United States Congress the responsibility of overseeing these territories, of which there are currently 14—three in the Caribbean Sea and 11 in the Pacific Ocean. These territories are classified by whether they are incorporated (by Congress extending the full body of the Constitution to the territory as it applies to the several states) and whether they have an organized territorial government established by the U.S. Congress through an Organic Act. All territories but one are unincorporated, and all but four are considered to be unorganized. Five U.S. territories have a permanent, nonmilitary population. Each of them has a civilian government, a constitution, and enjoys some degree of local political autonomy.June 1987 Palauan Compact of Free Association referendum
A fifth referendum on the Compact of Free Association was held in Palau on 30 June 1987, after the previous four referendums had failed to achieve the 75% in favour necessary. Voters were asked whether they approved of the Compact of Free Association between Palau and the United States signed on 10 January 1986. It was approved by 67.6% of voters, with a turnout of 76.1%. Following the fifth failure to achieve the necessary majority, a constitutional referendum was held in August, with the aim of reducing the majority needed.List of countries without armed forces
This is a list of countries without armed forces. The term country here means sovereign states and not dependencies (e.g., Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Bermuda), whose defense is the responsibility of another country or an army alternative. The term armed forces refers to any government-sponsored defense used to further the domestic and foreign policies of their respective government. Some of the countries listed, such as Iceland and Monaco, have no standing armies but still have a non-police military force.Many of the twenty-one countries listed here typically have had a long-standing agreement with a former occupying country; one example is the agreement between Monaco and France, which has existed for at least 300 years.
The Compact of Free Association nations of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), and Palau rely on the United States for their defense. They ensure their national security concerns are addressed through annual Joint Committee Meetings to discuss defense matters with US Pacific Command. Andorra has a small army, and can request defensive aid if necessary, while Iceland had a unique agreement with the United States that lasted until 2006, which required them to provide defense to Iceland when needed.The remaining countries are responsible for their own defense, and operate either without any armed forces, or with limited armed forces. Some of the countries, such as Costa Rica and Grenada, underwent a process of demilitarization. Other countries were formed without armed forces, such as Samoa over 60 years ago; the primary reason being that they were, or still are, under protection from another nation at their point of independence. All of the countries on this list are considered to be in a situation of "non-militarization."Haiti abolished its army in 1994, after a US invasion deposed the military junta which had ruled the country since 1992. In 2017, after the end of the MINUSTAH, the Haitian government announced the restoration of the Haitian Armed Forces.Marshall Islands
The Marshall Islands, officially the Republic of the Marshall Islands (Marshallese: Aolepān Aorōkin M̧ajeļ), is an island country and a United States associated state near the equator in the Pacific Ocean, slightly west of the International Date Line. Geographically, the country is part of the larger island group of Micronesia. The country's population of 53,158 people (at the 2011 Census) is spread out over 29 coral atolls, comprising 1,156 individual islands and islets. The capital and largest city is Majuro.
The islands share maritime boundaries with the Federated States of Micronesia to the west, Wake Island to the north, Kiribati to the southeast, and Nauru to the south. About 52.3% of Marshall Islanders (27,797 at the 2011 Census) live on Majuro. Data from the United Nations indicates an estimated population in 2016 of 53,066. In 2016, 73.3% of the population were defined as being "urban". The UN also indicates a population density of 295 per km2 (765 people per mi2) and its projected 2020 population is 53,263.Micronesian colonists reached the Marshall Islands using canoes circa 2nd millennium BC, with interisland navigation made possible using traditional stick charts. They eventually settled here. Islands in the archipelago were first explored by Europeans in the 1520s, starting with Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer in the service of Spain, Juan Sebastián Elcano and Miguel de Saavedra. Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar reported sighting an atoll in August 1526. Other expeditions by Spanish and English ships followed. The islands derive their name from John Marshall, who visited in 1788. The islands were historically known by the inhabitants as "jolet jen Anij" (Gifts from God).Spain claimed the islands in 1592, and the European powers recognized its sovereignty over the islands in 1874. They had been part of the Spanish East Indies formally since 1528. Later, Spain sold some of the islands to the German Empire in 1885, and they became part of German New Guinea that year, run by the trading companies doing business in the islands, particularly the Jaluit Company. In World War I the Empire of Japan occupied the Marshall Islands, which in 1920, the League of Nations combined with other former German territories to form the South Pacific Mandate. During World War II, the United States took control of the islands in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands campaign in 1944. Nuclear testing began in 1946 and concluded in 1958.
The US government formed the Congress of Micronesia in 1965, a plan for increased self-governance of Pacific islands. The Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1979 provided independence to the Marshall Islands, whose constitution and president (Amata Kabua) were formally recognized by the US. Full sovereignty or Self-government was achieved in a Compact of Free Association with the United States. Marshall Islands has been a member of the Pacific Community (SPC) since 1983 and a United Nations member state since 1991. Politically, the Marshall Islands is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, with the US providing defense, subsidies, and access to U.S.-based agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the United States Postal Service. With few natural resources, the islands' wealth is based on a service economy, as well as some fishing and agriculture; aid from the United States represents a large percentage of the islands' gross domestic product. The country uses the United States dollar as its currency. In 2018, it also announced plans for a new cryptocurrency to be used as legal tender.The majority of the citizens of the Republic of Marshall Islands, formed in 1982, are of Marshallese descent, though there are small numbers of immigrants from the United States, China, Philippines, and other Pacific islands. The two official languages are Marshallese, which is one of the Malayo-Polynesian languages; and English. Almost the entire population of the islands practices some religion, with three-quarters of the country either following the United Church of Christ – Congregational in the Marshall Islands (UCCCMI) or the Assemblies of God.Marshall Islands and the United Nations
The Marshall Islands joined the United Nations on September 17, 1991. Although the Marshall Islands are sovereign, the Republic is bound by a Compact of Free Association with the United States. The Marshall Islands show overwhelming support for the United States. On 13 key issues in 2008, the Marshall Islands matched the vote of the United States 100% of the time. In 2015, however, the Marshall Islands voted to condemn the US embargo over Cuba. The motion at the United Nations was supported by 191 member states, with two votes against (the United States and Israel) and no country abstaining.The Marshall Islands are also one of the staunchest supporters of Israel, like the United States. In December 2017, the Marshall Islands was one of just nine countries (including the United States and Israel) to vote against a motion adopted by the United Nations General Assembly condemning the United States' recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The United States government had threatened to cut aid to states voting in favour of the motion.Palau
Palau ( (listen), historically Belau, Palaos, or Pelew), officially the Republic of Palau (Palauan: Beluu er a Belau), is an island country located in the western Pacific Ocean. The country contains approximately 340 islands, forming the western chain of the Caroline Islands in Micronesia, and has an area of 466 square kilometers (180 sq mi). The most populous island is Koror. The capital Ngerulmud is located on the nearby island of Babeldaob, in Melekeok State. Palau shares maritime boundaries with the Philippines, Indonesia, and the Federated States of Micronesia.
The country was originally settled approximately 3,000 years ago by migrants from Insular Southeast Asia. The islands were first explored by Europeans in the 16th century, and were made part of the Spanish East Indies in 1574. Following Spain's defeat in the Spanish–American War in 1898, the islands were sold to Imperial Germany in 1899 under the terms of the German–Spanish Treaty, where they were administered as part of German New Guinea.After World War I the islands were made a part of the Japanese-ruled South Pacific Mandate by the League of Nations. During World War II, skirmishes, including the major Battle of Peleliu, were fought between American and Japanese troops as part of the Mariana and Palau Islands campaign. Along with other Pacific Islands, Palau was made a part of the United States-governed Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands in 1947. Having voted against joining the Federated States of Micronesia in 1979, the islands gained full sovereignty in 1994 under a Compact of Free Association with the United States.
Politically, Palau is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, which provides defense, funding, and access to social services. Legislative power is concentrated in the bicameral Palau National Congress. Palau's economy is based mainly on tourism, subsistence agriculture and fishing, with a significant portion of gross national product (GNP) derived from foreign aid. The country uses the United States dollar as its currency. The islands' culture mixes Micronesian, Melanesian, Asian, and Western elements. Ethnic Palauans, the majority of the population, are of mixed Micronesian, Melanesian, and Austronesian descent. A smaller proportion of the population is descended from Japanese. The country's two official languages are Palauan (a member of the Austronesian language family) and English, with Japanese, Sonsorolese, and Tobian recognized as regional languages.
United States articles
Marshall Islands articles