This Day in International Law – November 13

By: Sarah Hunter

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Photo: Stefan Lins

On November 13, 1986 The Compact of Free Association (COFA) became law, granting the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands independence from the United States. The COFA is an agreement shared with these nations (along with Palau, who entered into a Compact in 1994), which allows for certain mobility between states. Perhaps most notably, these three nations are under the protection of the United States Military, enjoy certain U.S. social welfare benefits, and are able to work and live in the U.S. without a visa.

Citizens of these nations can also enlist in the U.S. military with few restrictions. The FSM in particular boasts more enlistments per capita than any state in the U.S. There has been some backlash about this fact as Micronesians have also died in Iraq and Afghanistan during service at a higher per capita rate than any other state, at one point at five times the national average. There is also concern that young Micronesians are lured into military service in an attempt to escape poverty and with inadequate knowledge of the risks.

This relationship impacts the international arena in other important ways. In return for the U.S. benefits they receive, there is an understanding that these nations will consult the U.S. on matters of foreign affairs, especially those that may involve U.S. interests. Given their status as voting UN members, these three nations often serve as the some of the U.S.’s most frequent voting partners. In fact, Palau and the FSM hold second and third place for voting similarity (97.1% and 96.2%, respectively) to the United States, following only Israel. It seems possible that this special relationship almost guarantees additional votes for resolutions favored by the U.S.

Sarah Hunter is a J.D. candidate at Berkeley Law. She is a student contributor for Travaux.