24/11/2004
Press Release
ENV/DEV/798


Mauritius Conference on Small Islands Aims to Boost

 

PacificIslands’ Lagging Performance

 


NEW YORK, 24 November (DPI) -– Less than two months before a major United Nations conference that will address the key challenges faced by small island nations, the Organization has issued statistics showing that, after sub-Saharan Africa, the Pacific islands have made the least progress among the world’s regions towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.


The lack of progress of the Oceania region (excluding industrialized Australia and New Zealand), which has some 8 million inhabitants, can be clearly seen in a new chart prepared by the Statistics Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs for the latest report by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration, which sets out the Goals agreed by heads of State at the Millennium Summit in the year 2000, to be achieved by 2015 (see http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/mdg2004chart.pdf).


In this chart, of 20 key targets used to measure progress on the Millennium Goals, the Pacific islands showed 6 areas of no change or negative progress (indicated by red squares), 10 areas showing some progress but at rates insufficient to meet the Goals by 2015 (indicated by orange squares), and only 2 areas that are on track to meet the Goals (indicated by green squares).  Statistics were insufficient to assess two other targets:  reducing extreme poverty by half and improving the lives of slum-dwellers.


-- For Pacific developing islands, the chart points to a decline in measles immunization, an increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, a decline in forest cover, and low access to drinking water and sanitation in rural areas.


-- Lagging or moderate progress is found in reducing hunger, death rates for infants and mothers giving birth, and youth unemployment, and in achieving equal girls’ enrolment in secondary schools, literacy parity between young women and men, equal women’s representation in parliaments, and improved access to drinking water and sanitation.


-- The two targets for which Oceania is on track (shown by green squares) are equal girls’ enrolment in primary school and the relatively low spread of malaria.


“Although the statistical evidence is still limited, the small island developing countries of Pacific Oceania appear to be lagging in implementing nearly all of the Millennium Development Goals.  So far this region has made less progress than nearly any other region”, said the Chief of the United Nations Statistics Division, Paul Cheung.


More than 2,000 participants from the islands, their traditional donor partners and other countries, including some 25 heads of State and government, are expected to travel to Mauritius in January for the United Nations International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, which was agreed upon a decade ago at a global conference in Barbados.


The Barbados Programme of Action focused mainly on environmental problems such as climate change, natural disasters, wastes, marine resources, freshwater, energy, biodiversity, transport and tourism.  But the Mauritius International Meeting will also address emerging issues that affect small islands, such as market access, HIV/AIDS, the economic potential of island culture, information technology and new security concerns.


A few weeks ago, leaders from Oceania told the United Nations General Assembly in New York about their hope that the Mauritius conference will result in stronger commitment from the international community and in pragmatic, doable actions for their region.  They also mentioned a number of difficulties that they are facing:


-- The loss of trade preferences is causing cane farmers to lose export earnings due to reduced prices;


-- Pacific islands do not benefit adequately from their fishery resources, as they receive only negligible revenues from Distant Water Fishing Nations;


-- Debt burdens divert resources away from needed infrastructure and social services;


-- The “tyranny of distance” penalizes the most remote islands;


-- Food security is an issue in those islands that import most of their food;


-- It is difficult to navigate the bureaucracies of international organizations in order to obtain assistance to protect their environment;


-- Tourism has declined;


-- Agricultural commodities have been negatively affected by more frequent extreme weather conditions; and


-- The threat of rising sea levels caused by global warming seems to already be having an impact on some islands.


The Pacific Community, the Council of Regional Organizations of the Pacific and the United Nations Development Programme just released a detailed “Pacific Islands Regional Millennium Development Goals Report”, which identifies some progress in the region but admits that it “varies significantly across the region and in many cases within countries as well”.  “In some sectors –- in particular health -– there is a real risk that some of the region’s gains could be reversed”, it adds.  This report, which includes comprehensive national data, is available at http://www.spc.int/mdgs.


Press Contacts:  François Coutu, UN Department of Public Information, Development Section, tel.:  (212) 963-9495, fax:  (212) 963-1186, e-mail:  mediainfo@un.org; Stanley Simpson, UNDP Fiji, tel.:  (679) 331-2500, e-mail:  stanley.simpson@undp.org.  For more information on the Mauritius International Meeting:  www.un.org/smallislands2005.


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