15 March 2010
Press Release

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Small Island Developing States Assess Sustainable Development Progress,


Prospects in Third of Series of Meetings, in Grenada, 16-18 March

Government officials and development experts from small island developing States are conducting a series of regional meetings to discuss how their sustainable development plans are faring in a difficult global financial environment and at a time when the impact of climate change is being more keenly felt.

In addition to a meeting of Pacific small island developing States held in Vanuatu last month, and another in the Maldives on 9 and 10 March for the Indian Ocean and African small island States, a meeting is scheduled for Saint George’s, Grenada, from 16 to 18 March for the Caribbean.  The meetings will provide significant inputs for the United Nations General Assembly meeting on sustainable development in small island developing States this September.

While the islands in each region face unique issues, they all share a number of immediate concerns.  Often low-lying and with limited natural resources, these countries find themselves feeling the most severe impacts of climate change, including sea-level rise, the loss of coral reefs and damage from more intense storms.  Their extreme vulnerability to natural disasters was made very apparent when the conference in Mauritius, where the development strategy under review was created, was postponed following the devastating tsunami that struck the Indian Ocean in December 2004.

At the same time, small island developing States also face many common constraints on their growth and development.  They are generally small and isolated, heavily relying on imports for many critical needs like food and fuel.  With a narrow resource base, there is limited local capital for investment or economic expansion, and many depend on just one primary product for export.  These characteristics make them among the most vulnerable in the world to outside economic and financial shocks, such as the current financial crisis.

Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang, pointed out the timeliness of the review meetings and noted that: “It is essential to identify priority actions for the Caribbean as well as the other SIDS (small island developing States) regions in order to reinforce and accelerate the development of this important group of countries –- especially given the challenges of climate change.”

The results of the three regional meetings will feed into a General Assembly high-level five-year review of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, also known as the MSI, which was adopted by 129 countries in 2005.  It is a key global blueprint addressing the specific development challenges of small island and low-lying States.

In addition to evaluating the challenges to development, these meetings will also assess recent trends, emerging issues and discuss common priorities for action.  At the conclusion of the regional meetings, a report will be prepared highlighting the way forward towards a more sustainable future for this group of countries.

For additional information, please visit http://www.sidsnet.org/msi_5/ caribbean_meeting.shtml, or contact Dan Shepard, United Nations Department of Public Information, tel: +1 212 963 9495; e-mail: shepard@un.org.

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For information media • not an official record