|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Small Island States Will Seek Fair Global Policies to Promote Growth,
Resilience at General Assembly High-level Meeting, 24-25 September
The progress made in addressing the vulnerabilities of small island developing States and achieving sustainable development through the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy will be reviewed by the 192-member United Nations General Assembly on 24 and 25 September.
Highly vulnerable to climate change, natural disasters, and the vagaries of international finance and trade, small island developing States face unique challenges as they seek to promote economic growth, improve the quality of life, and protect their distinct environments.
The high-level review session will provide the international community with an opportunity to discuss the way forward based on the assessment of the progress made, lessons learned and constraints encountered in the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy, agreed upon five years ago.
“Small island developing States face unique and particular vulnerabilities that make achieving sustainable development very difficult. These countries are among the first to feel the adverse effects of climate change, extreme weather events and global economic downturns,” says United Nations General Assembly President Joseph Deiss of Switzerland. “During this high-level review, Member States will engage in a meaningful assessment of where we are today and how to move forward in achieving long-term sustainable development in small island developing States.”
At the session, countries will discuss ways and means of strengthening the resilience of those countries, with many likely to note the efforts those States have made on their own initiative. The need for the international community to play an even more critical role will be stressed in helping the islanders make progress in addressing their vulnerabilities and in supporting their sustainable development efforts through more targeted assistance and partnerships. The meeting is expected to adopt a political declaration highlighting future priority areas.
According to a report by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, small island developing States, as a group, have suffered a decline in real economic growth in the last decade, in marked contrast to the strong economic growth in many other developing countries. The economies of most small island developing States contracted in real terms in 2009, on average by 2.4 per cent, some by more than 6 per cent in real terms. Many countries are also suffering very high debt levels and a widening deficit in trade balances. Small island developing States have made less progress than most other groupings, or even regressed, in economic terms, especially in terms of poverty reduction and debt sustainability.
“We must face the fact that, until now, progress has been slow and uneven,” said Sha Zukang, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs. “Their vulnerability to natural as well as economic shocks has increased,” he said, noting that the 2004 and 2005 Hurricanes Ivan and Emily devastated Grenada and damaged or destroyed 90 per cent of homes, inflicting damages worth $1.1 billion — more than twice the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
“There is a wide gap between the progress we have made and the progress we should have made,” said Dessima Williams, Grenada’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations. “We need a coherent international, institutional response.”
Williams said that although island people are resilient and industrious, poverty rates have soared. With small markets and small volumes of business, combined with long distances and high energy costs for transport, she says there needs to be a “strategic recognition” of the situation of small island developing States in order to meet internationally agreed goals.
The United Nations High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Cheick Sidi Diarra, said, “International support is vital in enhancing current efforts by the small island developing States themselves to strengthen regional and national efforts in disaster risk reduction, management and coordination, including creating or strengthening insurance mechanisms where appropriate for natural and environmental disasters in small island developing States.”
The proceedings of the High-level Review of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States will be webcast at www.un.org/webcast.
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