Small island nations conference opens with UN call for more development assistance

Anwarul Chowdhury opens meeting

10 January 2005 – Calling on rich countries to increase their aid to small island developing States (SIDS), the Secretary-General of a United Nations conference to review progress in reducing island problems today also urged the tiny countries to integrate their economies so as to increase their capacity to profit from foreign investment.

"The smallness and the remoteness of the small island developing states continue to pose serious problems in providing international aid and enhancing foreign investments," UN Under-Secretary-General Anwarul Chowdhury said at the opening of the five-day meeting in Port Louis, Mauritius.

"Projects and programmes in many cases are not viable when targeted for specific countries. On the other hand, when SIDS band together to integrate their economies and meet common challenges, many of the social, economic and human development projects and programmes could prove viable and yield better results. I therefore urge the small island developing countries to increase their efforts to hasten the pace of regional economic integration."

The conference is called the International Meeting for the 10-year Review of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.

It is scheduled to discuss island efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) designed to halve extreme poverty by 2015, improve trade, reduce environmental pollution and cope with climate change and natural disasters.

Organizers said they were expecting 2,000 participants, including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 20 Heads of State and government, 35 cabinet ministers and the heads of several UN agencies.

At an event on the opening day, jointly organized by the World Tourism Organization and the Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing Countries, Mr. Chowdhury underscored the importance of tourism for the development of SIDS.

"Tourism can stimulate other sectors like ecotourism, water management, coastal zone management and the development of parks and protected areas. Tourism has a distinct multiplier effect on the lives of its inhabitants, particularly in small island nations," he said.

Mr. Chowdhury also advocated an enhanced role for regional organizations as one of the key modalities for furthering the implementation of the Barbados action programme. "Regional organizations like the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM), Pacific Islands Forum and the Indian Ocean Commission are all better placed in tackling and handling regional issues," he added.

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