On final day of UN Assembly, small island nations discuss climate change, economics

Maxine Pamela Ometa McClean, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Barbados, addresses the general debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly. UN Photo/Cia Pak

30 September 2014 – Noting that small island developing nations must speak with one voice at the global level, representatives of those countries today pressed for international economic partnerships and efforts to combat climate change, on the final day of the annual General Assembly debate in New York.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade for Barbados urged the international community to make provisions for countries which are both small island developing nations and highly-indebted middle income countries.

“We continue to suffer the devastating impacts of the global economic and financial crisis and have limited scope, capacity, fiscal flexibility or policy space to respond effectively to them,” Maxine McClean said.

She noted also the country’s declining export demand, decreased investment and contraction of services, such as tourism.

Among other key challenges, the Minister in her speech cautioned that efforts to transition to a green economy will be undone if the international community does not take immediate and urgent action against climate change.

Ms. McClean also highlighted the importance of respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy in development.

The theme of this year’s high-level debate, which started on 24 September, is “Delivering on and implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda.”

Speaking on behalf of the Maldives, Mohamed Waheed Hassan, echoed the need to centre any development agenda in human rights, emphasizing that policies need to be rights-based and people must be rights-minded.

Mohamed Waheed, Former President and Special Envoy of the President of the Republic of Maldives, addresses the general debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly. UN Photo/Cia Pak

“People must lie at the heart of every decision and every policy we make. The ultimate goal of every action must be to improve the lives of our people,” Mr. Hassan said.

The former President and Special Envoy of the President of Maldives, Mr. Hassan, noted, among other issues, the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action for women’s empowerment. He called Maldivian women “among the most emancipated in South Asia” but said that more needs to be done nationally and globally.

“Think back over the past week at the General Assembly: How many women spoke at this podium? How many countries can claim to have achieved parity between men and women at decision-making levels,” he asked.

In his remarks, Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Papua New Guinea, said many of the small islands in the Pacific struggling to cope with the myriad impacts of climate change have reached a “tipping point.” And while Pacific SIDS are responding to the challenges by working smarter and harder to improve the livelihoods of people at risk, “the bigger and advanced countries of the world must not only do likewise but re-double their efforts partnering with us.”

As part of its support to Pacific SIDS, Papua New Guinea has launched the Pacific Development Assistance Program. This is aimed at assisting the region’s island nations in critical areas of development such as education, health, capacity building, climate change and reconstruction of vital infrastructure after natural disasters.

Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Immigration of the Independent State of Papua New Guinea, addresses the general debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

“We reiterate our call on the international community, including the UN, to work together with SIDS in the spirit of genuine and durable partnership,” Mr. Pato said. He also commended Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for convening the successful Climate Summit last week in New York. “In supporting the outcomes, we must build on the political momentum generated as we move towards Lima this year and importantly Paris in 2015, where the international community must conclude a legally binding agreement in order to collectively address the adverse impacts of climate change.”

Addressing the UN body on behalf of Bahamas, Frederick Mitchell, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, also stressed that the post-2015 sustainable development agenda must be people-focused.

“The obstacles are many. The lip service is evident. We have hope and our moral case is strong. We are inspired by the potential possible outcomes of this new development agenda,” Mr. Mitchell said.

He listed the environment, fighting crime and containing illegal immigration as the island’s highest priorities.

During this session, Bahamas became the fiftieth Member State to sign the Arms Trade Treaty, causing it to enter into force. The ATT, as it is known, regulates the international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships.

Saint Lucia’s Minister for External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation, Alva Baptiste, called for “the tensions and tendencies towards war” which are now emerging and which retard the positive contribution of the international community to concerns of small, developing island nations.

Alva Baptiste, Saint Lucia’s Minister for External Affairs, International Trade and Civil Aviation, addresses the general debate of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly. UN Photo/Cia Pak

He also called for the removal of “residual effects” of the Cold War, by lifting the economic embargo on Cuba and for fuller participate of Taiwan in UN bodies, particularly the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

Turning to the development agenda, Mr. Baptiste noted that over the past decade, many SIDS lost considerable momentum in their development progress by having to contend with post-disaster, rehabilitation and reconstruction costs, and increased debt.

“The Caribbean has been a particular victim of these events since I spoke here last year, and we hope that following the recent SIDS Conference in Samoa, a certain urgency will be attached to this matter,” he said referring to the third international UN conference on SIDS held in early September.

The Permanent Representative of Solomon Islands to the UN, Ambassador Collin Beck, also highlighted the conference in Samoa and urged the international community to work towards the goals outlined in the final outcome document.

Collin Beck, Permanent Representative of Solomon Islands to the UN, Ambassador UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

As part of this process, Mr. Beck called for the UN Development Programme (UNDP) sub-office in Solomon Islands to be upgraded to country office states, and for greater investments in the relations with his capital.

From the point of view of Mauritius, the new sustainable development agenda must include all “rights” and focus on inclusivity, so that no one is left behind.

Ambassador Milan Meetarbhan, Permanent Representative of the country to the UN, told the General Assembly that it is about to embark on a new session that “could herald a new page in the UN’s history,” and urged Member States to review their commitment to multilateral cooperation for peace, development and prosperity of all nations.

Milan Jaya Nyamrajsingh Meettarbhan, Permanent Representative of Mauritius, addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Fernando Wahnon Ferreira, the Permanent Representation of Cabo Verde to the UN said the post-2015 agenda must place people in the center of the objectives and goals to be agreed upon. Ensuring gender equality and equity also “turns out to be a smart choice,” as no country can aspire to develop and establish social peace while excluding its female population.

Foreign Affairs Milan Jaya Nyamrajsingh Meettarbhan of Cape Verde addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

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