Encouraging partnerships between the private sector and small developing island nations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Sunday urged corporate leaders to invest in renewable energy and make historic strides toward sustainability.

“Oceans isolate small islands – but when they are managed well they become a constant source of wealth,” Ban told the high-level dialogue of the private sector forum. The event was organized by the Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS), the Samoan Government and the Samoa Chamber of Commerce.

The small island developing states face major challenges, including scarcity of resources, population pressures and the impacts of climate change. Those same challenges affect businesses, and corporate leaders have an interest in rising to them, he said.

Praising the “extraordinary partnership and commitment” made during the two-day private sector forum, Ban told representatives of business and industry that they have a collective responsibility to protect the most vulnerable.

“People often say we are in the same boat,” he said. “I would say we are all on the same small island on the same small planet Earth this is like a small boat in the universe.”

Ban noted the critical role that renewable energy can play to help cut greenhouse gas emissions, while also making countries less dependent on expensive imported fuel.

“You are part of this exciting chance to address risks, seize opportunities, and make history by moving our planet to sustainability,” he said.

The high-level dialogue came at the end of the forum, in which hundreds of business leaders and innovators discussed oceans and marine resources, connectivity, sustainable agriculture, sustainable tourism, disaster risk reduction, and renewable energy.

Also Sunday, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) announced the launch of a funding facility to help low-income and rural Pacific islanders gain access to affordable insurance, credit and other such services.

“With access to financial services, poor people can start small businesses, insure against losses, and save in case of illness or disaster,” UNDP Administrator and UNCDF Managing Director Helen Clark told reporters.

Implemented through the Pacific Financial Inclusion Programme (PFIP), the UNDP/ UNCDF Financial Inclusion Support Facility is designed to disburse grants to financial service providers, including banks and mobile network operators.

The events occurred prior to Monday’s opening of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, which will run through Thursday and focus on partnerships.

During a cultural opening of the conference, Ban called on the international community to remember our common humanity and reflect on the efforts of small island developing states to cope with natural disasters, isolation from global markets and other challenges.

Prior to the ceremony, Ban thanked Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi for hosting the Conference.

Ban and Freundel Stuart, Prime Minister of Barbados, discussed the priorities of the small islands conference and the upcoming Climate Summit, to be held in New York on 23 September.

The topic of climate change topped the agenda of a meeting between Ban and James Michel, President of Seychelles.

On Saturday, the UN and Samoan flags were raised over the conference site in the capital, Apia, that is hosting the conference, the largest of its kind in the Pacific region.

As cannons fired, the UN blue and the Samoan blue, red and white were hoisted over the Tuana”imato sports complex in a symbolic handing-over of the venue to the UN for the duration of the conference.

The Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States begins on 1 September with a series of pre-conference forums on youth, private sector and civil society, organized mostly off-site.
Residents have been decorating the villages between the Faleolo International Airport and Apia”s centre. Visitors are welcomed with flags, painted coconuts and flowers.

On Friday afternoon, before many of the delegates had made their way to the complex, it was visited by Safuneituuga Paaga Neri and her grandchildren. “I wanted them to see this,” she said. “It is historic.”

She said she hoped the conference would result in the creation of partnerships that will help people living near the ocean to withstand extreme weather events and rising sea levels, she said.

That same topic was on the minds of many other islanders, Samoan journalist Andrew Fassau told UN Radio.
“They hope that something good will come out of this conference with regard to the small island nations like us,” he said, adding that many islanders are pointing to industrialized nations for causing the climate woes.

The expectations held for this conference are seen outside of the sports complex gates, where Samoan police were directing traffic on streets named “SIDS,” “Welcome” and “Hope.”

In a Guardian opinion piece on Friday, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi urged world leaders to help, warning that the Pacific islands are sinking.

“I want world leaders to see for themselves what our islands are doing to deal with climate change, natural disasters and the tough economic challenges thrust upon us,” he wrote.

The conference kicks off a drum beat of events leading to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon”s climate change summit, which will be held in September. The theme of the conference is creating “genuine and durable partnerships,” more than 300 of which are expected to be announced, according to Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo, who is the Secretary-General of the conference.

The city will also host more than 120 side and parallel events, which are likely to spur more collaborations, he told the UN News Centre.