United Nations

A/CONF.167/6


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

28 April 1994

ORIGINAL:
ENGLISH


 STATEMENT BY H.E. MR. L. ERSKINE SANDIFORD, PRIME MINISTER 
 OF BARBADOS AND PRESIDENT OF THE GLOBAL CONFERENCE ON THE 
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES 
 
Firstly, I thank you for the honour you have done me in  
acclaiming me President of this important Conference. With your  
cooperation, I will endeavour to achieve a successful meeting. I  
promise you the Chair's unfailing courtesy. 
 
And now, on behalf of the Government and people of Barbados, I  
take great pleasure in warmly and enthusiastically welcoming you  
to this, the opening ceremony of the first ever United Nations  
Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island  
Developing States. You have done us an esteemed honour in  
granting us the privilege of hosting this historic meeting, which  
will address matters pregnant with significance not only for  
present but also for future generations. 
 
This Conference represents one of the most significant events in  
the history of small island developing States. It takes its  
origins in the United Nations Conference on Environment and  
Development, held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992. 
 
I led the Barbados delegation to the Rio Summit; indeed, it was  
following upon the formal acceptance there by the international  
community that small island developing States represented a  
distinctive category of States meriting special attention that I  
offered Barbados as the venue for this Conference. Today, I  
therefore feel a special sense of fulfilment as we meet here to  
continue the work started some two years ago in Brazil. 
 
At the Rio Summit, the international community agreed at the  
highest political level to act in concert to pursue the goal of  
sustainable development. We took a stand that the high level of  
unsustainability prevalent in developed as well as developing  
countries was unacceptable. We also reached a consensus on the  
need to change our course and to put an end to the vicious cycle  
of environmental degradation, economic decline and social  
deprivation in which the vast majority of countries appeared to  
be locked. 

The decisions made at that Summit and formalized in Agenda 21,  
the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, a body of  
principles for the world-wide management of forests, and two  
conventions on global climate change and biodiversity, signalled  
a firm resolve to conquer the economic, social and environmental  
problems that ultimately threaten our continued survival on this  
planet Earth. Our task here in Barbados is to convert that  
resolve into concrete action by outlining realistic policies and  
setting attainable targets in the search for patterns of  
sustainable development. 
 
The Rio Summit, following upon the United Nations Conference on  
the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972, represented the  
first step in a long journey. It is essential that we build on  
that start by laying a strong foundation for sustainable  
development in small island developing States. To do otherwise  
would be self-defeating and self-destructive of the progress  
achieved so far. 
 
As we commence our deliberations, we must remain conscious of the  
ultimate goal towards which we are aspiring. That goal is of  
course sustainable development, a concept coined just seven years  
ago, which is for me a process of desirable growth plus change on  
the basis of the efficient utilization of the Earth's non- 
renewable (and indeed renewable) resources in order to achieve  
sound, economic progress without compromising the ability of  
future generations to achieve the same. Quality of life issues,  
issues of equity and issues of environmental practices are all  
involved. The economic, social and environmental components of  
sustainable development are therefore interconnected and mutually  
reinforcing. They exist in a symbiotic relationship that requires  
us to adopt an integrated and creative approach. 
 
For us as small island developing States, however, the question  
of sustainability is not an abstruse, arcane concern. It is  
rather a matter that affects the very nature of our existence. It  
is therefore crucial for us to fully sensitize the international  
community about the issues and to promote greater understanding  
of the vulnerabilities and special circumstances that apply to  
our countries. For the Marshall Islands in the Pacific and  
Maldives in the Indian Ocean, the issue of climate change and  
sealevel rise is not simply a theoretical issue; it is a threat  
to their continued existence. The management of limited  
freshwater resources is a problem that many States, such as  
Malta, Cyprus and many of us in the Caribbean, Barbados included,  
have to contend with on a daily basis. For a majority of us,  
natural disasters in the form of hurricanes, cyclones and floods  
are a seasonal fact of life. 
 
As we prepare to embark on our substantive discussions, I would  
urge all of us to be guided by simple but fundamental guidelines,  
as described below. 
 
1.Sustainable development will best be achieved under conditions  
of peace, not war. 
 
2.Sustainable development connotes change, change from the way in  
which we abuse renewable and non-renewable resources, but above  
all change in our value systems and in our attitudes to people  
who must be at the centre of our concerns. Where is the  
conscience of the world? Where is the centre of justice? How can  
a caring world permit the wide disparities among States that  
would not be permitted within States? 
 
3.We will not even begin to solve the problems of sustainable  
development in small developing States or other developing States  
unless there is a greater flow of resources in the form of  
foreign-direct investment, official development assistance, flows  
from the international institutions and other flows from the  
industrialized to the developing world. It is a worrying fact  
that the gap between rich and poor countries is growing, but  
should rather be closing. 
 
4.There is a need for a new partnership and new efforts at  
genuine cooperation between small developing States and  
industrialized countries to effect sustainable development. Now  
that the resource-wasteful East-West ideological conflicts are at  
an end, a more economically beneficial encounter and a more  
morally uplifting one between North and South should be seriously  
embarked upon. The conclusions and decisions arrived at during  
the dialogue should not be left to languish, but there should be  
discrete and dedicated mechanisms for implementation. 
 
5.Small island developing States should collaborate in a deeper  
manner with one another in a spirit of self-reliance and for  
mutual support and assistance in dealing with problems of  
sustainable development. 
 
6.Sustainable development in small countries should aim at the  
full participation of all social elements, including the poor,  
the disabled and the disadvantaged, as well as women, youth and  
indigenous people, in the socio-economic thrust. This is advanced  
on grounds not only of social equity but also of the need for  
small island States to utilize their human resources to the  
fullest extent possible. 
 
7.There can be no sustainable development without sound health  
and healthy lifestyles, good education, poverty alleviation, the  
creation of wealth leading to greater employment opportunities,  
and good governance. 
 
8.Further reforms should be carried out within the United Nations  
system in order to strengthen its capacity to take speedy  
decisions, to have ready access to resources and to allocate  
those resources speedily in areas of sustainable development. 
 
It is essential for all sectors of economic and social activity  
to play a major role in any strategy developed to address the  
problem of sustainability. In this regard, the establishment of  
cross-sectoral linkages at the decision-making level is vital to  
the process. This must all take place within a national policy  
framework that promotes sound environmental management as well as  
technology based on the efficient utilization of available  
resources. I recognize that the development of technology in most  
of our countries is still in its infancy. But there have been  
some success stories. The one that readily springs to mind,  
perhaps because it is so close to home, is solar water-heating  
technology. Here in the Caribbean, great strides have been made  
in developing this alternative source of energy. Indeed, I am  
told that Barbados has one of the highest levels of solar water- 
heater utilization in the world. 
 
Regardless of the mechanisms employed, no strategy for  
sustainable development will be effective in the long term unless  
its focus is on people - the ordinary man in the street, the  
housewife, the farmer, the office worker and the children. These  
are the persons who must ultimately live the lessons of  
sustainable development if they are to be successful. 
 
As leaders, it is our duty to ensure that there is effective  
participation by all members of society as far as possible and  
that there is a partnership in which they work together with  
Government towards a new shared vision at the individual,  
community and private-sector level. It is therefore especially  
pleasing to me that non-governmental organizations are playing  
such an active role in the whole process surrounding this  
Conference, both participating in the official Conference itself  
and organizing their own parallel activities. 
 
When all is said and done, our best hope for achieving  
sustainable development is through the creation of partnerships.  
I have just spoken of partnerships at the national level.  
However, the process should not end there. It should extend  
beyond national boundaries to include regional as well as  
international partnerships. 
 
We share one world and if the environment is degraded, whether by  
a few countries or by many, we will all eventually suffer the  
consequences. We must therefore join forces if we are to have any  
chance to successfully reconcile our justifiable desire for  
growth and development with the finite resources available to us. 
 
The importance of joining forces is all the greater given the  
fact that all the countries in the international community have  
not reached the same stage of development. The time has come for  
the international community to honour the commitments made at the  
Rio Summit and to provide new and additional financial and other  
resources to enhance the institutional and technological capacity  
of small island developing States as well as other developing  
States. 
 
The case in support of the need for assistance to developing  
countries has already been made and accepted. It is now time to  
act. We all have much to gain and just as much to lose. In the  
spirit of true cooperation and solidarity, we must all take the  
necessary steps to discharge our responsibility to this planet on  
which we live, to each other and to future generations. 
 
In closing, I can do no other than repeat the final lines of a  
poem entitled "Ode to the Environment", which I wrote for the Rio  
Summit. 
 
"The themes are grand, the ends climacteric. 
So globally we must cooperate, 
Share the costs proportionate 
Lest the globe itself disintegrate. 
Let our sure guides be balance and judgement 
So we too may bequeath an environment 
Sustainable in development, 
Rich, bounteous, beneficent 
For our children and their posterity. 
Let a great chain of being 
Link animate and inanimate 
In this space, 
In this time and place." 
 
I thank you. 
 
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