Around the world, there are 51 states designated as Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Their small size, isolation, climate change and natural disasters – these are some of the challenges that these states face. On 20 March, members of the Committee for Development Policy (CDP) and its Secretariat held a panel discussion on the vulnerabilities and development needs of SIDS.
Since the adoption of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) in 1994, SIDS have been recognized as being afflicted by economic difficulties. They are confronted by development imperatives similar to those of developing countries but with their own particular characteristics. Nineteen years after the adoption of the BPoA, the impact of the recent global economic crisis and the negative effects imposed by climate change, has left SIDS more vulnerable than ever before.
The international community has identified five main vulnerabilities and development needs of SIDS which include: smallness; isolation and fragmentation; narrow resource and export base; exposure to environmental and natural shocks (including climate change and natural disasters); and exposure to external economic shocks.
Many shocks are external for SIDS, but endogenous of the global system. Hence, limiting climate changes and stabilizing global economic and financial markets is essential for the sustainable development of SIDS. Preliminary recommendations highlighted financial compensation as being necessary for environmental and natural shocks.
Financing public goods, especially regional ones are crucial but remoteness and isolation make collective action more difficult. The heterogeneity of SIDS calls for a need to find response measures that allow for differentiation in order to increase effectiveness.
Geography remains a key factor in understanding SIDS. Differences within such geographic regions and commonalities across regions call for cross-regional cooperation. Consequently, further work is required in defining and operationalizing differential support to SIDS and continuing effective implementation of the BPoA and the Mauritius Strategy for Further Implementation (MSI).
Addressing a plenary meeting of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) recently, DESA’s Under-Secretary-General and the Secretary-General for the International Conference on SIDS, Wu Hongbo, stated, “SIDS issues are global issues. Your unique vulnerabilities – to the global financial crisis and to natural disasters – have been recognized by the international community. Many of the areas that have risen to new prominence after the Rio+20 Conference, including Oceans, Renewable Energy, Transport, and, of course, Climate Change – these all sit very close to the hearts of Small Island Developing States”.