Renewing focus on sustainable islands

“Many of the challenges facing Small Island Developing States are shared by the international community, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, oceans and seas, disasters [...],” said UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo, as preparations accelerate ahead of the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States. DESA News also spoke with some of the conference bureau members who shared their hopes for this major event.

Preparations for the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), to be held in Apia, Samoa on 1-4 September, began practically right after the Rio+20 conference in 2012, when Member States called for this third conference. “At Rio+20, Member States noted with concern that SIDS had made less progress in sustainable development than most other groupings. In economic terms, especially in terms of poverty reduction and debt sustainability, SIDS had actually regressed,” explained Mr. Wu in his new blog. Mr. Wu, who is the Conference Secretary-General, also shared how the work is progressing and how “the spirit of partnership has been strong in the preparatory process so far”.

The inter-sessional meeting just recently concluded negotiations on the zero draft document, when DESA News got an opportunity to speak with some of the conference bureau members. “It is very important for the outcome document to be action-oriented and aspirational,” said the Permanent Representative of Samoa to the UN Ali’ioaiga Feturi Alisaia, highlighting the important multi-lateral processes taking place at the UN surrounding the conference. “We see the timing of the conference as ideal, so that there will be input from Small Island Developing States that will feed into all these processes,” he said referring to the work designing the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the Secretary-General’s upcoming summit on climate change.

“This conference is a global conference; it is not a conference which is of interest to SIDS only; it is relevant for the international community as a whole”

Milan J N Meetarbhan
Permanent Representative of Mauritius to the UN

“This conference is a global conference; it is not a conference which is of interest to SIDS only; it is relevant for the international community as a whole,” stressed the Permanent Representative of Mauritius to the UN Milan J N Meetarbhan. He said that the world is now aware of inter-dependence of economies in developing countries, small developing countries, and the developed world, and it is important that the international community comes up with a global solution which will impact all Member States.

Quest for genuine and durable partnerships
The main theme of this conference will be “The sustainable development of small island developing States through genuine and durable partnerships” and the bureau members all agreed on the importance of this theme for the successful outcome document. “I think it is a very timely theme and I hope that during the conference, there will be real, genuine and sustainable partnerships for the SIDS,” said the Permanent Representative of Singapore Karen Tan. Adding; “I hope that not just Member States, but also international organizations, international financial institutions, CSOs come together and announce good partnerships”.

Ambassador Meetarbhan also pointed to the importance of partnerships among the Small Island Developing States themselves. “We believe that beyond conventional partnerships, it is also important to talk about SIDS — SIDS partnerships, regional cooperation among SIDS, but also cooperation among SIDS worldwide,” Mr. Meetarbhan said, highlighting the possibility created when SIDS pool their resources.

“The traditional donor-based, “North — South” partnership model hasn’t lived up to our expectations,” said the Roving Ambassador of Seychelles for Climate Change and Small Island Developing States Ronald Jumeau. “We have to look to new ways to achieve all that needs to be done for SIDS,” he said, suggesting sourcing the resources from other areas and non-traditional sectors. The Seychelles have been looking across the spectrum, such as private sector, philanthropic trusts and foundations, especially in helping with issues such as the oceans, in the context of mitigating climate change.

“In New Zealand, we have a saying [...] ‘with your basket and my basket, the people will thrive’, so by working together, we can ensure great success”

Phillip Taula
Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand

“No partnership is too big or too small,” said the Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand Phillip Taula. “In New Zealand, we have a saying, ‘Nā tō rourou, nā taku rourouka ora ai te iwi”, which means, ‘with your basket and my basket, the people will thrive’, so by working together, we can ensure great success,” Ambassador Taula said.

Priorities: Oceans and Climate Change
As one of the main priorities for the conference, the bureau members highlighted oceans and their importance to the sustainable development of Small Islands Developing States. “This conference is about developing our potential with respect to the oceans. SIDS in general do not have much in terms of resources, but they do have potentially enormous resources in oceans around them,” said Ambassador Meetarbhan. He underscored the importance of the common strategy in developing the oceans as a natural resource. “I believe for SIDS, the oceans are the next frontier,” he added.

“As an island nation surrounded by oceans, New Zealand particularly appreciates the environmental issues and challenges that the Small Island Developing States face,” Ambassador Taula said.

The issue of tackling climate change was also brought up by the bureau members. ”There will be no sustainable development of the SIDS without tackling climate change,” said Ambassador Jumeau, who also stressed that “the future and the sustainable managing of oceans is of great importance to the Small Island Developing States.”

Looking towards and beyond Apia
One of the most important goals of the conference will be to develop resilience of SIDS so that they can overcome their vulnerabilities. Climate change is likely to top the list of priorities, as it represents an existential issue for many of these nations. However, the most effective way to build that resilience is contained in the main theme for the conference: genuine and durable partnerships. A lot of work has already been done, and the Conference will provide an ideal platform to raise the level of cooperation to new levels. This has also been underscored by Conference Secretary-General Mr. Wu.

“The International Conference in Samoa will be a major milestone for SIDS. It will make an important contribution to the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda. It will also result in tangible outcomes through strengthened collaborative partnerships between SIDS and the international community,” said Mr. Wu.

For more information:

Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States

Blog of Conference Secretary-General Wu Hongbo

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