The preparations for the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) entered an important new phase in July, with all three SIDS regions convening meetings to discuss key challenges and distil regional positions. All three regions will gather in Bridgetown, Barbados, 26-28 August for the inter-regional preparatory meeting.
The Caribbean held their regional meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, 2-4 July; the Pacific meeting was hosted in Nadi, Fiji, 10-12 July; and the AIMS region convened their regional meeting in Mahe, Seychelles, 17-19 July. While each host government designed the format and approach of their meeting in different ways, all three meetings provided opportunities for thought-provoking discussions and elaboration of regional goals, and all three yielded concrete and constructive outcome documents. Ambassador Marlene Moses of Nauru, Chair of AOSIS, attended all three meetings and in her addresses she made a compelling case for the SIDS agenda.
The Jamaica meeting, held in the heart of Kingston, was opened by the Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill. After a series of panels focused on issues of importance to the region, the Caribbean member States entered closed sessions for open and frank dialogue on the regional priorities, including those that they would like to see incorporated into the UN post-2015 development agenda. The negotiations on the outcome document then were opened to all as the member States crafted the statement of regional positions that they will take on to Barbados. The outcome stressed the ongoing challenges that Caribbean SIDS face including climate change, natural disasters, crime and violence, high rates of unemployment—especially among women and youth—and resulting brain drain, NCDs and other health concerns, and debt. It called on the international community to support SIDS through technology transfer, capacity development, capitalization of the Green Climate Fund, and promotion of renewable energy, among others. Member States expressed also the urgent need for development partners to consider measures other than GDP per capita when making decisions regarding financial assistance and debt relief.
In Nadi, Fiji, delegates from the Pacific gathered for three days of active discussion and fruitful debate. The Prime Minister of Fiji, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, gave the opening keynote address, and remarks were also offered by the Secretary General of the SIDS Conference Wu Hongbo and the President-Elect of the General Assembly John Ashe. The closed session among the Pacific SIDS allowed a rich, interactive exchange of views on continuing challenges and lessons learned over the years in efforts to implement BPOA and MSI on the ground, regional priorities and emerging issues of importance they collectively wished to highlight. Parallel to that, a series of open round table sessions allowed constructive discussions among development partner government representatives, Major Groups, UN system and regional organizations. The parallel session covered a number of key topics and produced a strong and targeted report. The official meeting outcome, drafted by Pacific member States, laid out the region’s position and priorities. Climate change and ocean related issues figured prominently in the Pacific outcome document. Other issues raised included health, especially non-communicable diseases (NCDs), social protection and inclusion, information communication technologies, transport and energy and renewable energy. To advance these and other priorities, the Pacific decided to propose as the theme for the 2014 Samoa Conference to be: “the sustainable development of SIDS through genuine and durable partnerships.”
The final regional meeting, in Mahe, Seychelles, may have been smaller than the other two—because there are only eight member States in the region—but it was no less dynamic and productive. President James Alix Michel opened the meeting, and Minister of Environment and Energy Rolph Payet and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Paul Adam co-chaired the meeting. The Ministers took an active role in the dialogue, as did Ambassador for SIDS Issues Ronald Jumeau, ensuring high quality discourse throughout. As in Fiji, the meeting held a concurrent open session when the member States entered their closed session, though the AIMS region was unique in that a youth delegate at a time was invited to participate in the closed sessions. Dignitaries including USG Wu, Ambassador Moses and President of the 67th General Assembly Vuk Jeremić addressed the gathering at various points throughout the three day meeting. The outcome of the meeting—a strong and concrete expression of the region’s hopes for the future—was adopted by acclamation at the close of the third day. Central to the outcome was the concept of the “blue economy,” encompassing the full range of economic and social development that the ocean can drive. The AIMS region addressed issues of peace and security, especially in the face of international piracy and organized crime, as well as renewable energy, NCDs, special financing mechanisms and trade instruments for SIDS, and the need for a strengthened AIMS regional coordination mechanism and institutional support for SIDS.
The way forward
All three regions will gather in Bridgetown, Barbados, 26-28 August for the inter-regional preparatory meeting. There they will present their regional outcomes, debate, and agree on the SIDS positions and priorities to bring to the global process leading up to the Samoa conference.