Mr. Wu Hongbo Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Secretary-General for the International Conference on Small Island Developing States

Plenary meeting of AOSIS

Distinguished Chairperson, Ambassador Moses,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here today, in my capacity as Secretary-General of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States. It is a responsibility that I am deeply honoured to have.

I consider it vital to engage in dialogue for the success of the Conference. With this in mind I look forward to briefing you more regularly in the coming months.

Your agenda today is extensive and diverse. It touches on the wide range of issues that concern small island developing states, as well as your priorities for 2013.  I add my thoughts to yours for the people of the Solomon Islands, who have recently faced a devastating tsunami caused by the earthquake in the Pacific.

This most recent natural disaster highlighted, once again, the critical vulnerabilities that face SIDS.  These challenges will be addressed at the SIDS Conference taking place in Apia, Samoa in 2014.

My role today is to focus on the SIDS Conference, taking place in Apia, Samoa in 2014.  I will briefly cover both the substantive and logistical aspects.

As a key United Nations Conference after Rio+20, the 2014 SIDS Conference has the potential to build on the Rio+20 outcomes and make a lasting and concrete contribution to the advancement of sustainable development, and the aspirations of SIDS. 

We all share very high hopes for this Conference.  We need several outcomes from Apia. Of course, as your modalities resolution instructs, there will be a negotiated political outcome document. But I look forward also to seeing the other outcomes—the featured partnerships and the voluntary commitments. And, of course, the richness that comes from involving the full tapestry of stakeholders offering solutions for the special problems faced by your countries.

The timing could not be better. As the global community gears up for a new phase of international development to be launched in 2015, the SIDS Conference outcomes can feed directly into this process. A successful Conference in Apia will guarantee that SIDS priorities are heard, loud and clear. SIDS priorities must be an integral part of new sustainable development goals and the broader development framework after 2015.

As members of AOSIS, I know you are keenly aware of the importance of the evolving post-2015 development agenda. In your modalities resolution, you expressed clearly the intent that the Conference should contribute meaningfully to the post-2015 processes. This objective, as well as the other three —

  • to assess progress and gaps;
  • to seek a renewed political commitment; and
  • to identify new and emerging challenges and opportunities;

all express the wish to promote SIDS interests while remaining relevant to the broader development discourse.

And, with the Barbados Plan of Action and the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation, you certainly have a strong foundation on which to stand.

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.

The Secretary-General has called climate change the defining challenge of our age. I know for many Small Island Developing States, it goes far beyond that: it is an existential threat. You, as AOSIS members, have been strong champions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process. I know that you will continue to provide leadership in that context.

There is also great potential for the Conference in Apia to contribute meaningfully to the fight against climate change. You have indicated that you want this Conference to focus on implementation of concrete solutions and on the partnerships so vital to make these solutions come to life.

I know that many of you have made great strides in your home countries, with some exploring renewable energy and other innovative technologies. Some even pledging to become “climate neutral” in the near future. These are the kinds of things that can be showcased at the Conference.

DESA stands ready to support this Conference from every angle. Already we have an expert logistics team, seasoned with experience in Mauritius and recently in Rio. The team is working with the Independent State of Samoa to ensure that the Conference will run smoothly. There are logistical challenges, of course. But, after all, these challenges are integral to the SIDS reality. So it is only fitting that the Conference should come face to face with them.

DESA will help generate substantive inputs through expert group meetings to address the priorities and concerns of SIDS. We will strengthen our work on vulnerability, data and trends in SIDS countries.

I know my team is looking forward to a close partnership with the Samoan national committee, just as I look forward to close collaboration with His Excellency, Prime Minister Tuila’epa Sa’ilele and Ambassador Elisaia.

Of course, DESA will not be alone in providing support to this important Conference. We will work closely with all relevant organizations in the United Nations family as well as the regional organizations that play such an important support role to many of the Small Island States.

We have mechanisms in place, including the Inter-Agency Consultative Group on SIDS, and what we call “ECESA Plus”— the Executive Committee of Economic and Social Affairs plus the UN Development Group. And beyond these formal structures, my team has excellent working relations with their peers across the UN system. This Conference will be a chance to put “One UN” into action!

2014 has also been declared the “International Year of SIDS.” Our communications team is starting to develop an exciting menu of activities and events to raise awareness and knowledge about Small Island Developing States issues around the world. Our team will work closely with partners in your capitals, whenever possible. We will work hard to ensure that the SIDS challenges and triumphs are broadcast widely, with messages amplified across the regions and around the world.

So, 2014 will be the formal Year of SIDS.  Let’s also make 2013 a year of SIDS, as these important preparations for the Conference get underway. And then, in 2015, your issues will be in the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda.

Let me close by assuring you once again that I, together with my team, and the entire UN system and sister organizations around the world, stand ready to support you as you prepare for this Conference.

Thank you.