Statement by Mr. José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs at the Preparatory Meeting to review the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action
14 April 2004

Mr. Chairman,

I wish to congratulate you on your assumption to the Chair of CSD 12, and to welcome the opportunity for you and your Bureau to bring to fruition the many months of careful planning that have been invested in this session. I pledge the continued support of the UNDESA during the coming weeks.

Since the Barbados Conference in 1994, this Commission has been reviewing progress in the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action. In 1999, the Commission also served as the preparatory body for the five-year review of the Barbados Conference. The work of the Commission has helped highlight special challenges facing SIDS and efforts by these countries to tackle the difficulties arising from their vulnerabilities. In its new programme of work organized in implementation cycles, the Commission will review the vulnerabilities of SIDS as a cross-cutting issue.

The annual reports of the Secretary-General provide updated information on activities initiated by UN entities, funds and programmes and specialized agencies, as well as regional and sub-regional organizations in support of the sustainable development of SIDS. Recently, such initiatives have benefited from the support of the office of High Representative for LDCs, Landlocked developing countries and SIDS, who will act as Secretary General of the International Meeting. I am confident that with his leadership and our joint efforts, we will be able to provide effective support in bringing this preparatory process and the Mauritius International Meeting to a successful conclusion.

The Report of the Secretary General on progress in implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action, which I have the honour to present, represents the culmination of an extensive review exercise, which involved national and regional assessments, technical workshops to consider in-depth issues of key concern, preparatory meetings in the three SIDS regions and an Inter-Regional Meeting at Ministerial Level held in Nassau in January of this year. This exercise has ensured the fullest involvement of those SIDS which are associate members of the Regional Commissions. The participation of national and regional NGOs was also active and the donor countries were given the opportunity to contribute to the exercise, including through their participation in the Inter-Regional Ministerial Meeting.

The Report of the Secretary General, which seeks to distill the critical elements of this broad review exercise, should therefore be seen as a comprehensive presentation of overall progress achieved in implementation of the BPOA, providing perspectives on the continuing and emerging challenges which have limited the SIDS’ capacity to pursue a sustainable development strategy, and identifying those areas where the active support of the wider international community would ensure more effective implementation of sustainable development by SIDS.

The report describes the mixed fortunes of the SIDS during the period of review. While many have recorded strong economic performance, favourable progress in important human development indicators and improved national institutional frameworks for the coherent management of the broad sustainable development agenda, there is clear evidence of the continuing economic, social and environmental vulnerability of SIDS.

This vulnerability is best illustrated as the joint effect of volatility in export revenues, loss of preferential market arrangements, the limited capacity of many SIDS to compete effectively for private financial flows, susceptibility to climate change, high incidence of HIV/AIDS, the effects of transnational crime and reduced official development assistance, among other factors.

In the light of these economic, social and environmental factors, any comprehensive effort to assist the SIDS should seek to strengthen their collective ability to address them. Indeed, the report notes significant work on the part of the SIDS toward building resilience to their vulnerabilities.

The report seeks to paint with a broad brush a picture of where the SIDS find themselves in terms of fulfillment of the mandates contained in each chapter of the Barbados Programme of Action. Some of the critical areas are deserving of special mention.

It underscores, first of all, the fact that climate change and sea-level rise are a very serious threat to the SIDS. Global warming and climate change have resulted in coral bleaching, coastal erosion, disruption of agricultural activity, reduced resilience of land and marine ecosystems, and an increase in vector-borne diseases. Climate change and sea level rise also threatens serious economic damage to many SIDS, particularly in highly developed coastal areas with buildings and infrastructure for tourism, fisheries and other important economic activities.

Significant effort at the regional level has been recorded in the Caribbean and in the Pacific to better understand the economic and environmental vulnerabilities associated with climate change, and to prepare plans for adapting to its impact. At the international level, donor support has increased in some areas, and the UN system has also supported a number of activities as part of SIDS climate change efforts, including cross-sectoral initiatives to examine climate change and health in the SIDS regions.

An increase in the frequency, intensity and unpredictability of extreme weather events is another important manifestation of the impact of global warming on the SIDS. Disaster preparedness programmes and planning are essential, and such efforts have been reported by all SIDS throughout the preparatory process. Much effort has also been put into the establishment of disaster management agencies, and some SIDS have established national early warning systems and disaster mitigation plans, including oil spill contingencies, but again more needs to be done. National action has also been complemented by more coordinated regional initiatives for disaster preparedness, management and recovery.

An issue of continuing importance is the protection and effective management of coastal zones and marine ecosystems. Most SIDS have in common extensive coastline and large exclusive economic zones (EEZ) relative to their respective size, population and economy. Fisheries and other marine resources thus invariably represent a significant contribution to their economies, providing a large share of the food supply, employment and income. These resources are threatened by overexploitation, destructive harvesting, land-based pollution, pollution from ships, coastal development, climate change and invasive alien species.

Regional organizations in the Indian Ocean, Pacific and Caribbean regions have promoted and supported cooperative mechanisms for the protection of marine and coastal resources. Progress in regional cooperation has been achieved in the area of fisheries, including through the establishment of legal regimes. International support has been targeted on specific areas such as fish stocks assessment, ocean observation and monitoring, and direct payments for fishery licenses.

While there has been significant development in the area of freshwater resources, limited supply and poor water quality remain a challenge for most SIDS. Poor effluent disposal, the use of fertilizers and pesticides, and increased saltwater intrusion represent continued threats to their limited freshwater sources. The ability to manage effectively these resources is hindered by the lack of technically skilled personnel and adequate legal and institutional frameworks.

For the majority of SIDS nearly all of which are oil-importing developing countries, the high cost of energy has meant increased pressure on foreign exchange reserves and consumption of a significant proportion of national income. The report gives account of the SIDS commitment to the development of renewable energy resources that would reduce dependence on energy imports while contributing positively to the reduction of green house gas emissions. However, further investment in financial and institutional arrangements would be required to support their efforts in this crucial area.

Another area of continuing challenge to SIDS is transport and communications. The remoteness of many of them from major markets, and the geographical features of archipelagos, makes transportation and communication networks expensive. The rapid development of information and communication technology offers, however, the potential to reduce the isolation of SIDS. Support for the development of infrastructure in these areas is therefore critical to the fuller integration of SIDS into the global economy.

The report also draws attention to emerging challenges not envisioned at the time of the adoption of the Barbados Programme of Action, but which over time have undermined the capacity of SIDS to most effectively pursue a strategy toward sustainable development.

In this regard, the increased prevalence of HIV/ADS in SIDS is worthy of mention. HIV/AIDS has put pressure on health services, brought new social concerns and undermined productivity. The management of this pandemic is therefore both an urgent health and development issue. The incidence of HIV/AIDS is of particular concern in the Caribbean, which ranks second only to Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of regions hardest hit by this pandemic.

The report takes account of the growing contribution of NGOs and service organizations in the counseling and care for infected persons. Other services include the provision of sexual and reproductive health services for vulnerable populations, and peer education for the youth. Support for the management of HIV/AIDS was very clearly identified an area in which the SIDS would benefit from the support of the international community.

Greater attention has also been given to security concerns in light of the increased threat posed by international terrorism and transnational crime. Of particular concern to nearly all countries is the continued transshipment and use of illegal drugs and small arms, as well as the rapidly growing incidence of violent crime in some Caribbean SIDS. Providing adequate policing of the coastal perimeter of the islands remains a significant challenge, because of limited resource capacity to increase surveillance.

The report also notes an acknowledgement of the importance of improved governance through strengthened rule of law, transparency and accountability in government administration. Combating corruption is viewed by SIDS as integral to achieving more effective and efficient administration.

SIDS have also begun to examine more closely the importance of culture and cultural development in national and regional strategies for sustainable development. There is growing recognition that an effective development strategy for SIDS should be cognizant of and responsive to the unique historical and cultural realities of the people. Culture plays a crucial role in fostering sustainable development, as it represents the collective adaptation of SIDS populations to their environments and embodies much valuable knowledge. Culture is also a force for social cohesion, stability and the maintenance of peace and security.

The report records the efforts of the SIDS toward implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action. With the support of the international community, and in particular with the assistance of regional inter-governmental organizations and the agencies of the United Nations system, perceptible progress has been achieved. This is reflected in the implementation of legislation and institutional frameworks to ensure a more integrative, coordinated approach in the three dimensions of sustainable development.

The Department of Economic and Social Affairs, through its SIDS Unit, will continue to provide substantive support to the implementation of the BPOA, including through the preparation of analytical reports and studies, monitoring implementation, providing substantive support in the follow-up to the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation relating to SIDS, provision of technical cooperation advisory services, including through SIDSnet, and bringing into this process the collective efforts and activities of the agencies of the United Nations system through the coordination of an Inter-Agency Task Force.

Analysis of the experiences of the SIDS demonstrate the general need for the strengthening of human and institutional capacity to improve planning, decision-making and implementation for sustainable development in SIDS. Acknowledging the many opportunities for collaborative action which might be embraced for further implementation of the BPOA, the Secretary General’s Report offers a range of practical recommendations for the consideration of this Preparatory Meeting.

It is our hope that from this comprehensive review exercise will lead to tangible, pragmatic initiatives in support of SIDS’ efforts, whether through enhanced cooperation and partnership with civil society, through strengthened regional and inter-regional interaction, south-south cooperation, and with the support of the UN system and the wider international community.