|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Small Island Developing States
Ministers of small island developing States addressed their nations’ most pressing vulnerabilities today, at a headquarters press conference held to coincide with the General Assembly high-level review of the Mauritius Strategy agreed upon five years ago to help chart a path to sustainable development.
The panel of participants included Peter David, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Grenada; Joe Natuman, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu; and Mohamed Aslam, Minister of Housing and Environment of the Maldives. (See also Press Release GA/10998)
Mr. David said that, while some progress had been made towards development objectives in the fields of gender equality, education and child mortality, there was much left to be accomplished.
Business as usual could not continue, he said, as small island developing States were in a position of unique vulnerability to the increasing effects of climate change. Survival strategies needed to be devised to assist those most vulnerable populations. Even as islands grew increasingly resilient in their own efforts, such enterprises were not enough.
He called for partner and donor countries to make good on their promises and commitments. Haiti, for example, had difficulty receiving what had been committed. It was important to scale up responses to that and other such disasters. Additionally, the vulnerability index needed to be re-evaluated, to include a closer examination of risks due to climate change, debt and high energy and transport costs, and given those factors, whether small island States classified as middle income could truly fit in that category.
Mr. Aslam said that, while no one was claiming that small island developing States were the only vulnerable States in the world, special conditions did exist, which put them at particular risk. In the Maldives, a low-lying State, there was a distinct difference between it and other low-lying nations such as Holland, because of the very high ratio of coastline to area.
“We are not just talking about droughts,” Mr. Aslam said. “We are talking about the sinking of the island.” While he said he did not normally like to make the point so simplistically, it was important to understand the special conditions. In light of those conditions, it was perhaps necessary to put the Maldives and similar States in a special category, so that they could have a special grouping and protection within the global community.
Speaking of Vanuatu, Mr. Natuman said that climate change was an urgent issue that threatened all aspects of the island’s life, from development to security to its very survival. Biodiversity was also important, as was finding alternative sources of energy. Fisheries were an important resource, but the island was not getting the valuable assistance necessary to fully utilize them.
He said that the Pacific plan proposed a new and innovative approach to the unique challenges that Pacific island countries faced through a framework of greater regional cooperation and integration. For such cooperation, it was especially important to encourage South-South cooperation, particularly between small island developing States and countries in Asia and the Caribbean region.
When asked by a correspondent if climate change was advancing more quickly than anticipated, Mr. Aslam said that there could be no doubt as to the scientific reality of global climate disruption, since small island developing States were feeling its very real effects. While he did not know whether or not it was unfolding at a faster than expected rate, the effects that had been predicted were certainly evident in increased storm events, increased rates of coastline erosion and the death and bleaching of corral reefs. It was certainly happening at an alarming rate, whether or not it was faster than anticipated, and it had to be halted.
Asked what the largest contributors were to such adverse climate conditions, Mr. Aslam said it was quite obviously carbon emissions. The path that humanity had chosen during the industrial revolution had led to this, through the luxury of vehicles and other modes of transport. “While I’m not saying we should go back to the stone age,” Mr. Aslam said, stressing that we need not give up those luxuries or a path of development, “we must choose an alternative way”.
“We did not come out of the stone age because we ran out of stones,” he said, “but because we found a better alternative.”
Mr. David said that small island developing States were doing all they could to combat climate change, despite the fact that such States had not been the cause of it. To accomplish what was needed, however, they would need partners to come on board. Small island developing States wanted to be part of the solution, even though they had not been part of the problem, and to achieve that there was a funding gap.
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