General Assembly Urges Concessionary Development Financing for Small Island Developing States, Greater Attention to Vulnerabilities

25 September 2010
GA/11002-ENV/DEV/1163

General Assembly Urges Concessionary Development Financing for Small Island Developing States, Greater Attention to Vulnerabilities

25 September 2010
General Assembly
GA/11002
ENV/DEV/1163
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Plenary

18th Meeting (AM & PM)


General Assembly Urges Concessionary Development Financing for Small Island

 

Developing States, Greater Attention to Vulnerabilities

 


Adoption of Outcome Document Concludes Review of Mauritius Strategy Implementation


Noting with concern the sustainable development challenges facing small island developing States, and their uneven progress towards realizing the Millennium Development Goals, the General Assembly today urged international financial institutions to give those States adequate access to concessionary financing for investment in sustainable development, and development partners to pay due attention to their unique vulnerabilities in trade and partnership agreements as well as trade preference programmes, so they could recover economically.


Adopting a wide-ranging outcome document at the close of the two-day high-level review meeting on the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, the Assembly called on the international community to continue bolstering support to help small island States adapt to climate change through financing, capacity-building and technology transfer.


It also called for support to help them create appropriate systems for fisheries management, agricultural production, national disaggregated data and information systems, integrated coastal zone management, recycling, waste treatment and disaster-risk management.  Furthermore, the Assembly acknowledged that climate change and sea-level rise continued to pose a significant risk to small island developing States, threatening their very survival and viability in some cases, and stressed the need to consider the possible security implications of climate change for them.


The Assembly requested the Secretary-General to include a chapter in his report to the Assembly’s sixty-sixth session on follow-up to and implementation of the Mauritius Strategy, concrete recommendations for enhancing its implementation and that of the Barbados Programme of Action, and to conduct a comprehensive review in that regard.


In closing remarks, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said the meeting had reflected the renewed commitment of small island developing States to address their vulnerabilities and build resilience through sustainable development, as well as the international community’s continuing determination to support those efforts.  But it had also highlighted shortcomings in institutional support for those States and constraints to implementing the Mauritius Strategy and the Barbados Programme of Action.  There was a clear need to bridge gaps in implementation with coordinated and sustainable international support.


She said that priorities highlighted during the meeting included defining measurable goals and indicators for monitoring and evaluation, and strengthening data collection and analysis; scaling up resources for States to meet new challenges; enhancing strategic partnerships; strengthening South-South cooperation; and focusing on climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity, natural disasters, sustainable energy, transport and trade, fisheries, tourism, finance and debt sustainability.


Today’s discussions had highlighted the many practical challenges facing small island States, which were often not eligible for special financing or other resources, she noted.  In particular, middle-income small islands faced special challenges in the absence of international support measures.  A vulnerability index should be developed for small island developing States, as should formal United Nations recognition of them, to be tied to preferential treatment and access to concessionary financing, debt relief, trade, special programmes, and development assistance, she said.


General Assembly President Joseph Deiss stressed in his concluding remarks that the sustainable development of small island States was inextricably linked to the sustainable development of all States.  There was only one planet and the international community must preserve it in order to live in harmony, he said.


The Assembly also held a morning round table on “Enhancing international support for small island developing States”, and an afternoon interactive dialogue on cross-regional perspectives.


Background


The General Assembly met today to conclude its high-level review of the vulnerabilities of small island developing States.  (For further information, see Press Release GA/10998-ENV/DEV/1161)


Round Table


Co-chairing this morning’s round table on “Enhancing international support for small island developing States” were Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik, Vice-President of the Maldives, and João Gomes Cravinho, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Portugal.


In introductory remarks, CHEICK SIDI DIARRA, United Nations Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, emphasized the need to enhance and strengthen the vital role of the international community in efforts to implement the Mauritius Strategy, including through greater cooperation.


He said that, in order to increase the effectiveness of international support in helping to build up the resilience of small island developing States, donors should align aid with the recipients’ national development strategies, and in turn, recipient countries should strengthen their development strategies.  There might be a need to realign official development assistance (ODA) towards investment in employment creation and green technologies.


Regarding the question of how international support could best contribute to the accelerated achievement of small island development objectives, he noted that most small island States faced challenges in attracting foreign investment.  Innovative ideas should be developed to address that situation, and trading partners should pay due attention to unique island vulnerabilities in the context of trade preference programmes.  Constraints keeping small island States from building their supply-side capacities and competitiveness should also be addressed.


Underscoring the imperative need to build partnerships on all levels, he said closer cooperation between the international community and small island developing States was needed in aligning regional processes with global ones.  The links between the national policies of island States and global initiatives like the Barbados Plan of Action, the Mauritius Strategy and the Millennium Development Goals should be further exploited by all stakeholders.  The processes for monitoring and evaluating those agreements should be mainstreamed into other processes at the national and regional levels, he said.


Mainstreaming the Mauritius Strategy into the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) could help in measuring the Strategy’s implementation, he continued.  The Commission on Sustainable Development was the body charged with monitoring, a process that UNDAF could implement under the motto “UN Delivering as One”, he said, calling for the development of a road map that would determine how those and other mechanisms could better complement each other.  Finally, he underlined the important role of South-South, North-South and triangular cooperation, as well as cooperation among small island developing States.  There was a need to further strengthen all those modes of cooperation, he added.


In the ensuing discussion, high-ranking representatives of Governments, intergovernmental bodies and civil society noted the international recognition of the specific development challenges facing small island developing States, such as isolation, lack of diversification, higher production and transportation costs, small domestic markets and vulnerability to external shocks.  Speakers expressed concern that insufficient progress had been made under the Mauritius Strategy and the Millennium Development Goals, and called on the international community, particularly developed countries, to scale up assistance, not only by delivering on past commitments, but also by supporting the endeavours of small island States to build the urgently needed capacities.


Speakers said it was widely recognized that climate change constituted the biggest challenge, even threatening the very existence of some small islands, pointing out that increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events could instantly wipe out their development gains.  The United Nations must take on board the security implication of climate change for such countries, and the international community must come to a legally binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support adaptation.  Small island States needed international support so they could mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.  A positive aspect was that more funding would become available under the “fast start” financing framework of the Copenhagen Accord.


Pointing out that their countries had for the most part complied with their commitments under the Mauritius Strategy and the Barbados Plan of Action, representatives of small island States called on the international community to do the same.  Forced by their isolation to spend a large proportion of their resources on fossil fuels, they were on a path to develop renewable energy resources and green economies, but they needed international support, especially in terms of technology transfer.  It was proposed that a special fund be established to alleviate the crippling costs of fuel imports.  In addition, tangible resources were needed to enable small island States to increase their share of benefits from marine resources.


As for the effectiveness of aid, some speakers, noting that the international architecture of assistance was complex and burdensome to small recipient administrations, called for more predictability of funds and less aid fragmentation.  Small island States, on the other hand, should put in place mechanisms such as comprehensive and climate-resilient national development plans.  They should also create regional platforms to bridge gaps between donors and recipients, while ensuring regional and national ownership of policies.


Speakers urged developed countries to fulfil their commitments to devote 0.7 per cent of their gross national income (GNI) to ODA, and to address the debt sustainability of small island States by providing safer debt instruments and limiting destabilizing capital flows.  Assistance was also needed to strengthen national disaggregated data and information systems, and to enhance disaster management capabilities.  Also stressed was the need to mainstream the specificities of small island States into UNDAF, which should become more prominent in monitoring and evaluating implementation of the Mauritius Strategy.  The role of the Commission on Sustainable Development must be better defined, the meeting heard.


Participants underlined the importance of scaling up support for the creation of an enabling environment to attract foreign direct investment.  Others stressed the importance of trade in building the resilience of small island States, amid calls for greater progress on establishing a work programme for small vulnerable economies within the World Trade Organization.  There was also a need for fair recognition of small island vulnerabilities in global trade arrangements.  Many speakers called for the creation of a special category for small island developing States within the United Nations framework, to ensure greater recognition of their specific vulnerabilities, which could then be better addressed.


Making interventions this morning were the Minister for External Affairs of India; the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Morocco and the Minister for Environment, Water Resources and Drainage of Barbados.


Also speaking were the Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Economic Relations and International Cooperation of Egypt; the Permanent Secretary for External Affairs of the Solomon Islands; and the Permanent Secretary for Education and Sports of Tuvalu.


Representatives of Luxembourg and Japan also spoke, as did the Secretary-General of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat, a representative of the European Union and the Director-General of the Australian Agency for International Development.


Representatives of the Climate Institute and the Mauritius Council of Social Services and Nature Conservancy spoke for civil society.


Interactive Thematic Dialogue


Peter David, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Grenada, chaired the afternoon’s dialogue on “Regional perspectives of the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States”.  The panellists were Arvin Boolell, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade of Mauritius; Tuiloma Neroni Slade, Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat; and Len Ishmael, Director-General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.


Mr. DAVID opened the dialogue by saying that, given their prevailing economic difficulties, most small island States needed more financial resources, assistance to improve energy security and efficiency, as well as effective coordination and stronger regional and international support for the Barbados Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy.


Mr. BOOLELL spoke on behalf of the AIMS group, which covers island States in the following oceans and seas: Atlantic Ocean (Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe); Indian Ocean (Bahrain, Comoros, Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles); Mediterranean Sea (Cyprus, Malta); and the South China Sea (Singapore).  He said many small island States were in a “debt trap” which had resulted in increased poverty, and many relied too heavily on trade preferences.  For example, Mauritius sent 70 per cent of its exports to the European Union.  The reduced purchasing power of many of the buyer nations had had a devastating impact on the island States, which needed more funding, access to affordable and locally adapted technology to foster a green economy, increased South-South cooperation, the development of a vulnerability-resilience index, and the creation of a specific category to enhance advocacy for small island developing States.


He called for the establishment of a global institutional architecture to give those States a voice; a dedicated window for climate adaptation, under the Global Environment Facility for example; a common communications strategy and designated focal points to strengthen networking; and a monitoring and evaluation system.  There was a need to identify mechanisms for regional and interregional collaboration to implement the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, and better structures for that purpose, including an annual meeting of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).


Mr. SLADE discussed the situation in the 14 Pacific small island developing States, which were multilingual and culturally diverse.  While the Mauritius Strategy provided a platform, the Pacific Plan guided its practical integration and implementation.  That Plan, which focused on establishing regional policymaking and decision-making in sustainable development, as well as annual reporting, monitoring and evaluation, had led to significant advances in the last five years in such key areas as transport, energy, climate change, information and communications technology and ocean management.  However, the lack of good data and resource management were common concerns.


The Pacific Plan helped development partners better understand the region and where best to focus their efforts, he said.  It was supported by the Cairns Compact, which aimed to strengthen development coordination and effectiveness, and to expedite the Pacific States’ achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.  Everyone must acknowledge the vulnerabilities of small island States — small size, narrow resource and export base and limited capacity — and the particular challenges the faced due to their geographic isolation, notably in trade, transport and high import and fuel costs, as well as sea-level rise, storm surges and exposure to natural disasters.


He said the Pacific Plan addressed those vulnerabilities, focusing on human security, better sea and air transport infrastructure, energy security and fisheries and ocean management.  There remained a need for improved access to international financing, more partnerships among small island developing States, stronger development coordination, improved coordination and engagement with the United Nations and a sustained focus on national efforts and outcomes.


Ms. ISHMAEL noted the disappearance of the benevolent colonial relationship between small island States and their colonial capitals, characterized by ODA and special and differential trade schemes enabling the former colonies to trade, modernize their societies and invest in socio-economic infrastructure.  A new set of market-based, trade liberalization rules had replaced the previous relationship, devastating long-standing Caribbean industries.  Moreover, growing security issues were diverting much needed socio-economic funding to the fight against drug-trafficking.


She said South-South cooperation was fast becoming an important development tool in the Caribbean, but the resulting graduation of small island States to middle-income or upper-income status had stripped them of access to concessionary financing to support development.  Caribbean island States accounted for 12 of the world’s 16 most highly indebted countries, with debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratios ranging from 65 per cent to 180 per cent, as well as 10 of the 14 most vulnerable countries, according to the United Nations Vulnerability Index.  One hurricane could wipe out more than two years worth of GDP, forcing Governments to borrow even more, as had been the case with Grenada.  No amount of “transition time” would allow a Caribbean island State to compete in trade with an industrialized nation.


Small island States needed aid disproportionate to their economic size and instruments tailored to their unique vulnerabilities, she continued.  That would include a special line of credit for immediate draw-down in cases of natural disasters, as well as concessionary funds for the private sector to take advantage of trade agreements, trade rules that were more developmental in scope, special debt-relief packages, a voice in negotiations on international standards and rules, support for developing local industries and their exports, and technology transfer.


DAVIDSON HEPBURN, President of thirty-fifth session of the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), took the floor to emphasize that increased financial aid must go hand in hand with more efficient, coordinated use of available funding, in line with the specific priorities of small island States.  Actions must be designed to allow them to address growing global challenges by relying on local cultural heritage, knowledge and societal structures.  Education and science had a central role in increasing national capacities to adapt to climate change, he said, adding that UNESCO was developing a climate change education initiative for that purpose.


In the ensuing discussion, delegates expressed hope that the upcoming climate change conference in Mexico would end with the formation of a global accord calling for a specific institutional framework for small island States.  They called for maintaining grants and concessionary loans for States that had graduated to middle-income status and for granting waivers to those that had lost their trade preferences.  One speaker said that, since the economies of newly declared middle-income countries could collapse due to extreme weather events, they must be helped to rebuild.  Key financial institutions such as the World Bank should explore options for setting up a climate-risk mechanism for that purpose.


Participants stressed that small island States lacked the money to create private insurance mechanisms, and therefore needed international support as well as technology transfer, particularly in renewable energy and other important areas of sustainable development.  One speaker said there were opportunities for sharing best practices in terms of insurance schemes, as well as in renewable energy, green technology and other areas.  In addition, Governments should make use of local knowledge for sustainable development purposes.


Making interventions this afternoon were the representatives of Algeria, Comoros, Venezuela, Mauritius, Dominica, Tuvalu, Jamaica, Cuba and the Maldives.


Also speaking were representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Plac21 International.


Closing Plenary


ASHA-ROSE MIGIRO, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, said the review meeting had reflected the renewed commitment of small island developing States to address their vulnerabilities and build resilience through sustainable development, and the international community’s continuing determination to support that endeavour.  It was encouraging to hear the action-oriented suggestions.  The Meeting had reaffirmed the need for the international community to continue to address the unique and particular vulnerabilities of small island States.


She said substantial progress had been made in implementing the Mauritius Strategy, which was directly linked to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  However, economic, environmental and social vulnerabilities had further worsened in the past 10 years, and as a result, economic development and progress in achieving the Goals was threatened by external shocks, including the adverse effects of the global financial, food and fuel crises.  Climate change had further exacerbated those vulnerabilities, leaving the viability and very physical existence of some small island States at stake.  The small island States had demonstrated strong political commitment to continue to do their part in building resilience to their special vulnerabilities, but there was a clear need to bridge gaps in implementation with coordinated and sustainable support from the international community.


Priorities highlighted during the meeting had included defining measurable goals and indicators for monitoring and evaluation, she said, and strengthening capacities for data collection and analysis; scaling up resources made available to small island States, including for meeting new challenges; enhancing strategic partnerships, especially at the regional level and within the United Nations system; strengthening South-South cooperation, including among small island States; and placing special focus on such areas as climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity, natural disasters, sustainable energy, transport and trade, fisheries, tourism, finance and debt sustainability.


Highly vulnerable small island States faced a number of practical challenges but were often not eligible for special financing or other resources, she pointed out, adding that today’s discussion had highlighted the need to develop a vulnerability index for them.  Middle-income small islands faced special challenges in the absence of international support measures.  Participants in the discussions had felt that consideration should be given to exploring formal United Nations recognition of small island developing States, to be tied to preferential treatment and access to concessionary financing, debt relief, trade, special programmes and development assistance.


The review had also highlighted shortcomings in institutional support for small island States and constraints to the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy and the Barbados Programme of Action, she said.  A comprehensive review of the Strategy and concrete recommendations for action were needed.  “The issues facing small island developing States are truly global issues that affect us all.  Let us work together to achieve in small island developing States a model of sustainable development with lessons and benefits for all.”


Acting without a vote, the Assembly then adopted the “Outcome Document of the High-Level Review Meeting on the Implementation of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States” (document A/65/L.2).


JOSEPH DEISS (Switzerland), President of the General Assembly, said in closing remarks that the sustainable development of small island developing States was inextricably linked to the sustainable development of all States.  There was only one planet and the international community must preserve it in order to live in harmony.  It was to be hoped that Member States would work together towards that end, thus showing a common vision.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.