Small Islands, Big Stakes:
International Meeting to Review the Implementation
of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development
of Small Island Developing States.
A crucial United Nations conference on the future of small island nations worldwide will take place from 10 to 14 January 2005 on the island of Mauritius, in the Indian Ocean. Faced with challenges ranging from hurricanes and climate change to trade losses and threats from HIV/AIDS, small island nations are counting on the Mauritius meeting to present their case to the international community, to seek partnerships and innovative ways to improve their situation.
More than 2,000 participants from the islands, their traditional donor partners and other countries, including some 25 heads of State and Government, are expected to take part in the United Nations International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, which was agreed a decade ago at a Global Conference in Barbados.
The vulnerability of small island nations gained attention in 2004 after hurricanes and major storms devastated Haiti, Grenada and others in the Caribbean region, as well as other island countries in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In an increasingly globalized world, their economies are also highly vulnerable due to both their smallness and their distance from export markets.
“The Mauritius conference provides a critical window of opportunity for the future of small islands,” commented the Secretary-General of the International Meeting, Anwarul K. Chowdhury. “If this occasion to extend the international community's support to small island developing States in their development efforts is not successful, it might take decades before such an opportunity arises again.”
For the forty-plus small island nations, the Mauritius meeting carries big stakes, as they tackle serious threats and seek ways to boost and support their efforts to achieve sustainable development and to improve their inhabitants’ lives. Some of the challenges they face include that:
> climate change's adverse
impacts are already striking islands;
> fragile ecosystems require urgent protection;
> islands need more market access and better terms of trade;
> renewable energy is vital to lessen dependency;
> tourism has to be made more sustainable;
> information technology can reduce isolation;
> island cultures remain an untapped asset;
> diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria must be fought;
> security challenges are a burden;
> and island vulnerabilities have to be overcome.