Remarks by Ambassador Jagdish Koonjul Permanent Representative of Mauritius and Chairman of AOSIS at the Forum of Small States, Washington D.C.,
October 3, 2004
I have been asked to speak on the priority actions which need to be taken by small states and their partners for a successful SIDS meeting. I would however also like to touch upon actions which we all need to take in order to ensure that the outcome of the Mauritius International Meeting is indeed fully implemented and does not suffer the same fate as many other Programmes.
With regard to the IM, I must say that both at the level of the Host Government and the Alliance of Small Island States, the preparations have reached a very advanced stage. In Mauritius, a brand new Conference Centre is now ready, all the logistics are getting into place and a second UN planning mission is going to be visiting Mauritius from 24 to 29 October to finalize the arrangements. The Prime Minister of Mauritius is personally monitoring the preparations and is very keen to make this meeting a success. In this regard he has recently written to the Heads of State and Government of all UN members inviting them to attend the meeting. He is particularly interested in having the highest level participation from all countries specially from the SIDS since their presence in high numbers would send an important signal to our partners in terms of the importance which SIDS attach to the issues that will be discussed.
At the level of AOSIS, the Strategy document adopted by SIDS ministers at the Bahamas interregional meeting was endorsed by the Group of 77 and China and is now the basis of negotiations with the development partners. We have already had 2 rounds of informal negations, the first one in April, the second one in May and we shall be having the third informal round on the 7th, 8th, and 11th of this month. Ambassador Don Mackay of New Zealand is the facilitator and I must say that there is a general feeling that we have made considerable progress during the first two rounds. At the beginning there was some skepticism about the strategy document and there were some who even suggested that we should discard the document completely and try to come with a new one which as they said would deal with some priority issues. But right after the first round it was clear that the partners were very willing to engage discussions on the Strategy paper and so far they have not called for another document. The facilitator is equally satisfied with the progress made.
SIDS have basically identified five main reasons for the poor implementation of the BPOA which they now seek to redress during the review exercise. These are :-
While we all agree that that the outcome of the MIM should be more focused and action oriented, we as SIDS believe that placing emphasis on some issues at the expense of the others would not result in real sustainable development. SIDS are convinced that unless we take a holistic approach to development as outlined by the BPOA and reinforced by the current review document, where we also seek to incorporate the MDGs, we will not be able to achieve sustainable development which for SIDS is the only option for reasons that are well known. And for this to happen we need to first ensure that all relevant parts of our government structures are cooperating in an integrated and holistic manner. We have numerous examples of best practices in this regard in many SIDS where national sustainable development councils and commissions have been set up and where team approaches are used under certain international conventions. Second, this integration must be driven by and respond to a national sustainable development strategy. But the message is clear – SIDS are committed to sustainable development and we are determined to implement the mechanisms and strategies that will get us there.
Sustainable development is therefore the priority for SIDS and that makes it impossible to overlook any of the fourteen sectors which the BPOA has already identified as priority sectors for SIDS. To these we must also add the new and emerging issues such as HIV and AIDS, Trade and Security, all of which are affecting SIDS in a considerable manner.
The BPOA and the Strategy document both strongly reaffirm the need for partnerships at all levels in order to increase amongst other things their institutional capacity. Regional and inter-regional linkages among SIDS, as well as stronger linkages with our international development partners and organizations are crucial for SIDS.Regionalism is already a strong influence in SIDS, but is expressed with some variations across our regions. The Pacific region has a well-established network of regional organizations, each with relatively distinct fields of responsibility all very properly coordinated by the Council of Regional Organizations in the Pacific (CROP).
In the Caribbean region there is a greater diffusion of such responsibilities with ECLAC having the responsibility for monitoring the implementation of the Barbados Program of Action, OECS providing technical assistance and CARICOM where advocacy responsibilities are assumed by Ministers for different issues.
In the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Seas region, the situation is different in view of the distances and specificities of the countries. While the IOC serves its Members in a variety of functions, there is some gap as to the number of countries served. Some work is in progress to see the extent to which the IOC, as an intergovernmental organization, could serve the interests of the other countries in the region for the purposes of the review of the BPOA.
The role of these IGOs is very crucial in ensuring a successful outcome and in its successful implementation.
SIDS are also looking at other avenues to promote further regional and inter-regional linkages. One example is the strong support for the SIDS Universities consortium currently being developed by the University of the West Indies, the University of the South Pacific, the University of Malta, the University of Mauritius and the University of the Virgin Islands. Students in Mauritius would thus be able to take climate change courses from Fiji, or economic vulnerability courses from Malta, without leaving Mauritius, and still getting appropriate credit for the course. The consortium would allow our students and our academics to cooperate and to ensure that capacity within SIDS as a group is better utilized. And we would ensure that our graduates would have a much better and more appropriate SIDS-leaning education.
Given this pivotal role that could be played by SIDS-based universities, the strong endorsement of the SIDS Universities Consortium could indeed result in strengthening the pool of professionals, researchers and consultants, which in turn would lead to more scientific research and applications within SIDS.
We will evidently continue to require assistance from our development partners in capacity building. These however should not be, as they are in most cases mere surveys of capacity building needs. We need dedicated training and support mechanisms that do not attempt to push us through the mould of one-size fits-all that is rampant in current practice.
In the areas of Science and technology, there is clearly a deficit in the SIDS. With their small economies and low resources, SIDS find it extremely difficult to access SIDS appropriate technologies which they require in the various areas such as waste management, water, energy. We are expecting partners to facilitate the access to such technologies. And in this regard the idea of creating a science and technology fund is being proposed by SIDS. SIDS have also recently organised a Science and Technology workshop in Singapore during which many technologies which are being developed in SIDS were highlighted. These technologies cover important areas such as waste water recycling, fuel production from coconuts, and scavenging wells. They will need to be disseminated and other SIDS may be able to benefit from them.
The lack of resources has been identified as the single most important reason for the poor implementation of the BPOA. SIDS will expect development partner to renew and increase their commitment to assist SIDS in their efforts for sustainable development. There may be a tendency to link the BPOA review with other global processes such as the MDG, the Monterrey and the JPOI and SIDS are not opposed to that. However what is important is for the development partners to recognise the special case of SIDS which warrants special attention. In other words if we are to level down on the basis of the MDG for example we will find that the majority of the SIDS are at a stage where they be denied assistance on account of their level of progress.
What we need therefore is a meaningful partnership with the development partners where our specific concerns are addressed.
SIDS recognise that ODA alone is not going to be sufficient. They also recognise that because of their vulnerabilities SIDS need to build their resilience. In the circumstances SIDS feel that they should be allowed to carry out sufficient volumes of trade to be able to raise our own revenues. Apart from fair trading practices SIDS should also benefit from profits made from their products by intermediaries on the world market. For example the Pacific countries only obtain a mere fraction of the actual price at which their tuna is ultimately sold. Were they given a better share of the profits their requirement of ODA could decrease considerably.
Fair trade for SIDS requires that the anomalies resulting from colonial mono-crop predominance, often replaced by mono-service tourism, be adjusted by giving SIDS the necessary policy space to allow diversification and investigation of possible new niche markets. In the short term this will require some capacity building as well as some degree of special or differential treatment. We also contend that SIDS will require assistance in crafting necessary trade policies having regard to the complex development and adjustment considerations at global, regional and national levels. Indeed SIDS are not adequately endowed to reap the full benefits of trade liberalization while coping with the disruptive effects of rapidly opening trade regimes. This is true in all trade-related development and adjustment areas.
Special and differential treatment therefore emerges as an absolute necessity for SIDS in view of the intrinsic disadvantages that small states have to contend with in the global trading, and the consequent need for special policies, mechanisms, and modalities to “compensate” them.
Special and differential treatment is no panacea. The need for such treatment arises out of certain intrinsic features of SIDS, whose significance will probably decline if development is truly global and broad-based and should therefore be a potentially transitional measure.
We are also in dire need of appropriate and sufficient investment to create new jobs and markets. Very little of foreign direct investment on a global scale went to SIDS. Increased uncertainty in global markets as a result of broader international factors over which SIDS have no control and which is reflected in the slowdown of services (tourism) in some areas is an important factor. The persistent decline in real agricultural commodity prices is hurting agricultural producers in all SIDS. There is also the perception of increased risk for private transfers when dealing with small countries, particularly SIDS. Since 2001 we have also seen significant increases in government expenditures on security. These factors and others are disproportionately affecting SIDS, especially when taken in combination.
During the informal consultations development partners have acknowledged the particular concerns of SIDS and have shown a willingness to address the issue of trade. It is our hope that such acknowledgement will translate into concrete support in the appropriate form to obtain the necessary changes and concessions.Sustainable development of SIDS can only be achieved through a true partnership with development partners. In view of their size and finite resources SIDS can indeed be a microcosm for other countries in our global quest for development that can be sustained bearing in mind the need to prevent global environmental degradation. That is why partners and SIDS must work together. Highest level participation in the MIM is therefore a prerequisite for its success. We all must remind ourselves that this is in a meeting on SIDS and not one on of SIDS. Development partners, small islands, as well as members of the wider international community should make a special effort to be present at the meeting at the highest level.