Statement by
Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury

Under-Secretary-General & High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States and Secretary-General of the Mauritius International Meeting for the Review of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of the Small Island Developing States

Item 4 of the CSD-12 Agenda Preparations for an International Meeting for the Review of the Implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action

New York. 14 April 2004

Mr. Chairman,
Dear colleague Jose Antonio Ocampo,
Distinguished delegates,
Colleagues of the UN system and other IGOs,
Friends from the Non-Governmental Organizations,

1. Introduction

It is with great pleasure that I take the floor in my capacity as the Secretary-General of the Mauritius International Meeting and convey to all of you my warm greetings and a cordial welcome.

This morning, with the opening of the open-ended Preparatory Committee for the Mauritius International Meeting for the ten-year review of the Barbados Programme of Action, we are commencing the most important process in the preparations of the substantive outcome documents to be adopted later this year in September. Your positive engagement in this process and genuine commitment to the development objectives of the Small Island Developing States will ensure the success of the Mauritius Meeting. In this context, we are privileged to have the leadership of our dynamic Chairman, the Environment Minister of Norway, Mr. Borge Brende, whose keen interest in a worthwhile outcome in Mauritius is well-known to us. My special thanks to my colleague Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs for his introduction of the Report of the Secretary-General on the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action that will serve as an excellent input and an analytical background for the work that lies ahead.

The Barbados Programme of Action, as crafted in 1994, is indeed a comprehensive document that outlines the problems facing the Small Island Developing States. The General Assembly mandated the upcoming Mauritius International Meeting to undertake a full and comprehensive review of the implementation of the Barbados Programme, as called for in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation. In the course of our work for the Mauritius outcome, I would like to underscore particularly that the General Assembly resolution 58/213 decided that “the International Meeting will seek a renewed political commitment by the international community and will focus on practical actions for the further implementation of the Programme of Action, taking into consideration new and emerging issues, challenges and situations since the adoption of the Programme of Action”. It is absolutely important that we keep this specific decision in focus in our work in the coming days and months. I would highlight specially the reference to the “renewed political commitment” and the “focus on practical actions”.

The Mauritius Meeting will examine as to why there have been serious shortfalls in the implementation of the Programme in the last ten years, and why matters have not advanced after the five-year review in 1999 carried out by the 22nd special session of the General Assembly. In addition, it is necessary to incorporate concrete actions with regard to new and emerging issues, like HIV/AIDS, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), security and market access. South-South cooperation should also figure prominently in the efforts to promote sustainable development of Small Island Developing States.

The main questions before us today are: How can the International Meeting in Mauritius make a positive difference in promoting the welfare and well-being of the women, men and children in the SIDS? How can the SIDS gain the support, genuine commitment and political will of all partners to make substantive headway in implementing the Barbados Programme? The positive contributions of all stakeholders and members of the international community will be crucial in this regard.

2. The preparatory process

The Small Island Developing States, under the aegis of the Alliance of Small Island States or AOSIS, led so ably by Ambassador Jagdish Koonjul of Mauritius, have been intensely engaged in preparations for the International Meeting. Regional level preparatory meetings in Cape Verde, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago and the Seychelles have culminated in the SIDS Inter-regional Meeting held in January this year in Nassau, the Bahamas – the outcome of which will be submitted as the Group of 77 and China Strategy Paper to this preparatory meeting as the main working document for the Mauritius outcome.

As we commence our substantive work, it is very important to bear in mind that our consultations in New York should attempt to reach agreement, albeit informally, on most of the outcome document. Possibly only two or three major points may wait for the political decision at the International Meeting. Given the limited time available for extensive negotiations in Port Louis, reaching such agreement before Mauritius becomes critical for the success of the Meeting. It is heartening to note that informal consultations among delegations have already commenced and already a few sessions have taken place under the able chairmanship of Ambassador Don MacKay of New Zealand as the Facilitator. It is because of these informal consultations and exchange of views that we come to this preparatory meeting in much better shape than we would otherwise have. I take this opportunity to convey my deep appreciation to Ambassador MacKay for his leadership and guidance as well as for the sincere efforts that he is making to move the process ahead. We look forward to his continuing stewardship of the informal process on the way to and in Mauritius.

3. The organization of work for Mauritius

In line with the mandates given by the General Assembly in resolution 58/213, the International Meeting will be hosted by Mauritius this year from 30 August to 3 September. In addition, there is the proposal to hold informal consultations, if considered necessary, in Mauritius on 28 and 29 August preceding the International Meeting.

Besides considering the outcome document of the International Meeting, our work here will be required to approve the provisional agenda for Mauritius and the accreditation of NGOs to the Meeting. I draw your attention to the provisional Rules of Procedure for the International Meeting. In pursuance of the provisional Rules of Procedure, regional groups have endorsed most of their candidates for the 15-member Bureau of the International Meeting whose formal election will take place in Mauritius on 30 August. As the bureaux of the Commission on Sustainable Development and the International Meeting are different, I have urged the candidate countries, which have already been endorsed by their respective regional groups, to get more involved with the work of this preparatory meeting so that their familiarity with and involvement in the issues at stake will make their roles much more effective in Mauritius

4. The nature of the outcome of the International Meeting

In the course of my interactions with member states on the issues before us at the International Meeting, I have been urging them to look ahead, and ponder on the nature of the outcome that they would like to see in Mauritius. I am aware that it is not always easy to narrow down the number of priorities in view of the varying perspectives of member states, and especially the SIDS themselves. But in the final analysis, I feel that it is essential to clearly and jointly identify priorities focussing on the immediate coming years. While there are many priorities, we are all aware that everything cannot be implemented all at once, and hence, the necessity to focus on specific issues.

Among other things, I have also urged that the role of the intergovernmental regional organizations like the Caribbean Community and the Pacific Islands Forum be enhanced in the implementation of the Barbados Programme. They are better placed than other international organizations when it comes to the regional countries. They know the region’s strengths and weaknesses. They know of the region’s capacities and resources. They are also better placed to initiate and push ahead with projects and programmes with the governments of the region. Given the need for effective implementation and its monitoring following the International Meeting, it is necessary to consider what needs to be incorporated in the outcome document with regard to the implementation and its monitoring, particularly by the regional intergovernmental bodies.

One of the greatest problems of many of the Small Island Developing States is their small size and minuscule populations. When we factor in remoteness, the viability of many critical projects become questionable. This situation discourages external involvement and financing. One of the ways that this handicap can be addressed would be to establish regional programmes with national components. Regional organizations can then put together and provide justifications for viability and resource allocations. They will also be in a better position to negotiate resources with development partners and multilateral financial institutions.

I am of the opinion that the International Meeting should advocate a more dynamic monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the Mauritius outcome. I believe that a proactive -- and exhortative -- monitoring system especially at the all levels is a must if we want results. This approach to monitoring requires that shortfalls in implementation be expeditiously identified on a periodic, if not on an annual basis. Solutions should then be suggested and implementation pushed forward, while identifying the actors who will be responsible for initiating the revamped process.

In the course of our preparations, I have highlighted the role of the private sector and civil society including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the implementation of the Mauritius outcome. And in any development efforts or human endeavour, we must continue to emphasize the roles and critical contributions that women and youth can and will have to make. Our substantive work here and in Mauritius must reflect these aspects in a clear manner.

5. Conclusion

In conclusion, let me reiterate what the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation said: “The Small Island Developing Countries are a special case both for environment and development.” No single group of countries is as vulnerable as these small islands and that places them at a distinct disadvantage compared to other developing countries. This more than anything else makes it incumbent on the international community to recognize the unique vulnerabilities of the Small Island Developing States and to engage their support to sustainable development efforts of these countries within this context.

If the Mauritius Meeting is to have a meaningful outcome that has the maximum support of the international community, it is essential that all stakeholders participate enthusiastically in, and contribute to, the preparatory process. The spirit of partnership is the most important ingredient in making the outcome worthwhile and its realization possible. The international community, equipped with the lessons of the last ten years, now needs to come together to support – in real terms – the genuine aspirations of the Small Island Developing States and their determined efforts for a new resurgence in Mauritius to bring true benefit and progress for the women, men and children of this most vulnerable segment of humanity. Only that way, the big potential of small islands can be realized.

I wish the PrepCom all success in its work.