Excellency the Prime Minister,
Minister for Health and Environment Dr. Bethel
Distinguished President of the United Nations General Assembly,
Chairman of the Alliance of the Small Island States,
Chairman of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development,
My dear colleague Under-Secretary-General Ocampo
Heads of international organisations
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Indeed, it is a great pleasure to participate at this important
Interregional Meeting of the three regional groups of the
Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The SIDS strategy
that will be adopted at Nassau will be the main working
document for the preparatory committee meeting in April
in New York, finally culminating in the outcome of the International
Meeting in Mauritius from 30 August to 3 September.
with me the warm greetings of Secretary-General Kofi Annan
to all of you and convey his best wishes for the success
of this Ministerial-level gathering.
this opportunity to thank the Government and people of the
Bahamas for the hospitality that they are extending to us
in these sparkling islands of the Caribbean. I am confident
that your warmth will contribute immensely to our working
atmosphere and, of course, to a most meaningful outcome.
Bahamas is a leading member of the Alliance of Small Island
States. The progress that this country has made in economic
development has been impressive. I believe that other SIDS
can learn from the many good examples and practices that
the Bahamas has to offer.
heartened by the presence of so many high-level delegations
from the SIDS. The importance of this Meeting is also evident
from the participation of many representatives from the
international community - the development partners, the
multilateral financial institutions, regional and subregional
bodies, members of the Group of 77 and China including its
Chairman, civil society, NGOs and private sector. Your presence
demonstrates the interest and attention you pay to the sustainable
development objectives of the Small Island Developing States.
Secretary-General of the Mauritius International Meeting,
it will be my endeavour not only to facilitate the organisation
and overall coordination of that Meeting and its preparatory
process as well as to ensure effective participation of
SIDS members, but also to assist in every possible way the
adoption of a worthwhile outcome in Port Louis. I believe
that the success of a conference determined by its outcome
- a document that is implementable and not just a well-intentioned
a decade ago, the Barbados Programme of Action remains the
principled international instrument addressing the sustainable
development issues of SIDS. Since then, new issues have
emerged that affect their development prospects and therefore
need reflection in the Mauritius outcome.
the efforts made by the Small Island Developing States,
the expectations for international cooperation for the implementation
of Barbados have not materialized. International resources
to implement the Barbados Programme, as evident from the
outcome of the five-year review in 1999, have fallen severely
short of those expectations. Not only that but the overall
disbursement of international assistance to SIDS has fallen
from $2.3 billion in 1994 to $1.7 billion in 2002. Though
the Millennium Declaration, the Monterrey Consensus and
the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation recognised the special
needs of SIDS, international support to these countries
has been minimal. As we engage ourselves in the ten-year
review of the Barbados Programme, prospects for enhanced
international development assistance are not significant
in any way. Hence, a greater degree of realism is called
for in the exercise we are embarking upon, especially for
the priorities that the SIDS intend to set for themselves.
Importantly, we have to determine what worked against the
effective and speedy implementation of the Barbados Programme.
this sombre backdrop, I am happy to note that many SIDS
have introduced domestic reforms in macroeconomic policy
to facilitate their integration into the global economy.
At the regional level, SIDS have made advances in putting
into place appropriate policy frameworks and arrangements
to integrate their economic, social and environmental approaches
to a sustainable development focus. These actions will undoubtedly
help them to maximize the opportunities available to them.
In order to restart the implementation of the Barbados commitments,
it might be useful to enhance the focus on priorities in
the areas of environment, trade, finance, governance and
capacity-building - all through strengthened partnership
and genuine cooperation. At the same time, we need to address
the new issues that impact on the development prospects
of the SIDS. I have in mind particularly the threat of HIV/AIDS
and the potentials of information technology (IT). Market
access and security issues for SIDS are also to be addressed.
me elaborate a bit on these emerging issues.
HIV/AIDS is making rapid inroads into the regions of the
Small Island Developing States. Effective programmes - at
national and regional levels - to contain this menacing
disease must be urgently taken up. I would like to praise
here the wonderful initiatives undertaken by a group of
men and women, referred to as "change agents"
(from both public and private sectors and civil society
organizations), who, across the Caribbean region, are helping
people at risk of contracting the virus stay safe and working
to overcome stigmas against people living with HIV/AIDS.
and prudent use of information technology will go a long
way in reducing isolation of remote islands, enable them
to deal more effectively with a host of constraints particularly
in the areas of trade, development, health, education, security
and technology transfer.
problems of remoteness, difficulties of transportation,
a single or a narrow range of exportable products due to
a lack of economies of scale, contrast sharply with their
import needs of oil, food and other goods. SIDS no doubt
need and should seek special and differential treatment
for their export products. Exporters and transporters to
SIDS, especially of energy-related products, should be approached
to grant preferential treatment to reduce costs. After the
WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancun, negotiations towards
these ends will need a lot more political will and effort
within the international community. But, most importantly,
the SIDS need to strategise in the context of their group
solidarity to reach that goal.
issues arising out of the threat of terrorism have been
of increasing concern to SIDS, particularly when tourism
is a major contributor to their economies. These countries
are little prepared to deal with this global scourge. They
need resources and technical assistance to help them tackle
this growing menace.
smallness and the remoteness of the SIDS continue to pose
serious problem in providing international aid and enhancing
foreign investments. Projects and programmes in many cases
are not viable when targeted for specific countries. However,
when SIDS band together to integrate their economies and
meet common challenges, many of the social, economic and
human development projects and programmes could prove viable
and yield better results. I therefore urge the small island
developing countries to increase their efforts to hasten
the pace of regional economic integration.
more foreign direct investment to take advantage of the
economic potentials of the SIDS and strengthen the hands
of the domestic private sector is easier said than done.
The inherent handicaps of SIDS, particularly small population,
lack of technological sophistication and narrow resource
base, pose obstacles in competing for the foreign direct
investment (FDI) necessary to avail themselves of opportunities
offered by the globalization process. Globalization is based
on opportunities for cost reduction and economies of scale,
which small islands cannot easily offer. Special and creative
ways and means must be found to attract foreign investments.
I would like to bring to your attention the potential of
South-South cooperation, to enhance the sustainable development
efforts of the SIDS - an opportunity that curiously did
not find any reflection in the Barbados Programme. The recent
High Level Conference on South-South Cooperation held in
Marrakech underscored the need to reflect this aspect in
the Mauritius outcome.
for tangible progress towards full and effective implementation,
it is absolutely necessary that an effective monitoring
system be built into the SIDS strategy. Such a monitoring
system should be also an integral part of the Mauritius
deliberations, and while preparing the outcome of this Meeting,
I urge you to be realistic and practical in your approach.
While it is tempting to have an all-embracing and comprehensive
document out of the Bahamas and Mauritius, it is also essential
to assess what would genuinely be doable in the immediate
future. It is of little use to have a wonderful document
if the support of the international community is not fully
and enthusiastically behind it. After all, it is the implementation
of the priorities that the International Meeting will establish
that we all want to see taken up with right earnestness.
let me express my concern that the SIDS are continuously
getting marginalised in terms of global attention. In order
to enhance implementation of priorities that the SIDS identify,
I urge development partners to enhance Official Development
Assistance directed towards these countries. I also urge
them and the international financial institutions to enhance
flows of concessional financing through regional and other
multilateral financial institutions to promote the economic
growth and human development and enhance the domestic and
regional capacities of the SIDS. The United Nations system
will continue to be a true partner of the SIDS. Bearing
in mind the diversity of locations of UN entities supporting
SIDS, I believe that for better coordination of their needs,
the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) needs to set
up its chapters in various UN locations.
preparatory process leading to the International Meeting,
we have to be clear that the attainment of the objectives
of Barbados requires a strong spirit of partnership and
cooperation, much more than what has been forthcoming till
now - of the entire international community and the donor
countries in particular. Civil society and the private sector
have also a major role to play. The need for advocacy at
all levels, and especially at the global level, and the
need to raise awareness in the next months leading up to
Mauritius and thereafter, is a critical component of our
the conference in Barbados, our slogan was "Small Islands,
Big Issues". For Mauritius, reflecting today's realities,
I would adjust it to say: "Small Islands, Big Potential".