Here in New York people often think I am of Spanish or Arab descent, and speak to me in Spanish or Arabic. When I respond by saying I am Samoan, their faces give away a slight smile of confusion and I know instantly that they have no idea where in the world you would find this country – Samoa.
A nation inhabited by approximately 190,000 people, this beautiful small island nestled in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, was fortunate to host the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in September 2014. When the decision to host the conference was agreed back in 2012, it was not known that the event would be the largest of its kind to be held in the Pacific, and a mammoth task to be taken up by the small nation of Samoa.
This was the beginning of a great story for this island nation, as the conference not only showcased Samoa to the world, but also strengthened relations between Member States, civil society and UN entities. And I was fortunate to be part of that story.
The Secretary-General of the conference and UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Mr. Wu Hongbo, characterized the summit as “extraordinary.” And indeed it was to everyone involved. I was seconded from the Samoan Government to work with DESA on conference preparations. A rewarding and educational experience, the most inspiring aspect has been the outstanding team-work and dedication by everyone involved.
For the entire nation of Samoa, it was a great privilege to host the conference. The Prime Minister, Hon. Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi conveyed hishope that every participant would leave Samoa with a sense of what it feels like to be a small island developing state in a global arena of competing priorities and demands. Indeed, that is how I now identify myself – I am from a small island developing state and have now taken on board a whole new experience of working at the United Nations.
Working together and building partnerships is crucial. In fact, its theme – “the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States through genuine and durable partnerships” is the basis on which the conference succeeded. There were 297 partnerships announced in Samoa, and DESA has taken on the responsibility of monitoring progress to ensure that pledges made are achieved.
The conference outcome – the SAMOA Pathway – spells out the vulnerabilities of SIDS and what needs to be addressed in a number of areas. Given the huge momentum of goodwill among SIDS and their partners, the outcome document will be the blueprint for SIDS sustainable development, now and the foreseeable future.
William Nickel, Programme Officer – SIDS, Office of the Under-Secretary-General, Department of Economic and Social Affairs