Multidimensional Vulnerability Index
All countries are vulnerable. But all in different ways.
On the frontline of multiple world crises – including climate change and debt - the most vulnerable countries face chronic structural challenges that are becoming more interconnected and intense over time.
They rely on external financing to help prepare and recover from these crises. For some, such as SIDS, response to disasters is more expensive for SIDS. Debt is more expensive to service. Infrastructure is more expensive. Overseas Development Assistance from partner countries doesn’t stretch as far.
Most SIDS are not the poorest nations: but their costs are so much greater – and accessing financing is more difficult.
Their relative income makes them ineligible for the cheaper finance set aside for lowest income countries. And how that external financing is apportioned by International Financial Institutions like the World Bank does not take into account their vulnerability to these very crises.
They are caught in a Catch-22.
These small island nations have repeatedly said that traditional measures of development insufficiently capture their vulnerabilities. For example, GNI per capita measures the income of a country but that does not tell us how much it costs to handle major threats like catastrophic sudden weather events or the cost of servicing old debts.
And since Gross National Income (GNI) is the primary measurement for the allocation of concessional financing for developing countries, it is the wrong tool for the job.
Moving beyond traditional measures of need.
Moving beyond GNI demands we build better ways to measure a country's vulnerability to shocks – and that the entire international community gets on board with this new measurement so that SIDS can consistently and uniformly define their needs.
SIDS have the smallest carbon footprint but find themselves in the biggest trouble. SIDS are responsible for only 0.2% of the global carbon emission and yet suffer most from the impact of climate change.
It is time the world listened to the voices of small island states.
The Multidimensional Vulnerability Index.
Because of their very vulnerability, it is often the SIDS who lead the global conversation on the climate crisis and sustainable development. For three decades, they have been leading calls for the formulation of a form of measurement that truly recognises ecological and economic vulnerability.
The United Nations is working with SIDS on the development – and implementation – of a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI). An MVI with global buy-in will give us more data, and a better understanding of the climate puzzle we are all scrambling to solve.
When it comes to financing, debt relief and aid the use of unsuitable, outdated, simplistic GNI measurements unfairly lock out SIDS from accessing the help they need. A multidimensional vulnerability index has the potential to ensure truly inclusive sustainable development.
The MVI is not an academic exercise: it is a vital tool to help small island nations gain access to the concessional financing that they need to survive the climate catastrophe, to improve their long-term national planning, service their debts, and sign up to insurance and compensation schemes that may be their last hope when the waters rise.
In an increasingly volatile and unpredictable world, what future do these islands have without measures that do not fully recognise and respond to competing and growing vulnerabilities? Without an MVI that shows in a data-driven manner how some countries are more vulnerable than others, SIDS’ ability to withstand pandemics, economic shocks, disasters, and climate change will be lost.