At a critical time for SIDS, we all need a better understanding of vulnerability 

One extreme weather event can wipe out decades of development progress in a Small Island Developing State - and these events are becoming more frequent. 

That’s the sobering perspective from Samoa, whose ambassador to the United Nations, Mr. Fatumanava-o-Upolu III Pa'olelei Luteru, was speaking at a UN-OHRLLS-organised side event to the Ocean Conference. 

The event, " Ocean partnerships and science-based solutions for strengthening sustainable ocean economies in SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs” drew on the experiences of different groups of vulnerable and concluded in one way: the international community needs consensus on how to measure vulnerability in order to better tackle it. 

Co-hosted and moderated by the Portuguese ambassador to the United Nations, Ms. Ana Paula Zacarias, the session focused on the importance of the ocean for all vulnerable states – even Landlocked Developing States who rely on the sea for trade even though they cannot access it directly – and the need for innovation to develop it in a sustainable way. 

The meeting heard how difficult it is for some developing countries to gain access to concessional financing, which is below-market rate finance provided by major financial institutions to developing countries to accelerate development objectives.  

Currently some of the most vulnerable countries to outside shocks, such as extreme weather and pandemics, cannot access these funds because their per capita income puts them above a threshold – even though these disasters can cause damage disproportionate to to their actual national economy. 

Ambassador Walton Webson from Antigua & Barbuda called for a new measurement being proposed by the UN – the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index - to become an effective part of the analysis when it comes to analysing SIDS’ vulnerability and better access to finance. He said that a new kind of partnership is needed to that Small Island Developing States – both as a group and as a set of distinct nations – can address their needs. These need to be true, long-term partnerships and not just seen as short-term projects by the international community. 

Mr. Ignasi Ferrer, President and CEO of Seastainability Ventures and Senior Executive at World Ocean Council, talked about the need for the creation of coalitions to share learnings, best practices and access to technologies. 

As the custodian of our Oceans, SIDS need technical, institutional and financial support to benefit from their unparalleled access to the sea. And with 90% of all global trade happening over the seas, even Landlocked Developing Countries are dependent on the ocean.  

The health of our ocean depends on the development of skills, knowledge and partnerships of those countries closest to, and dependent on, our waters to develop it in a sustainable manner. And a major part of that is the development of a measure of vulnerability to that island communities can prepare and respond to the changing nature of vulnerability.  

As Ambassador Luteru told the room, “The most important part of the MVI is its implementation. We don't want this work to decorate the bookshelf - the whole intention is to help the Least Developed Countries, the Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States."