Opening Remarks for the Steering Committee on Partnerships for Small Island Developing States

Opening Remarks by Ms. Fekitamoeloa Katoa‘Utoikamanu, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States

9 June 2020 
New York, USA

Ladies and gentlemen,

I warmly welcome you all to this Steering Committee meeting on partnerships for Small Island Developing States.

I really must extend my gratitude to the Co-Chairs, Ambassador Webson and Frazier, for your great efforts to bring us together during these complex and rapidly evolving times. Of course, there is a lot of short- term and reactive response these days, plans change left, right and center.

So, it is great to see how you the co-chairs have continued to actively pursue tangible opportunities for the SIDS from this forum.

I would like to appreciate the leadership of the former co-chairs, Amb Geraldine Nason, and Amb Lois Young over the past two years.

I think none of us at the start of the year imagined how the first half of 2020 would turn out. It is an understatement to say we now work with changed circumstances. 

More than ever, partnerships for and with SIDS are crucial. 

COVID-19 already has impacted and will do so for quite a while on all priority areas of SIDS. Be it the debt crisis, the economy, social needs and human security, and climate action. The list is long!

New and still emerging challenges are now intertwined with the old ones.

More than ever a sustainable and inclusive development affording all a life in dignity has to be at the center of our efforts. When you look at projections how many people potentially now can fall back into extreme poverty, we need to move beyond fear to action.

We can already see several opportunities for sharing lessons already learned and best practices. For example, how do you close and open economies safely to further sustainable development in all of its dimensions.  

SIDS and partner countries find themselves at different phases of the pandemic, and therefore also different stages of economic reopening.

While of course each situation is unique, there are some common threads and  your evolving knowledge and experience is  crucial for SIDS to emerge from the current crisis. But not just to emerge short- term but to do so with a view on realizing their priorities, in particular the 2030 Agenda, the SAMOA Pathway and the Paris Climate agreements.

This is not a time to pause. This is a time to adopt new ways of working.

Let us be creative and use virtual meetings to bring new partners and initiatives to the table. Let us involve much more actively SIDS practitioners and decision makers. It can be very cost- effective and allow for much more participation than often costly physical meetings. Let us take a page from the global medical community.


Allow me now to turn to a key topic for SIDS - oceans. 

All of us are too aware how our oceans are so severely affected by the climate crisis, over-fishing, pollution and biodiversity loss. Imagine, a recent deep dive into the Mariana Trench found plastic bags at the deepest to humankind known ocean depth! SIDS are land and ocean and we must rapidly scale up existing, new and transformative ocean partnerships.

Last year, OHRLLS hosted a high-level dialogue on ocean partnerships for SIDS  at the margins of the Our Ocean Conference, in Oslo.  

There, President Tommy Remengesau Jr. of Palau underscored the importance of SIDS partnerships and the role of the SIDS GBN in driving partnerships to match countries and regions with interested and willing partners.

I am pleased to share that we have a work programme for the SIDS-GBN to strengthen the role of the private sector in the implementation of sustainable development priorities of SIDS. I am equally pleased to share with you that the 2020 SIDS Global Business Network Forum will convene with the theme “Ocean partnerships for SIDS” . This will take place during the Our Ocean Conference in Palau in December.  

The Forum will provide a platform for governments, private sector, and knowledge institutions to explore and build  new opportunities and forge new partnerships with SIDS.

Leading up to the Forum, OHRLLS will reach out to the private sector through series of webinars focusing on the ocean sector . This will be done in close consultation with the Steering Committee.

As part of the SIDS GBN project, OHRLLS will develop a knowledge product looking at private sector engagement and partnerships in SIDS. The knowledge product will be published to provide an assessment of trends of current levels of private sector engagement in SIDS.

Additionally, the knowledge product is intended to support capacity development in SIDS and serve as a guidance for SIDS stakeholders,on how to engage with the business community. It is all about how to develop, establish and manage partnerships locally. This would not have been possible without the generous contribution we have received from the Government of Denmark and the Government of Ireland to further the work of the SIDS GBN. Thank you so much!

Last but certainly not least, OHRLLS in cooperation with UN-DESA stands ready to support the Steering Committee and the co-chairs in implementing the programme of work for this year. I hope today’s discussions and the follow-up activities will pursue creative and innovative solutions. Solutions based on strong partnerships where all will benefit from joining forces so that we make sure not to leave the peoples of the SIDS behind.

Thank you.