16 April 2004


According to the United Nations envoy for the world’s poorest countries, despite real progress over the past three days, talks on drafting a global strategy to help small islands overcome the unique challenges they faced would have to continue during the coming months, in preparation for the international meeting to be held from 30 August to 3 September in Mauritius.


Updating correspondents at Headquarters today on the negotiations to shape the outcome documents for the International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Secretary-General of the Meeting, said, while the “mood has been good”, the talks had bogged down over thorny issues such as trade relations, market access, renewable energy sources and proposals for new financing mechanisms.


At the heart of the talks -- being held in New York in connection with the twelfth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development -– is a detailed Strategy Paper for further implementation of the Barbados commitments presented to the Commission earlier in the week by the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.  Though it follows the basic structure of the Barbados Programme and highlights emerging issues, which should be urgently addressed, some delegations have expressed concern that it is overbroad and lacks focus.


Mr. Chowdhury, who is Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said informal negotiations on the two documents -– a plan for further implementation of the Barbados Programme, and a political declaration broadly outlining the basis for international cooperation for the development of small island states –- would continue in May and June, and, if necessary, right to the conference itself.


Concerned, however, that the tight schedule at Mauritius would not allow much time for far-flung talks, he vowed to help delegations maintain the positive spirit generated here in New York so that, by late August, all that would be needed was a “final political push” from top government ministers and heads of State to reach agreement.


Agreement on the way forward was critical, he said, because not much progress had been made since the Barbados Programme of Action had been adopted in 1994, identifying priority areas and necessary actions to address the challenges faced by small islands.  In 1999, a special session of the General Assembly assessed the Programme and called on the international community to provide effective means and financial resources to support the sustainable development of small islands.


The Mauritius meeting is set to examine, among other things, why there had been serious shortfalls in the Programme’s implementation over the past decade, and why matters had not advanced following the Assembly’s five-year review in 1999 to help small islands confront key challenges, including their fragile ecosystems, isolation and economic dependency on just a few export commodities.

Along with focusing on those pressing issues, Mr. Chowdhury hoped the outcome documents would set out a more focused mechanism for monitoring implementation of the Barbados commitments.  The United Nations often engaged in “passive” monitoring of the agreements reached at its international meetings and conferences.  He hoped that delegations in Mauritius would come up with a more proactive monitoring mechanism, so that small islands would not have to wait another five or 10 years to see what progress was being made towards addressing their important concerns.

For information media. Not an official record.