8 December 2004


Press Briefing

Press conference on smallislands meeting by Secretary-General’s


high representative

Next month’s meeting in Mauritius would seek to increase the international community’s role in addressing escalating trade losses, shortfalls in Official Development Assistance (ODA), the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a record number of natural disasters and other serious situations in small island developing States (SIDS), Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the Secretary-General for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, told a news conference this afternoon.

The environmental vulnerability of these small, remote islands in the Caribbean and Pacific had caused serious infrastructure damage and made it difficult to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of sustainable development and poverty eradication.  As many as 14 major tropical storms in the Caribbean during the latest hurricane season alone had caused $20 billion in economic losses, while rising sea levels in the Pacific region threatened to completely submerge the islands of Nauru, Maldives and Tuvalu.  Yet, their plight received little international attention.  The Annual ODA to small island developing States had dropped from $2.3 billion to $1.7 billion over the last decade.

The International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, scheduled for 10 to 14 January in Mauritius, was intended to seek greater international support and partnerships for small islands’ issues.  “This will be the first time that any United Nations conference will be focusing on the implementation aspect of the outcome document during the conference itself”, Mr. Chowdhury said.

Participants would hammer out an implementation strategy during the first two days of the conference for review by heads of State and heads of government during the event’s high-level segment from 13 to 14 January.  The Prime Minister of Mauritius would open the high-level discussion.  United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, United Nations General Assembly President Jean Ping and as many as 25 SIDS Heads of State and heads of government would also speak.  There would also be two round-table discussions entitled “The Way Forward”.  Participants were expected to shed light on emerging issues of major concern to SIDS, notably preferential trade access, the impact of HIV/AIDS, the high cost of post-9/11 security measures for the tourism industry, and information technology infrastructure development to improve exports and export capacity.

Responding to a correspondent’s question on how his office would mobilize greater support for SIDS’ sustainable development efforts, Mr. Chowdhury said he had secured the participation of two World Bank Vice Presidents, in operations and external relations, during the conference.  The Bank’s involvement in implementing strategies after the conference would be a major positive development.  His office was also working with the International Chamber of Commerce and was pushing hard for the Caribbean Community, the Pacific Island Forum and the Indian Ocean Commission to become much more closely involved in implementation.  In addition, the Mauritius outcome document would be presented at the World Disaster Reduction Conference scheduled for 18 to 22 January in Kobe, Japan.

Regarding how to prevent sea-level rise, he said the problem could not be halted in the short term.  Nauru had arranged with Australia to provide refuge to Nauru inhabitants should their land and homes sink.  Tuvalu had approached New Zealand to do the same.  Maldives was also at risk.  Implementation of the Kyoto Protocol would help the situation, as it would reduce chlorofluorocarbon emissions, but much more concrete and feasible measures were needed, he said.

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For information media. Not an official record.