9 April 2018

United Nations Success in Small Island States a Litmus Test for 2030 Agenda, Deputy Secretary-General Tells Forum, Requiring Progress on Financing

Following are UN Deputy Secretary‑General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the consultative meeting of small island developing States and their development partners, on accelerating the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway at the national, regional and global levels, in New York today:

It is a pleasure to address this consultative meeting on implementing the SAMOA Pathway [Small island developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action] and on the repositioning of the United Nations development system.  These two issues are inextricably linked and at the centre of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in small island developing States.

All of us gathered here have been intimately involved in defining the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  It is the most ambitious global development vision and road map ever conceived.  The beauty is that we can fulfil this global promise with a transformative shift in our approach and firm anchoring in universal norms and values.  We have the knowledge, resources, technology and capacities to achieve this vision for a people‑centred and planet‑sensitive future in all countries.  But we must fundamentally transform how we conceive, design, implement, monitor and finance our development agenda to ensure no one is left behind in the global march towards equality, prosperity, dignity and security for everyone.  And we will need to take a whole‑of‑Government and a whole‑of‑society approach to ensure its success.

Two years on, as demonstrated by the high‑level political forum, each country, within their unique political, socioeconomic and environmental context, has embarked upon this transformative journey.  Small island developing States are no exception.  As we look to ramp up implementation across all countries, I am very encouraged that, for the small island developing States, we have a specific and visionary framework in the SAMOA Pathway to guide the efforts of Member States.

The SAMOA Pathway’s overarching objectives of poverty eradication, promoting sustainable patterns of consumption and production, protecting and managing the natural resource base for sustainable economic and social development and its commitment to leaving no one behind have provided inspiration not only for small island developing States, but also for the global community.

Next year’s high‑level midterm review of the SAMOA Pathway is vitally important for small island developing States as they seek not only to advance implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  It will play an important input into the 2019 high‑level political forum’s review of the progress of the implementation of the 2030 Agenda, and I look forward to your active engagement in the process.

Small island developing States have already made important strides in moving forward the 2030 Agenda in alignment with the SAMOA pathway.  The small island developing States Partnership Framework is the first of its kind at the United Nations.  It exemplifies multilateralism and partnership for the common good.  Governments have leveraged partnerships, including regionally and beyond, reflecting a shift in how stakeholders work together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and leave no one behind.

The decision of the General Assembly in December 2015 to monitor and ensure the full implementation of pledges and commitments through partnerships for small island developing States and promote the effective and efficient follow‑up to the existing partnerships and to encourage new, genuine and durable partnerships laid firm foundation for the small island developing States Partnership Framework and reinforces the importance of particular attention to the needs of small island developing States.  It remains a key test and a benchmark of our common global, regional and national resolve to ensure that the vision of the 2030 Agenda is translated into action and results in positive change in the lives of the local communities in the small island developing States.

Oceans and marine resources are one area in which we see the potential for successful cooperation.  It is notable that of the 615 voluntary commitments Governments made during the first United Nations Ocean Conference last year, 176 were made by small island developing States, building on concrete actions already taken.  Small island developing States are also the main beneficiaries of the close to 1,400 voluntary commitments made by Governments, the United Nations system, civil society organizations, academia, the scientific community and the private sector.  Several small island developing States have protected miles of their country’s exclusive economic zone and some have already achieved Sustainable Development Goals target 14.5, to conserve 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by 2020.  This is highly commendable and sets an example of other members of our global community.

At the national level, integrated policymaking has helped many small island developing States advance the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.  Further work needs to be undertaken to understand trade‑offs and synergies among the goals for policy and sequence national actions, but small island developing States have sound foundations on which to build.  Governments also have made progress in adapting the Sustainable Development Goals targets to national circumstances and priorities, and incorporating them in their development plans and policies.  Many small island developing States customized Millennium Development Goals and targets to be more specific to their context and circumstances, and are doing the same with the Sustainable Development Goals to ensure they are continually building on progress.  Importantly, budgets are increasingly being allocated in conformity with Sustainable Development Goals and targets.

Nearly two thirds of the voluntary national reviews of 2016 and 2017 make a reference to sustainable tourism — identifying this as a high‑impact sector with the potential to advance all the Sustainable Development Goals.  For small island developing States, this link is even stronger.  Sustainable tourism is critical to forging inclusive, resilient and sustainable development pathways.  Travel and tourism is an important economic activity in most countries of the world, with a global economic contribution of over $7.6 trillion in 2016 [according to data from the World Trade Organization].  It is one of the main economic drivers in small island developing States, typically accounting for one quarter of Sustainable Development Goals, and reaching as high as 79 per cent in some countries.  Sustainable tourism was key to the recent graduation of Samoa, Cabo Verde and the Maldives from least developed country status.  Promoting sustainable tourism offers enormous potential and is a game‑changer to significantly transform the domestic economy in small island developing States and to be both people‑centred and planet‑sensitive.

Despite these positive developments, the international community needs to step up its support to small island developing States dramatically, if we are to see all Sustainable Development Goals implemented, everywhere.  Small island developing States face unique challenges, relating for example to the size of their economies, limited access to financing and extreme exposure to the effects of climate change and other natural disasters.

As small island developing States graduate from concessional financing windows, a notable risk has been the loss of access to sufficient and affordable long‑term financing for Sustainable Development Goals investments.  The inability to sustain investments can significantly derail achievements and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.  The international development community will need to seriously explore how they can support small island developing States with new or continued access to appropriate sources of financing, depending on country needs and vulnerabilities.

The international community’s support to small island developing States in mobilizing additional private and commercial financing to leverage and maximize domestic resources will remain vital for the long‑term economic growth and stability of the small island developing States.

Rising sea levels and recurrent extreme weather events threaten coastal zones and infrastructure, and increase the challenges in reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development.  These threats are reversing hard‑earned development progress and dividends and exacerbating existing inequalities and vulnerabilities.  They are driving even more communities into precarious and unpredictable futures for their families and children.  Given the trajectory of global greenhouse gas emissions, we cannot expect any rapid improvement, so we must make plans that anticipate the impact of climate change on environmental and socioeconomic development and help countries to adapt.

The slow progress of financing and lack of resources for development investments in the small island developing States as envisioned by the Addis Ababa Action Agenda must be reversed, if the international community is truly committed achieving the 2030 Agenda in the small island developing States.  That means taking pre‑emptive adaptive measures, based on specific vulnerabilities and resources.  It means stepping up efforts to deliver on mitigation and addressing the issue of loss and damage in holistic manner, to build the resilience of small island developing States and to leave no one behind.  It means, at the end of the day, that we need an international response that is much more aligned, responsive and tailored to the specific needs of small island developing States.  The SAMOA Pathway stands as our guide.

As the United Nations considers its support to small island developing States and other countries to achieve the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, this is exactly what the repositioning of the United Nations development system intends to do.  The system must be responsible to countries’ priorities and needs.  And it must be capable of context‑specific responses to support countries’ efforts towards meeting the Goals.

We have now reached the final mile in this process and we thank you for your leadership and active engagement throughout this process.  We look forward to Member States’ decisions, in the coming days, to ensure the Secretary‑General receives the mandates required to ensure we are fit for purpose.  The package of proposals put forward by the Secretary‑General in his December report would be a game‑changer for the small island developing States.  A “new generation of United Nations country”, led by empowered and impartial Resident Coordinators, will ensure we tailor our presence, skill sets and resources to the specific needs of each country’s development priorities.  In every country, we will seek a dialogue with national Governments on the exact type of support they require to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring alignment to national priorities and relevant aspects of the SAMOA Pathway.

The Secretary‑General has put forward a request for assessed funding from the regular budget to ensure predictable and adequate funding to the Resident Coordinator system.  This means more boots on the ground, in each developing country, to channel the wider expertise and resources of the United Nations development system, where it matters most.  This means enhanced capacities to broker partnerships and leverage financing in a way that aligns to your needs and priorities.  Finally, this means addressing the fragmentation in our funding base so that the United Nations country teams respond more flexibly and effectively to the needs on the ground.

We want to see economists in every United Nations country team, to ensure we can support the transformation of domestic economies and societies that will make or break the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Resident Coordinators will be expected to steer the substantive contribution of United Nations country teams for 2030 Agenda implementation, and the SAMOA Pathway implementation for small island developing States.

In the particular case of small island developing States, we want to take advantage of the reform to engage in a deep review of multi‑country offices, in partnership with each and every one of you.  We commit to maximize this opportunity to step up the level of engagement and support each of your countries currently receive from the United Nations development system.

In many ways, our success in small island developing States will be a litmus test for the 2030 Agenda and our promise to leave no one behind.  The United Nations development system must be fit for purpose — equipped to better meet the needs of small island developing States.  We intend to launch a review immediately, upon a decision by Member States on the proposed reform package.  Small island developing States will continue to be at the forefront of our development priorities.

You are at the vanguard of challenges like climate change and sustainable development, but also in the way you are pioneering solutions for the entire world.  You are a strong voice in the international debate and policymaking on sustainable development.  Together, we can deliver a development system that delivers for you.  Thank you very much.

For information media. Not an official record.