Greater Investment in Sustainable Growth, Resilient Infrastructure Crucial to Survival amid Rising Sea-levels, Extreme Weather, Speakers Stress
World leaders gathered at United Nations Headquarters today endorsed a political declaration aimed at protecting small island developing States from the impacts of climate change and accelerating sustainable development in those countries, as the General Assembly held a midterm review of the 10-year action plan, known as the Samoa Pathway, for transforming the lives of people in those islands.
By the terms of the declaration, which was forwarded to the plenary of the General Assembly for its formal adoption, Heads of State and Government, ministers and high representatives urged the scaling up of investments in small island developing States for their economic growth and diversification, including in ocean-based economies and creative and cultural industries, to reduce their vulnerability and build resilience in those States.
By other terms, world leaders urged action to address the adverse impacts of climate change, including those related to sea-level rise and extreme weather events, which continue to pose a significant risk to small island developing States, their efforts to achieve sustainable development, and for many, are the gravest of threats to their very survival.
“The climate crisis is piling injustice upon injustice,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres in his opening remarks to the daylong High-level Midterm Review of the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action Pathway adopted in Apia in 2014, explaining that despite contributing very little to global warming, these States are paying the highest price.
Because of their middle-income status, many are “trapped in an accelerating and unsustainable cycle of disaster and debt”, he pointed out, emphasizing that it is time for the international community to make big decisions and big investments in these countries.
Stressing that the political declaration calls for ways to help them to manage disaster risk, invest in climate resilient infrastructure and transition to renewable energy, he urged international institutions to help these vulnerable States, particularly highly indebted middle-income countries, to access finance. Small island developing States are “on the front lines of protecting and conserving the oceans that are the lifeblood of our planet”. The Intergovernmental Panel’s latest special report, released this week, warns that without major investments in adaptation, some island nations are likely to become uninhabitable, he said.
Also addressing the opening segment was Ireland President Michael D. Higgins, who said the declaration endorsed today is not an academic document, adding that the very word “disaster” has a different meaning in island life. Disaster that comes again and again is part of island life and in speaking of its financial costs, the international community must consider recurrence, anticipation, response, adaptation and protection.
Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama pointed to the importance of innovative financing, noting that his country has listed the first sovereign bond by an emerging market and is planning for a customs bond. But it is crucial for developed countries to rethink the way they give assistance to developing countries, he said, highlighting several practical measures such as broadening debt-for-nature swaps and innovative financing through private and public sector capital. Development banks must place the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals over immediate investment returns, he said.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley said the United Nations Secretary-General is “swimming against the tide”, as the international community has come to this point in time with unparalleled selfishness. What is at stake for the oceans and the environment is far worse than what is contemplated. “Those of us who have a security pass to come into this building must recognize that we are here not just as representatives of our countries but as trustees for humanity itself,” she emphasized.
Actor Jason Momoa, a native Hawaiian, said that “oceans are in crisis”, pointing out that plastic garbage floating in the sea covers space larger than France. “We are diseases infecting the planet”, he said, urging Governments and corporations to make a choice whether to pursue profits over the basic human rights of children.
Vinzealhar Ainjo Kwangin Nen, a youth representative from Papua New Guinea, reading her poem, invited participants to imagine small islands as undivided land connected by “ocean pathways”, stressing that supporting the implementation of the Samoa Pathway would benefit all States.
General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande (Nigeria) emphasized that it is only through global efforts such as the Samoa Pathway that the world can address challenges, including economic marginalization of small island developing States in their pursuit of a safe, prosperous and sustainable future, stressing that priorities set out by these States must be central to efforts to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In closing remarks, Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said the declaration endorsed today is a road map for the international community to work harder so that islanders can afford their basic human right to sustainable development.
By their very nature, small island developing States are community-based societies, she noted, and are building resilience, mobilizing domestic resources where possible and exploring innovative mechanisms towards debt sustainability. But no amount of efforts by these small countries alone will be enough to enable them to transition to a path of sustainable development, she stressed.
Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that the international community must acknowledge implementation gaps, stressing that much more need to be done in the remaining five years. He noted that small island developing States have difficulty in accessing affordable financing, including concessional facilities, as they graduate from the least developed country status. Graduation should not disrupt their path to sustainable development, he said, also stressing the need for accountability and results.
The High-Level Review also held two round-table discussions, on the themes “Samoa Pathway mid-term review: progress, gaps and challenges” and “Priorities, Solutions and the Way forward,” respectively.
TIJJANI MUHAMMAD-BANDE (Nigeria), President of the General Assembly, reminded the participants that they are here to safeguard the future of brothers and sisters in small island developing States. “The people we serve are looking to us for solutions to the existential challenges that threaten their ability to survive and hinder their opportunities to thrive. The climate crisis threatens food security and livelihoods. These States are often the hardest hit by climate events, yet they produce less than 1 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. “Multilateralism is not just about preventive measures — it is also about corrective measures to ensure equality, inclusion and social justice in every country,” he said.
It is only through global efforts such as the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action Pathway (also known as the Samoa Pathway) that the world can address challenges, including economic marginalization of small island developing States in their pursuit of a safe, prosperous and sustainable future, he said, stressing that priorities set out by these States must be central to efforts to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. “These priorities must be matched by actions and partnerships,” he said, expressing confidence that “by striving together, we will succeed in delivering for all”.
ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary‑General of the United Nations, said that the climate emergency represents the single biggest threat to the survival of small island developing States. In these places, one natural disaster can erode a generation of development gains, he pointed out, citing examples in Barbuda, Dominica, and most recently in the Bahamas. About a quarter of the people in these States live five metres or less above sea level, and relocation could severely impact their societies and way of life, and even raise questions of sovereignty and national identity, he warned.
Noting that small island developing States have led the world in ambition and effort on the climate emergency, consistent with the 1.5 degree warming that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has advised is the upper limit for adaptation, he welcomed their commitment made on Monday at the Climate Action Summit to carbon neutrality and to move to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2030. “But the climate crisis is piling injustice upon injustice,” he cautioned, explaining that despite contributing very little to global warming, small island developing States are paying the highest price. And because of their middle‑income status, many are “trapped in an accelerating and unsustainable cycle of disaster and debt”. It is time for the international community to make big decisions and big investments in these countries.
Stressing that today’s political declaration calls for ways to help them to manage disaster risk, invest in climate‑resilient infrastructure and transition to renewable energy, he urged international institutions to help these vulnerable States, particularly highly indebted middle‑income countries, to access finance. Small island developing States are “on the front lines of protecting and conserving the oceans that are the lifeblood of our planet”. The Intergovernmental Panel’s latest special report, released this week, warns that without major investments in adaptation, some island nations are likely to become uninhabitable.
Citing pollution, overfishing, acidification, loss of half of all living coral in the past 150 years and a tenfold increase in plastic pollution over the past four decades, he said that demands from industry, shipping, mining and tourism are decimating resources, including the fishing grounds that sustain many island communities. Small island countries also face high costs for transport, energy and infrastructure. They depend heavily on a few external markets, putting them at the mercy of price rises. Some are struggling with the security impact of illicit trafficking in people, weapons and drugs.
Mr. Guterres recalled an important principle he learned many years ago as an engineering trainee: “By solving a problem in its most challenging context, you solve it everywhere.” Supporting small island developing States to achieve the 2030 Agenda will provide tools and lessons to the entire world. Today’s global review of the Samoa Pathway is an opportunity for the international community to take stock of progress made and identify challenges. The United Nations system will continue to help Governments of small island States expand their activities and partnerships for sustainable development. Small island developing States are “a special case for sustainable development”. They require the concerted long‑term attention and investment of the entire international community, he stressed.
MICHAEL D. HIGGINS, President of Ireland, said that the climate crisis is the most dramatic demonstration of the precipice to which the international community has come. Did the occupants of the islands invite the sea to rise, he asked, pointing out that, on the contrary, despite being the first line of victims, they are at the forefront of the United Nations helping create agreements and commitments that will enable the Organization’s architecture to tackle the crisis. Calling for a new paradigm of connection between nature, human presence and culture, he applauded the small islands and coastal communities for their moral leadership.
The Declaration to be adopted today is not an academic document, he said, adding that the very word “disaster” has a different meaning in island life. Disaster that comes again and again is part of island life and in speaking of its financial costs, the international community must consider recurrence, anticipation, response, adaptation and protection. Also highlighting the intergenerational dimension, he stressed that it is not the island communities who benefit from fossil development and unsustainable consumption. Offering his perspective as an economist, he said the rules of markets must be reconfigured and given a new life through the prism of ecological and social cohesion.
JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji, noting the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian, acknowledged the Secretary‑General’s disappointment that his ambitious climate plans have gone unanswered. But in the Pacific islands, he said, people are grateful for his commitment and his recent visit during which he listened to their concerns about the existential threat they face. Expressing gratitude to the development partners, multilateral development banks, and the domestic and foreign investors who keep job markets and export revenues healthy in the islands, he pointed out that all this progress will be useless if the international community does not address the climate crisis.
Fiji, he continued, has listed the first sovereign bond by an emerging market and is planning for a customs bond. But it is crucial for developed countries to rethink the way they give assistance to developing countries, he said, highlighting several practical measures such as broadening debt‑for‑nature swaps and innovative financing through private and public sector capital. Development banks must place the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals over immediate investment returns, he said, also thanking the Secretary‑General for highlighting the challenges of small island developing States.
JASON MOMOA, a native Hawaiian, said human ego, fear and drive for profits are causing irreversible damage to the Earth. Small island developing States are at the forefront of the battle against the impacts of climate change. “Oceans are in crisis,” he said, pointing out that plastic garbage floating in the sea covers space larger than France. “We are diseases infecting the planet,” he said. Small island States are drowning in the sea. “We are doomed,” he said, warning that the critical tipping point is approaching. He went on to urge Governments and corporations to make a choice whether to pursue profits over the basic human rights of children. Calling for global unity for global crisis, he denounced the irresponsible stewardship of humankind. All lands float in the ocean like canoes. “We must guide the canoes in the direction of a healthy and abundant future,” he said.
VINZEALHAR AINJO KWANGIN NEN, youth representative from Papua New Guinea, read her poem, highlighting the implementation of the Samoa Pathway and youth empowerment, among other themes. She invited participants to imagine small islands as undivided land connected by “ocean pathways”, stressing that supporting the implementation of the Samoa Pathway would benefit all States. Turning to youth unemployment, she said that in her country there are 60,000 graduates yet only 10,000 available jobs. Young people are going to jail because they don’t have jobs. Despite these challenges, “I have faith in my tomorrow,” she said, quoting from her poem, stressing that youth are the leaders of today. “We come from an island but no man is an island,” she said.
MIA AMOR MOTTLEY, Prime Minister of Barbados, said: “I cannot come here and continue to act as if it is life as normal.” Thanking the Secretary‑General for “swimming against the tide”, she said that unfortunately the global community continues to be split at a time when the world does not have the luxury of time. “I don’t have the passion of Greta,” she said, noting that Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is 16 years old while she herself turned 54 recently. The international community has come to this point in time with a selfishness that is unparalleled. What is at stake for the oceans and the environment is far worse than what is contemplated. “Those of us who have a security pass to come into this building must recognize that we are here not just as representatives of our countries but as trustees for humanity itself,” she emphasized.
Noting that poverty eradication, education and inclusion — the themes of this year’s Assembly — cannot be effectively tackled without addressing climate change, she specified that the financial resources the islands call for — “small to you, large to us” — determine their ability to tackle disaster and restore economies. “What concerns me is that the opportunity and possibilities of the new economy are at our doorstep, yet we fail to grasp them,” she pointed out, recalling a question she was asked on Thursday as to whether coal factories are being condemned away. No one is condemning anything; rather it is a matter of preparing humans for a new life, she said, pointing out that ice factories have disappeared because people make ice at home. Condemning the arrogance of humankind in believing that “that which has happened to other species will not happen to us”, she lamented, adding, “reversing climate change is not beyond human ingenuity but our priorities are wrong.”
Multi-Stakeholder Round Table I
The High-Level Review then held a round‑table dialogue, under the theme “Samoa Pathway mid‑term review: progress, gaps and challenges”, moderated by Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa, and Erna Solberg, Prime Minister of Norway. It featured a keynote address by Danny Faure, President of Seychelles, as well as a fireside chat, moderated by Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, with presentations by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for Commonwealth and United Nations of the United Kingdom; Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the Secretary‑General for Disaster Risk Reduction; Axel van Trotsenburg, Acting Chief Executive Officer, World Bank Group; and Evelyn Wever‑Croes, Prime Minister of Aruba, followed by statements by Member States.
Mr. MALIELEGAOI, noting challenges in implementing the Samoa Pathway due to a lack of data, financial resources and capacity, particularly analytical capacity, said these problems augment the adverse impacts of climate change and vulnerability to natural disasters. His country has integrated the Pathway and the Sustainable Development Goals into its development strategy, and allocated dedicated funds for implementation. Policy coherence in the fulfilment of the goals of the Samoa Pathway, Paris Agreement and related environmental and human rights conventions at all levels is key to promoting a sector‑wide, human rights approach to sustainable development, he said.
Ms. SOLBERG said that there is a clear link between climate change and security, noting that melting glaciers and hurricanes are devastating economies. Norway strongly believes that countries graduating from least developed country status be deemed eligible for official development assistance (ODA) when their economies are devastated by disasters. “This is a matter of solidarity,” she said, adding that Norway has doubled its contributions to the Green Climate Fund. She went on to call for regulating the flow of plastics in the ocean, also drawing attention to the High‑Level Panel for a Sustainable Ocean Economy, which under her leadership, published on Tuesday its first report and call to ocean‑based climate action — to promote the role of the ocean as a solution to climate change. Donor countries must do their share, she said, stressing the need to “stop Tuvalu from sinking and stop the world from sinking with Tuvalu”. She said: “We will rise or sink together.”
In a keynote address, Mr. FAURE said that he is not satisfied with the slow pace of progress in implementing the Samoa Pathway, stressing the need to create more durable partnerships. Over the next five years, increased international support for capacity‑building, monitoring and evaluation is essential. All priority areas identified in 2014 remain relevant today, he said, insisting that small island developing States, irrespective of their situations, should be eligible for ODA as such aid is critical for building resilience. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is leading the way in supporting these States, he said, calling on the agency to continue its assistance. His country is making steadfast efforts, including by aligning national strategies with the 2030 Agenda, the Paris accord on climate change, and other agreed instruments. As a high‑income country, it is investing in financial innovation to devote more resources to development.
Mr. BROWNE, moderating a fireside chat, said he was disappointed that “in the face of this urgent threat, small island developing States have been relegated to a Friday, and not a Friday to ourselves, but a few hours in a Friday when most of our countries are speaking in the General Assembly Hall”. He wondered where developed partners went and why they were not represented at the highest level in today’s midterm review. “We pose no threat to anyone, yet our very existence is threatened. Protecting small island developing States is also a commitment to protecting the environment and the planet. The cycle of deterring action from one outcome document to the next needs to be finally broken,” he said.
Mr. AHMAD recognized the immense challenges these States are facing, stressing the need to go beyond major donors pledging funds. For small island developing States, access to financing is a major hurdle, he said, noting that next year his Government will host a special meeting on their accessibility to climate financing.
Ms. MIZUTORI said her Office, as the custodian of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, supports countries most at risk, including small island developing States. There is a need to look at numerous international agreements between 2014 and 2016 in a coherent way.
Mr. TROTSENBURG, citing the need for small island developing States to access affordable financing, stressed the importance of mobilizing concessional financing, especially when disasters hit their economies, wiping out 20 to 100 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). For its part, the World Bank has added Fiji to the list of beneficiaries of such financing.
Ms. WEVER-CROES said her State faces unique challenges, as it has a small population, land mass and economy of scale; limited capacity; and is dependent on imports and vulnerable to external shocks. It is also close to strife‑torn Venezuela. To overcome these challenges, strong institutions are critical.
Mr. AHMAD said the United Kingdom has made new pledges, but the money is good only when it is accessible. His Government is providing structured finance, investing $360 million in nine Caribbean countries and contributing $1.4 billion to the Green Climate Fund. “We are not a remote partner, we are in the region,” he said.
Ms. MIZUTORI said that small Governments lack funds and technical capacity to fulfil reporting obligations required by multiple international agreements. Her Office provides capacity‑building support not just for the Sendai Framework, but for the Samoa Pathway. Two regional conferences in Australia and Jamaica next year will focus on small island developing States and these technical issues.
Mr. TROTSENBURG said the World Bank Group has several crisis response mechanisms in place, including contingency financing that can be activated quickly. At the same time, building resilience requires investments that go beyond crisis management. Citing the recent disasters in the Bahamas and other places in the Caribbean, he said “we’ve got to stay there after the cameras are gone”, not just for a couple of months but for decades.
Ms. WEVER-CROES said that the Samoa Pathway helped create partnerships, but there is a need to build strong institutions. “Without them, we cannot bounce back, bounce back better,” she said, stressing the importance of creating resilience through strong institutions.
Following the fireside chat, Member States exchanged their views on the progress made and the challenges remaining.
“We are small but not insignificant […] we are constrained but not uncommitted,” said Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, who spoke on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). He said the challenges bedevilling small island developing States are beyond their capacity to address, stressing the need for partnerships while deploring the lack of political will of donor countries.
ANTONIO RIVAS PALACIOS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Paraguay, speaking on behalf of the landlocked developing countries, said that these States join the call to strengthen international cooperation and mobilize additional and adequate financing, and to take urgent measures to address the impacts of climate change. Landlocked developing countries will have their midterm review in December. The two groups have much in common, sharing a culture of solidarity and a conviction that progress in development is everyone’s right.
JUSUF KALLA, Vice‑President of Indonesia, said his country’s partnership with small island developing States has developed over three decades, linking thousands of islands, strengthening interaction between the Government and the private sector, and deepening interpersonal contacts. In the future, this partnership will focus on cooperation in trade, investment and tourism and will also include funding for infrastructure and transportation projects. Indonesia, he reaffirmed, will stand side by side with small island developing States in supporting the Samoa Pathway.
MEVLÜT ÇAVUŞOĞLU, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkey, highlighted the need to invest in science, technology and innovation for least developed countries. The United Nations Technology Bank for the Least Developed Countries, based in his country, became operational in 2018. “No small island developing States should be left behind,” he stressed.
GIORGIO ALBERTO FRANYUTI KELLY, Medical Impact, speaking for civil society, called for greater civil society participation in strengthening the accountability mechanism. He urged Member States to support primary health care and universal health coverage in small island developing States.
ELIEZER WHEATLEY, Special Envoy of the Premier of the British Virgin Islands, said that the prospect of being hit by a hurricane again is frightening. Another direct hit would derail recovery from the 2017 disaster. Since the adoption of the Samoa Pathway in 2014, the islands have fostered genuine partnerships, which were damaged in 2017. Public infrastructure, however, has yet to be rebuilt. The main secondary school just reopened. The territories are making a paradigm shift to sustainable development, but the cost of obtaining financing is high as the criteria set by donor communities is so rigid. The territories continue to be denied access to the Green Climate Fund.
Also speaking today were Heads of State and Government, as well as senior officials, representing Vanuatu (for the Pacific Islands Forum), Mauritius, Maldives, Federated States of Micronesia, Solomon Islands, Mexico, Cabo Verde, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Comoros and Sweden, as well as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Multi-Stakeholder Round Table II
In the afternoon, the High‑Level Review held a second round‑table dialogue, under the theme “Priorities, Solutions and the Way forward.” Moderated by Eugene Rhuggenaath, Prime Minister of Curaçao and Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Singapore, the round table featured a keynote address by Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
In the fireside chat that followed, which was moderated by Achim Steiner of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Uhuru Kenyatta, President of Kenya; Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica; and Antha Williams, Head of Environment Programmes at Bloomberg Philanthropies shared their expertise.
Mr. BALAKRISHNAN called on the international community to help small island developing States build back better after natural disasters. It is also vital to improve data monitoring and collection at all levels. United Nations agencies should have a toolkit to gauge progress and provide evidence‑based analysis, he said, adding that Singapore has decided to use this midterm review to revamp its current assistance to small island developing States. The new plan aims to provide smarter assistance and tailor‑made programmes, he noted.
Mr. RHUGGENAATH, calling the afternoon’s session “forward‑looking”, said the series of high‑level meetings this week must serve as a wake‑up call for the international community. In Curaçao, thanks to partnerships and commitments from stakeholders within and beyond the Government, the implementation of the 2030 Agenda is accelerating. “We are making greater strides to strengthen our data capacity”, but without immediate action “our boat will sink”, he said.
In her keynote address, Ms. BÁRCENA highlighted the importance of building resilience. The Bahamas has been struck by hurricanes four years consecutively, she noted, adding that debt overhang is a serious problem in Caribbean countries where almost 50 per cent of Government revenues have to be devoted to debt servicing, leaving them with limited fiscal resources for development. This is also connected to their middle‑income status, she said, reminding delegates that because of this status they lose special treatment on trade. “SIDS first,” she said.
Mr. STEINER welcomed all the guests to the fireside chat and started the discussion by noting that in the last few months, in preparing for the summit, he requested his teams to review UNDP’s current portfolio in small island developing States and how to scale up that engagement. Very often these discussions are influenced by disaster, but the world forgets the islands when new headlines crop up. UNDP plans to reinforce its engagement in line with the Samoa Pathway, he said.
Mr. KENYATTA, noting his interest in a blue economy, said that in the face of dwindling resources, his country’s future lays in oceans. Highlighting the vast potential that the oceans offer for economic growth and food resources, he said that Kenya appreciates the importance of partnering with similar‑minded nations. Even as Kenya is facing desertification, small island developing States have an abundant resource, but climate change is putting them at risk of losing everything. Recalling a conference hosted by his country, he noted that it brought to one room all the different players of the blue economy: scientists, entrepreneurs, government representatives, civil society and small indigenous groups. The issue of sustainability united all these stakeholders, he said.
Mr. HOLNESS said that Jamaica has a national plan in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, but structurally, the issue is fiscal space. “How much money do you have in your budget to allocate to various Goals” is a crucial question, he said, and “the answer is, simply put, not a lot”. A major line in the budget is debt repayment. Countries should not treat this obligation lightly, he said, but given that Jamaica’s debt was once as high as 149 per cent of its GDP, infrastructure development for adaptation and resilience suffers. Debt swap for climate action is a possibility, he said, adding: “We in the Caribbean do not have the luxury of debating whether or not climate change is real.”
Ms. WILLIAMS said that Governments and philanthropy working together can unlock solutions that they cannot do alone. Starting with a clear goal is a crucial factor. “I work for a donor who is impatient,” she said, adding that Michael Bloomberg has been passionate about moving the economy away from coal. That kind of clarity of purpose helps to bring about cross‑sectoral collaborations. Turning to the importance of data, she highlighted her organization’s creation of a platform called Global Shipping Watch, which uses satellite data to show where fishing is happening, including where it should not be. When that data is easily available, Governments can target their enforcement appropriately, she pointed out.
In response to a question from the moderator regarding examples of meaningful partnerships, Mr. HOLNESS said that he found it rewarding to work with France and Qatar on climate finance. Mr. KENYATTA highlighted a small women’s group in his country who has been involved in planting and harvesting mangroves, while earning carbon credits. “As much as we are under threat, there are also huge opportunities,” he stressed, adding that the private sector should realize that conserving the planet is not just a matter of handouts; it is a huge growth opportunity.
Following the fireside chat, representatives of donor countries and small island developing States discussed a variety of development and assistance priorities.
MOHAMMAD SHTAYEH, Prime Minister of the State of Palestine, speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that small island developing States constitute a third of the Group’s membership. The interconnectedness of the issues that beset those States requires a holistic approach. It is impossible to separate development from climate action or reconstruction in post‑disaster situations, he stressed.
JULIAN KING, European Commissioner of the European Union, said that the European Union’s external action in the small island developing States supports climate energy, sustainable management of marine resources and climate‑smart food security. It is particularly active in the Pacific and Caribbean regions, he noted.
EDGARS RINKĒVIČS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Latvia, a donor country, said the objective of its development cooperation policy, based on its own experience after regaining independence in 1991, is to contribute to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda in developing countries. Latvia is open to exploring cooperation with small island developing States, he said.
DIONÍSIO DA COSTA BABO SOARES, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Timor-Leste, a signatory to the Samoa Pathway, said his country is aligning its development plans with the Samoa Pathway and the 2030 Agenda. Underpinned by a commitment to reconciliation and democracy, Timor‑Leste’s people are making progress in education, health, gender and the environment. However, with one of the youngest populations in the world and a nascent private sector, there are not enough jobs for the large number of youth entering the job market. The Government is focusing on tourism, agriculture and labour‑intensive manufacturing. Intense tropical storm activity can have devastating effects on this, he cautioned.
SUZI BARBOSA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guinea-Bissau, pointed out that her country is a coastal State with 88 islands, and therefore highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. As much as 23 per cent of her nation’s territory has been categorized as a protected zone. At the national and regional levels, Guinea‑Bissau is working to battle desertification, drought and climate change, in addition to tackling waste management, including dangerous waste.
Also speaking today were the Heads of State and Government, senior officials and representatives of Uganda, Cook Islands, United Arab Emirates, Hungary, New Zealand, Chile, India, Nigeria, Morocco, Bangladesh, Belize, Portugal and Italy.
An observer for the Holy See also spoke today, as did representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Commonwealth Secretariat, and the University College Dublin.
FEKITAMOELOA KATOA ‘UTOIKAMANU, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, said the Declaration that will be endorsed today is a road map for the international community to work harder so that islanders can afford their basic human right to sustainable development. The adverse impacts of climate change and extreme weather events will only become more so, as the world approaches the 1.5 degree Celsius warming that is advised as the upper limit for adaptation. The manifold and complex challenges that small island developing States manage every day, together with their high vulnerability to external economic and financial shocks, have left many of them in a vicious cycle of disaster and debt, she acknowledged.
By their very nature, small island developing States are community‑based societies, she noted, and are making great strides towards social inclusion. They have enhanced the quality of education of girls and boys, improved public health and reduced the high prevalence of diseases. They are building resilience, mobilizing domestic resources where possible and exploring innovative mechanisms towards debt sustainability. But no amount of efforts by small island developing States alone will be enough to enable them to transition to a path of sustainable development, she said.
Nowhere, she added, is the Organization’s sustainable development‑related work higher than in the most vulnerable countries, which include small island developing States. The United Nations, she continued, will spare no effort to ensure that all partners and stakeholders, from international organizations to financial institutions, hear and are fully aware of their needs and priorities. “We will continue to help bring small island developing States to the decision‑making table,” she promised.
LIU ZHENMIN, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, thanked all the speakers and moderators and the co‑facilitators of the outcome document, declaring that the High‑Level Review has succeeded in implementing its mandate. The preparatory process demonstrated that international cooperation is alive, he said, adding that the draft declaration document recognizes and welcomes implementation successes, while consolidating action around priority areas.
However, the Review has also revealed implementation gaps, he said, calling on the international community to seize all available opportunities in the remaining five years of the Samoa Pathway. Small island developing States are a special case for sustainable development because of the small scale of their economies and the high cost of climate change. As incomes grow, these States face significant challenges in accessing affordable financing, including concessional funding. It is necessary to improve methodologies to account for this, he said.
The High‑Level Review then turned to the draft political declaration entitled “Midterm Review of the Samoa Pathway” and approved it by acclamation.
The representative of Nicaragua requested the microphone to make a statement that he was not able to make it earlier because small delegations such as his have to “hop around” when there are multiple meetings. While delegates spend their taxpayers’ money to come and talk at meetings such as this one, there is no finance for loss and damage, he noted. Once‑in‑a‑century phenomenon disasters have started coming every other year, he said, calling for a significant increase in the flow of international funding to devastated communities that have no capacities to rebuild on their own.
Mr. MUHAMMAD-BANDE said that to give way to indifference would be to endanger the future of small island developing States. “As we pledge to redouble our efforts to leave no one behind, let us do so in solidarity with small island developing States as equal partners,” he said.