New York

24 February 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at launch of International Year for Small Island Developing States

Thank you for this opportunity to join you on such an important occasion.

Small Island Developing States have always been a priority for the United Nations and myself as Secretary-General.

The International Year offers us the opportunity to celebrate the rich cultural heritage of the people of Small Island Developing States – and to honour their many contributions to our world.

It is also an opportunity to highlight the various needs and challenges of this diverse coalition.

Some Small Island Developing States have enjoyed long-lasting stability.  Others are in transition.

Some are economically more fragile than others. 

Many must deal with the challenges of remoteness.

This hinders their ability to be part of the global supply chain, increases their import costs, especially for energy, and limits their competitiveness in the tourist industry.

Others are extremely vulnerable to the immediate effects of climate change.

But all Small Island Developing States share a common understanding.

We need to set our world on a sustainable path.

And they are all poised to help lead global discussions on our collective future.

That is why I am so pleased that today we launch the International Year of Small Island Developing States.

The General Assembly has never before designated an international year for a group of countries.

This new observance reflects an increasing understanding that we must collectively address the special needs of Small Island Developing States.

And it shows a growing appreciation of their progress so far.

From Cuba to Jamaica to Timor-Leste, I have seen the power of Small Island Developing States to usher in a more sustainable future.

And in Trinidad and Tobago, I have listened as leaders of Small Island Developing States discussed their pressing concerns.

Today’s launch offers great possibilities to raise further awareness and generate action over the course of this year.

I count on Governments and all partners to make the most of this opportunity.

This International Year comes as the United Nations leads a global effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, prepare a new long-term vision for sustainable development, and elaborate a global legal climate agreement – all for 2015.

In 2011, I travelled to Kiribati, where I met a boy who told me he fears being flooded by seawater when he falls asleep at night.

Climate change represents a grave threat to the survival and viability of a number of low-lying nations.

These countries are actively working to address their varying challenges.

They have responded with strong leadership and decisive action.

I have brought their call for global environmental stewardship to officials at the United Nations and in capitals around the world.

I will continue to do so.

We need and action and ambition to address the climate challenge.

That is why I am convening a Climate Summit on September 23rd.

The aim is to catalyse actions on the ground to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to mobilize political will for an ambitious global legal agreement by 2015.

I invite all leaders to attend the Summit and announce bold actions that will deliver concrete results for all nations.

This year, we will hold the third International Conference on Small Island Developing States.

I am pleased that its Preparatory Committee will meet here immediately after this ceremony.

I wish the Committee great success in its important work.

I am confident that the International Year will generate new momentum for the International Conference and the priorities of Small Island Developing States in the post-2015 development agenda.

This conference has an important theme: “Island Voices, Global Choices”.

We need to heed the calls of small island developing countries in discussions on global actions.

The Rio+20 Conference noted with concern that Small Island Developing States have made less progress in development than other countries.

Some have even regressed on poverty reduction and debt.

That is why we need to accelerate progress on achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

We must sustain achievements where they have been made, and make extra effort to bridge gaps wherever they exist.

And, looking ahead, we must forge a post-2015 development agenda that provides the opportunity of progress and a life of dignity for all.

I encourage all members of the international community to join us in commemorating the International Year for Small Island Developing States.

The United Nations is committed to its success – and to reaching our common goal of a more sustainable future.

Planet Earth is our shared island.

Let us join forces to protect it.

Thank you.