United Nations stakeholders have noted that it is more critical than ever before for the international community to devise a strong action plan for small island developing states (SIDS) when leaders converge this May at the Fourth International Conference on SIDS (SIDS4).
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are a distinct group of 39 States and 18 Associate Members of United Nations regional commissions that face unique social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities.
The three geographical regions in which SIDS are located are: the Caribbean, the Pacific, and the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Sea (AIS).
SIDS were recognized as a special case both for their environment and development at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The aggregate population of all the SIDS is 65 million, slightly less than 1% of the world’s population, yet this group faces unique social, economic, and environmental challenges.
SIDS face a host of challenges including for many, their remote geography. As a result, many SIDS face high import and export costs for goods as well as irregular international traffic volumes. Yet, they must rely on external markets for many goods due to the narrow resource base.
For SIDS, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)—the ocean under their control—is, on average, 28 times the country’s land mass. Thus, for many SIDS the majority of the natural resources they have access to comes from the ocean. Factors like small population size, remoteness from international markets, high transportation costs, vulnerability to exogenous economic shocks and fragile land and marine ecosystems make SIDS particularly vulnerable to biodiversity loss and climate change because they lack economic alternatives.
A major milestone in preparations for the SIDS4 is now underway, as UN Member States are currently participating in the first Preparatory Committee Meeting for SIDS4.
The Preparatory Committee is meeting from 22 to 26 January 2024 to engage in negotiations on a new ten-year programme of action for SIDS, to be adopted during SIDS4 in Antigua and Barbuda from 27 to 30 May 2024.
These vulnerable countries continue to face significant challenges to their sustainable development, worsened by impacts from climate change and issues such as food-price volatility, and external financial shocks.
Building on the SAMOA Pathway, the new programme of action will set out a comprehensive development agenda for SIDS over the next ten years.
Drawing on the outcomes of regional and inter-regional preparatory meetings, it will define SIDS’ development priorities and the support required from the international community to make the SIDS-led, SIDS-focused agenda achievable.
In recognition of their unique vulnerabilities to external shocks and stressors, the international community designated SIDS a special case for environment and development, but after thirty years of this recognition and targeted action the situation remains unchanged.
Co-chairs of the Preparatory Committee, H.E. Caroline Schwalger, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, and H.E. Dr. Ali Naseer Mohamed, Permanent Representative of the Maldives to the United Nations, reminded Member States of the gravity of the work ahead of them and reiterated their commitment to steward negotiations toward an ambitious, action-oriented outcome.
Chair of AOSIS, H.E. Fatumanava-o-Upolu III Dr Pa’olelei Luteru of Samoa, stated:
AOSIS advocates for a new and more responsive UN for SIDS. This will be essential to deliver a robust 10-year outcome. SIDS’ survival is at stake. Our people, natural environments, and overall sustainable development is under threat. The development challenges we are facing are far outpacing our ability to respond. We are seemingly going from one event to another, without the time or ability to recover and regrow. We are running out of time and running out of space to manoeuvre. We sit here with you today with a single request: decide that the development of SIDS and our resilient prosperity provides a collective good and let us act on that decision throughout the preparatory process for the Fourth Conference and the decade of action to come.
Strong political commitment to the aspiration of SIDS was evident in the 42 statements from UN Member States and 22 statements from UN entities and other stakeholders. They highlighted the need for urgent action to address the impacts of climate change– which are existential for many SIDS – to build resilience, reform the international financial architecture to enable SIDS to access sufficient and sustainable finance and alleviate the impact of external shocks.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, Stavros Lambrinidis, Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations said the EU will
engage constructively in the negotiations on the SIDS4 outcome document and that the EU is
committed to achieving strong, concrete results for the SIDS for the next ten years.
Speaking on behalf of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (CANZ), H.E. James Larsen, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations said
CANZ extends our unwavering support for the upcoming process to agree a new programme of action that delivers meaningful outcomes for SIDS.
Source: United Nations.