22nd Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS) on Small Island Developing States

Background

The nineteenth special session of the General Assembly (23-27 June 1997), in considering the further implementation of Agenda 21 in areas requiring urgent action, also reviewed SIDS' issues. In that context, the special session requested that the Commission on Sustainable Development at its sixth session in 1998 undertake a review of all the outstanding chapters and issues of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States adopted at the Global Conference in Barbados in 1994. It was decided that a two-day special session of the General Assembly would be held immediately preceding the fifty-fourth session of the Assembly in 1999 for an in-depth assessment and appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action and CSD was requested to serve as a Prep-Comm for that special session.

CSD AS PREPARATORY BODY
The Commission on Sustainable Development acting as the preparatory body for the special session of the General Assembly for the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, met in New York on April 23 and 30, 1999. Delegates reviewed progress in the implementation of the Programme of Action and considered the preparation of the special session.

Informal consultations also took place to further discuss a text compiled by the Co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Inter-sessional Working Group, as well as a draft declaration. The text compiled by the Co-Chair contained contributions to the special session of the General Assembly.

The Chairman of the seventh session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Mr. Simon Upton (New Zealand) presided over the two meetings. Highlights of the high-level dialogue

At the first meeting held on 23 April, the Commission acting as the preparatory body engaged in an interactive dialogue. Recognizing that SIDS are the custodians of large areas of the world's oceans and significant biodiversity resources, participants reaffirmed the Programme of Action as the blueprint for the sustainable development of SIDS. Attention was drawn to the progress made by SIDS in implementing sustainable development strategies through action at the national and the regional level.

Attention was drawn to the vulnerability of SIDS in relation to their ability to withstand external economic shocks, for example, as a result of fluctuating commodity prices and susceptibility to natural disasters. Participants placed particular emphasis on the early development of a vulnerability index to supplement existing gross domestic product (GDP)-based criteria in the assessment of eligibility of SIDS for concessional finance.

Concern was expressed at constraints still faced by SIDS in fully implementing sustainable development strategies because of insufficient resources, due particularly to declining levels of official development assistance (ODA). Concern was further expressed that the decline in financial resources might reflect a lessening of commitment made at the Barbados Global Conference. It was recognized that the special session of the General Assembly would provide an opportunity for all countries to reaffirm commitments that had been made at the time the Programme of Action was adopted.

In this regard, the recent SIDS/Donors' meeting was acknowledged as a positive step. Participants emphasized the need for improved donor coordination and the importance of partnerships at all levels, including with the private sector, in order to further assist SIDS in their efforts to achieve sustainable development.

There were expressions of concern at adverse effects on SIDS of globalization and trade liberalization. It was emphasized that the special circumstances of SIDS should be taken into account in the next phase of negotiations under the World Trade Organization.

Participants also expressed concern at the risks to SIDS of trans-shipment of hazardous wastes and materials through their jurisdictions. In this regard, there was a proposal to have the Caribbean Sea recognized as a special area in the context of sustainable development, bearing in mind the subregion's high degree of vulnerability as a result of the large number of ships with hazardous cargo traversing the Caribbean.

Preparations for the 22nd special session of the General Assembly

At the 2nd meeting held on 30 April, the Commission considered preparations for the comprehensive review of the Programme of Action. The Commission acting as the preparatory body approved and recommended for adoption by the General Assembly, at its twenty-second special session, the draft provisional agenda and organizational arrangements as contained in document E/CN.17/ 1999/PC/CRP.1, as amended.

The Commission took note of the document E/CN.17/1999/PC/CRP.2, which contained a letter from the President of the General Assembly to the Chairman of the Commission acting as the preparatory body regarding the organization of the work of the special session. The Commission also took note of the document E/CN.17/1999/PC/CRP.3, as amended, which contained information on the establishment of the list of speakers for the debate in plenary of the special session.

The Commission acting as the preparatory body also agreed on arrangements for the accreditation of non-governmental organizations at the special session.

The Commission also had before it a text compiled by the Co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Inter-sessional Working Group, as well as a draft declaration, in English only, as the Commission's contribution to the special session. The Co-Chair reported on the outcome of informal consultations on the text. In this connection, the Chairman of the Commission acting as the preparatory body read out an oral decision recommending to the General Assembly to authorize it to hold a resumed session of two days in September, in order to complete its work. The Commission acting as the preparatory body adopted the oral draft decision, as amended. The Commission acting as the preparatory body then adopted its report as contained in E/CN.17/1999/PC/L.2

The Commission acting as preparatory body for the special session met in its resumed session on 9 and 10 September 1999 at the United Nations Headquarters. It held three meetings and a number of informal meetings. The session was opened by the Vice Chairman of the seventh session of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Navid Hanif (Pakistan).

At its first meeting, on 9 September, the Commission acting as preparatory body for the special session had before it an informal paper containing the texts entitled "Draft declaration" and "State of progress and initiatives for the future implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States". The paper reflected the results of informal consultations held on the texts as contained in document A/S-22/2* following the first session of the Commission acting as the preparatory body. The Commission continued its work on the "Draft declaration" and the review document at its second and third meetings. At its third meeting held on 10 September 1999, the Commission acting as preparatory body adopted the draft report on its resumed session.

THE SPECIAL SESSION

The UN General Assembly convened its 22nd special session on 27 and 28 September in New York to review and appraise the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA). During the general debate, a total of 130 speakers including heads of State and government and ministers made statements.

Representatives of SIDS outlined the concrete actions they had taken so far in the implementation of the BPOA and highlighted their constraints, and their ecological and economic vulnerabilities. They drew attention to the increasing frequency and intensity of disasters and the increasingly severe damages their countries・productive capacity and infrastructure are suffering. They underscored the implications of globalisation and trade liberalisation for their small, highly open economies, and the increasing risk of their marginalisation in the fast changing international economic structure. In this regard, they called for a central role of the United Nations in the globalisation process to ensure the sharing of benefits by all countries.

Representatives of developing countries other than SIDS agreed that SIDS have severe financial and capacity constraints and need adequate financial support to implement the BPOA. A number of them pledged to intensify their support to SIDS through South-South co-operation by providing them with assistance in areas where they have better expertise and experiences tailored to their needs.

Likewise the developed countries recognised the constraints and vulnerabilities of SIDS. The representative of the European Union and associated States drew attention to the mechanisms of the Lome Convention, and pointed out that the EU attached high importance to the completion of a new post-Lome agreement which would be a flexible instrument of co-operation and partnership for the coming decade and beyond. The representatives of some countries such as Ireland, Luxembourg, and UK expressed their willingness to increase ODA to SIDS in future. While acknowledging that globalisation is a cause for concern to SIDS, the US representative observed that small islands still have much to gain from the process.

The General Assembly adopted a Declaration in which member States reaffirmed the principles of and their commitments to sustainable development. The Declaration calls on the international community to provide effective means, including financial resources to support the sustainable development efforts of SIDS. It also calls on the Secretary-General to improve the existing institutional arrangements in the UN so that the UN system may become more proactive in promoting and assisting sustainable development in SIDS.

The General Assembly also adopted a review document entitled "State of progress and initiatives for the future implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States". The document sets forth recommendations for action in priority areas requiring urgent action, as well as on the means of implementation.
Copyright United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs