Genuine and durable partnerships for Small Island Developing States
1 Feb 2015
- 2014 will be a big year for Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Both the United Nations Conference on SIDS taking place in Apia, Samoa, from 1 to 4 September, and the International Year of SIDS, to be launched on 24 February, will draw the world’s attention to these states and promote actions aimed at achieving their sustainable development.
The Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa will seek a renewed political commitment to address the special needs and vulnerabilities of SIDS by focusing on practical actions. Building on assessments of previous commitments (such as the Barbados Programme of Action and the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation), the Conference will aim to identify and address new and emerging challenges and opportunities for sustainable development of SIDS, particularly through the strengthening of partnerships between these islands and the international community. Many issues that will be addressed at the Conference are also central to the post-2015 development agenda.
Why focus on SIDS?
“We need to bring more attention to the problems that Small Island Developing States face,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said while addressing SIDS leaders at an event in September last year. “Many of your countries are isolated. Your markets are too small to realize economies of scale. All small island developing states are exposed to high risks from environmental threats, especially climate change,” said the Secretary-General. He added that the world had not paid enough attention to the issues that the people of small island States, often on the frontlines, have had to face alone.
The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20, in June 2012 had also acknowledged that SIDS remained a special case for sustainable development. This is a consequence of their unique and particular vulnerabilities, including their small size, remoteness, narrow resource and export base, and exposure to global environmental challenges and external economic shocks, including potentially more frequent and intense natural disasters. Countries also felt that SIDS have made less progress than most other groupings, or even regressed, in economic terms, especially in terms of poverty reduction and debt sustainability.
The world can learn from SIDS
But, as reflected in the tagline of the Conference – Island voices, global choices – the fortunes of SIDS are not only a concern for these States themselves, but for all States. And the world can learn from SIDS’ experiences. Traditionally dependent on expensive, shipped-in fossil fuels to meet energy needs, and under duress from climate change forces, island countries are pioneering sustainable solutions such as wind farms and ocean preserves. Periodically devastated by typhoons, hurricanes, tsunamis and earthquakes, their people show the capacity to bounce back, even though each disaster might abruptly take away 100 per cent of the annual GDP. These are just two of the areas in which SIDS can provide valuable experience.
Partnerships at the heart of the Conference
Partnerships will be at the heart of the Conference, as highlighted by the Conference theme: ‘Sustainable development of SIDS through genuine and durable partnerships’. SIDS anticipate that the Conference will be a springboard for meaningful collaborations. UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo, who is also the Secretary-General for the SIDS Conference, expressed his hope that the Conference will serve to strengthen ties between SIDS and traditional and non-traditional partners, including through South-South and SIDS-SIDS partnerships, as well as those including the private sector. “While “partnership” is a very popular word, the concept needs to be fleshed out and made real in order to be meaningful for the SIDS. No one wants the Conference to feature words alone”, he said.
Calling on stakeholders to share partnerships
In recent years, small island developing States have identified areas where they can take leadership, work together, and bring other partners on board for concrete actions on sustainable development. In particular five thematic areas for partnerships to benefit SIDS have emerged for special attention: climate change and energy, oceans and seas, waste management, sustainable tourism and natural disaster resilience. Partnerships in the area of health, especially addressing non-communicable diseases, are also being explored.
As the Conference is expected to see the launch of new innovative partnerships to advance the sustainable development of SIDS, a Partnerships Platform has been set up to allow all Stakeholders to announce new partnerships, or ideas for partnerships, and to track implementation. This Partnership Platform on the SIDS website is to encourage everyone to share ideas for the improvement of SIDS communities.
Global preparations start this month
After meetings on the national, regional and inter-regional levels were held in 2013, the global preparations for the Conference begin this month, with the first meeting of the Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) to take place from 24 to 27 February. At the first meeting of the PrepCom, participants will discuss the objectives and substantive theme of the Conference and organizational and procedural matters. An informal intersessional meeting will be held from 21 to 25 April 2014, and the final meeting of the PrepCom will take place from 23 to 27 June 2014, to finalize preparations for the Conference.
In addition to traditional plenary sessions, the Conference itself will feature multi-stakeholder partnership dialogues which will focus on recognizing current successful partnerships and initiatives, launching new partnerships and initiatives involving a wide range of stakeholders, and interactive discussions on key priorities related to SIDS.
International Year of Small Island Developing States
2014 has been declared International Year of Small Island Developing States, the first Year ever dedicated to a group of countries. The Year and the Conference preparations will be mutually reinforcing, raising the profile of the SIDS and calling attention to their challenges but also to their unique cultural heritage and their contributions in the arts, culture, innovation and natural resource management among many other areas. The global launch of the Year will take place on 24 February at UN headquarters in New York and will be webcast worldwide.