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Genuine and durable partnerships for Small Island Developing States
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1 Feb 2014 - 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 small island developing States?

“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 sates 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.

Rio+20 had 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 small island developing States have made less progress than most other groupings, or even regressed, in economic terms, especially in terms of poverty reduction and debt sustainability. 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’. 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. 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 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. 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.