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Developing a Vulnerability Index for SIDS
9 May 2002 - 10 May 2002
Montego Bay, Jamaica
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In preparation for the The World Summit on Sustainable Development, a global roundtable entitled, ‘Vulnerability and Small Island Developing States; Exploring Mechanisms for Partnerships’ was held in Montego Bay, Jamaica, 9-10 May 2002.

The Round Table mobilized new political commitments and forged partnerships to reduce small islands' vulnerabilities, mainly through further implementation of the SIDS programme of action. It also attempted to rally international organizations to champion a renewed framework for implementation of the SIDS agenda.

Project Background

Although many SIDS have made substantial strides in economic growth, social development, and environmental conservation, their small size, isolation, susceptibility to natural disasters, and ecological fragility, means that such progress will always be precarious.

SIDS are estimated to be 34% economically more vulnerable than other developing countries, largely because of their exposure to natural disasters and high level of export concentration. Such challenges have been articulated in Agenda 21, the 1994 Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, the decisions adopted at the twenty-second special session of the General Assembly (1999) and in (WSSD Plan of Implementation, para. 52, in 2002).

Because one hurricane or commodity price downturn can erode years of development gains in SIDS, it is essential that small islands build their resilience and capacity to mitigate recurrent environmental and economic shocks.

As a first step in addressing the issue of vulnerability, the General Assembly endorsed a broad assessment, using economic, social, and environmental vulnerability indices developed specifically for SIDS.


The 1994 resolution 49/122, states:

Small island developing States, in cooperation with national, regional and international organizations and research centres, should continue work on the development of vulnerability indices and other indicators that reflect the status of small island developing States and integrate ecological fragility and economic vulnerability. Consideration should be given to how such an index, as well as relevant studies undertaken on small island developing States by other international institutions, might be used in addition to other statistical measures as quantitative indicators of fragility

Appropriate expertise should continue to be utilized in the development, compilation and updating of the vulnerability index. Such expertise could include scholars and representatives of international organizations that have at their disposal the data required to compile the vulnerability index. Relevant international organizations are invited to contribute to the development of the index. In addition, it is recommended that the work currently under way in the United Nations system on the elaboration of sustainable development indicators should take into account proposals on the vulnerability index - Resolution 49/122


In 1996 the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) at its fourth session in decision 4/16 encouraged “the relevant bodies of the United Nations System to give priority to the development of the index”. Accordingly, in 1996, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) undertook initial studies in order to provide a conceptual framework for the development of a vulnerability index.


In 1997, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs engaged two consultants to develop economic and ecological vulnerability indices. DESA also convened an ad hoc expert group to review the technical work of the consultants and to make appropriate recommendations.

Interagency Coordination

In 2001 and 2002, the Secretary-General presented reports to the United Nations General Assembly 56th and 57th sessions respectively on the ongoing efforts taken by several United Nations organizations and intergovernmental bodies in developing indicators that would measure the vulnerability of small island developing States. The reports indicated the important research carried out in developing a definitive economic, social, and environmental vulnerability indices.

Ad Hoc Expert Group Meeting on Vulnerability Indices - 1997
United Nations