Small Island Developing States

Submitted by admin on 23. September 2014 - 23:27

Small Island Developing States

Representatives from 115 countries attended the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, held in Apia, Samoa, on 1-4 September 2014. This was the third global conference to tackle sustainable development on islands, and the first to be held in the Pacific region, after conferences in Barbados in 1994 and Mauritius in 2005, where IEF was active (see IEF President Arthur Dahl included the proposal for international conferences on Small Island Developing States when he was drafting chapter 17 of Agenda 21, adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and contributed to the two previous conferences.

The Conference reaffirmed the need to consider the special circumstances faced by small island developing states in achieving sustainable development. "Today marks a beginning, not an end," said Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, in his closing statement. "Samoa is by no means the final destination for responses to small island developing states' development challenges. But it is an important launch point to key future stops on our journey to sustainably employ the few resources available to small island developing states to improve and raise the standard of living for our communities."

The meeting brought global attention to the issues that people on the islands are facing, and the solutions they have developed. It also provided a foundation for many of the issues that were addressed at the Climate Summit in New York on 23 September, where more than 100 Heads of State and Government announced actions on climate change.

UN Member States formally adopted the outcome document of the Conference, the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action - or SAMOA Pathway - in which countries recognize the need to support and invest in these nations so they can achieve sustainable development. "The motto of this Conference was 'Island voices, global choices," said Conference Secretary-General Wu Hongbo at the closing plenary. "The islands have made their case in a convincing way. Together, we have agreed on what needs to be done. It is now for the international community to take up these calls when the post-2015 development agenda is negotiated." For more information on the conference, see:

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) launched the GEO SIDS Outlook, part of its flagship Global Environment Outlook (GEO) series, during the Apia Conference on 2 September. The report, based on the findings of a broad range of SIDS scientists, experts and policy makers, provides four integrated themes for action to support SIDS become the environmental economies of the future - building a diversified, blue-green economy; technological leapfrogging; giving priority to island culture; and reconnecting with nature. Speaking at a press conference on the report were H.E. Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati; H.E. Rolph Payet, Minister of Environment and Energy of Seychelles; UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner; and Philip Weech, GEO SIDS Outlook expert and Director of the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission. The event was moderated by UNEP Chief Scientist Jacqueline McGlade.

"Small Island Developing States presently face a number of major challenges and hardships," said Mr. Steiner. "Many suffer from isolation and high costs associated with long distances from global markets, and lag behind in the adoption of new technologies and innovation. Growing populations concentrated in urban areas are putting stress on island resources and the health effects of unsafe water, poor sanitation and increasingly unhealthy diets. Meanwhile, climate change threatens biodiversity, livelihoods and even the very existence of some island nations."

"As the world enters the post-2015 era, significant changes both in global policy and on islands themselves were identified by the GEO expert teams from SIDS. Improvements in line with the blue-green economy would include, among other things, economic diversification, economic approaches to improve the management of biodiversity, resource efficiency, and sustainable consumption and production," he added.

With almost 30 per cent of SIDS populations living in areas less than 5 metres above sea level and the size of storms in some cases exceeding the size of whole islands, estimated losses to SIDS economies could become overwhelming. In the Caribbean, changes in annual hurricane frequency and intensity could result in additional annual losses of 0.5billion USD by 2080 to the tourism sector, meaning that without urgent action, SIDS face a future dominated by loss and damage.

Over the past two decades, there have been significant changes in SIDS economies and populations. SIDS are often highly dependent on a limited number of sectors including agriculture, fisheries, forestry, mining and tourism. Isolation and distance from markets, coupled with a heavy dependence on air transport and shipping, has resulted in fuel prices representing up to 70 per cent of GDP in some SIDS. The ageing local infrastructure, the phasing out of preferential export regimes and small domestic markets, mean that many SIDS lack economies of scale to face competition head-on.

Human well-being has potentially decreased - the result of a demographic imbalance caused by outmigration to urban centres - eroding traditional concepts of social acceptance and the spread of non-communicable disease such as diabetes. Fragmentation is also hindering communications, community building, participatory engagement in development and delivery of island services.

Many SIDS are already taking significant action: 38 countries have ratified the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and there are many regional activities providing SIDS with early warning systems and climate adaptation plans. In the energy sector, whilst fossil fuels remain at the core for power generation, agriculture and transport, many SIDS are now pursuing domestic renewable energy sources through initiatives such as SE4ALL (Sustainable Energy For All), and SIDS DOCK- (sustainable energy initiative for geothermal energy) and improvements in energy efficiency. But SIDS still face difficulties in the adoption of new technologies and innovation and the capacity to sustain them in an island setting.

The GEO SIDS Outlook report provides an integrated narrative for the future of SIDS based on an analysis of realizable opportunities, case studies and policy actions. It connects the need for improved basis services such as waste management, affordable energy and food security, to the sustainable management of natural resources, the development of a diversity of small to medium enterprises to support the blue-green economy and key sectors such as tourism, and access to technology and financing.

The UNEP GEO SIDS Outlook is a follow-up to the UNEP/UN DESA Foresight Process report on "Emerging Issues for Small Island Developing States" to which island expert and IEF President Arthur Dahl contributed. It is a part of the ongoing UNEP Environment Outlook process, helping to ensure that there is a SIDS voice at the global assessment level, and is a contribution to the development of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.

The UNEP SIDS Foresight Process identified 22 emerging environmental issues and 15 socioeconomic issues. The environmental issues comprised of three cross-cutting issues (beyond GDP; unique human capacities for island sustainability and synergizing indigenous and local knowledge and modern science as a basis for sustainable island development) and 19 others covering rehabilitation of biodiversity and ecosystem services; sustainable use of natural resources; managing threats from chemicals and waste and climate change and its impacts. The report demonstrated the potential leading role that SIDS can play in defining and implementing holistic models of sustainability and human well-being.

The SIDS Outlook process was based on the key issues identified in the Foresight Report and raised by SIDS in their submissions to the UN Conference on SIDS. At the core of the SIDS Outlook was the UNEP Live Community of Practice on SIDS made up of government experts, scientist and policymakers. An author group, drawn from the Community of Practice and including Arthur Dahl, was invited to interpret what is known today about the state and trends in the SIDS environment and to articulate a set of themes for outlooks and policy choices for the future.

The Community of Practice developed a shared understanding of the key attributes that would be needed to develop future sustainable development pathways for SIDS, referring to the six themes of the SIDS conference in Samoa and the latest set of Sustainable Development Goals. During the book sprint, the author group made reference to the latest information provided in the national reports submitted to the Third UN SIDS International Conference, international scientific analyses, such as the Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC, research reports, emerging issues also facing SIDS, case studies on good practice and solutions to key challenges in SIDS.

From these inputs, the expert group developed an ensemble of SIDS outlooks - the blue-green economy; technological leapfrogging; priority to island community and culture; and reconnecting with nature - and a set of enabling actions. Finally, the expert group suggested critical elements for a SIDS sustainability policy framework, taking into account the draft SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway, the draft Sustainable Development Goals and the national submissions of SIDS to the Samoa Conference, to allow SIDS to navigate the challenging waters ahead and implement pathways to achieve sustainable development and poverty eradication. IEF President Arthur Dahl was the only islands expert to serve both on the expert team that developed the UNEP SIDS foresight report and one of the principal authors of the GEO SIDS outlook, developing the four integrated themes for action, among others.

To download UNEP Emerging Issues for Small Island Developing States: Issues for Small Island Developing States-2014Emerging issues.pdf…

To download the full GEO SIDS Outlook Environment Outlook: small island developing states-2014GEO_SIDS_final.pdf…

To download the GEO SIDS Outlook interactive ebook

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Last updated 27 September 2014