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OPINION: “Island voices, global choices”: reviewing the UN conference for Small Island Developing States


Kiran Sura, CDKN’s Head of Advocacy Fund, outlines the objectives and major climate and sustainability debates at last week’s SIDS Summit.

The Third United Nations Conference for Small Island Developing States took place in Apia, Samoa from 1-4 September, during the International Year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The conference provides a global platform for the islands to share the unique challenges they are facing and the solutions they have developed to deliver sustainable development across their states.

Genuine and durable partnerships

For the first time, the conference – which brings together governments, business, third sector organisations and civil society – was held in a Pacific Island State. The theme of the conference was genuine and durable partnerships, and day one saw the historic signing of a sustainable energy and climate resilience treaty that will improve the lives of some 20 million people living in small island states. Led by the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa, Honourable Fonotoe Nuafesili Pierre Lauofo, multiple leaders from the Pacific, Caribbean and African, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea regions signed the SIDS-DOCK treaty, witnessed by partners and supporters of the treaty including various UN bodies, the World Bank and the Clinton Foundation. Another critical new partnership – the SIDS Lighthouse Initiative – developed by the International Renewable Energy Agency seeks to raise $500 million US dollars to increase the deployment of renewable energy across small island states. These are just two of the many new and existing partnerships established over the course of the conference, committing some $1.9 billion US dollars to delivering sustainable development across the SIDS.

SAMOA Pathway

UN member states formally adopted the outcome document of the Third UN SIDS Conference – the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway – in which countries acknowledge the need to support and invest in SIDS so they can achieve sustainable development.

On climate change, the SAMOA Pathway document recognised how acutely vulnerable SIDS are to climate change and the existential threat it poses to their survival. SIDS reaffirmed the need to secure urgent and ambitious action on climate change and the important leadership role they play in this regard, especially on the road to Paris 2015. The SIDS call on member states to support their efforts in building resilience to the impacts of climate change, improving the baseline monitoring of island systems and downscaled climate projections, raising communication and awareness of climate risks and addressing capacity constraints.

A recurring theme throughout the conference and in the SAMOA Pathway document was the need to secure financing from a range of sources for sustainable development across SIDS. Member states confirmed their commitment to support the efforts of SIDS to help them gain access to much needed finance.

Looking forward

“Today marks a beginning, not an end. 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”, said Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, in his closing statement.

UN Secretary-Genenral Ban Ki Moon said SIDS will have an important role to play at the Climate Summit on 23 September in New York. He called on SIDS to set an example to the world through the work they are doing to build resilience and create the green economies of the future. The Island voices are loud and clear, we all – big, small, large emitters, low emitters, developed, developing – have a role to play in tackling the causes and consequences of climate change.

 

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