June 13, 2014

SIDS prepare for international conference

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are reviewing ways in which they can highlight why they are deserving of special attention from larger, developed countries of the world.{{more}}

In preparation for the third international conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which will take place in Samoa in September, representatives from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLACC) and economists from across the region gathered in St Vincent for a three-day discussion.

Speaking at the opening ceremony on Wednesday, Diane Quarless, the director of the ECLACC explained that the organization is a regional body of the United Nations which serves to facilitate advancement of the regional agenda on the global platform.

The meeting was expected to address the programme of action for sustainable development of SIDS and the fundamental framework for sustainable development by identifying the unique vulnerabilities of SIDS as deserving of special attention.

“We are actually here to review paragraph by paragraph, the document that will be adopted at the SIDS conference this year. There has been concern that we, the Caribbean, which have in the past led the negotiations…we have sort of taken a backseat on this one,” Quarless said.

The ECLACC director opined that in recent years, countries have become occupied with meeting the millennium development goals, rather than trying to develop the SIDS, as outlined in the framework.

“The SIDS agenda has in the past got lost in the millennium development goals. Our countries are more devoted to implementing the MDG agenda to the exclusion of the SIDS. The SIDS agenda has been treated more as an environment programme rather than an integral, integrated, sustainable development agenda that pulls together the three dimensions of sustainable development; the economic, the social and the environmental. This is an opportunity for us to get it right, for us to begin to understand and for us to encourage our government to embrace the sustainable development agenda as the principle development agenda that is to be pursued by member states,” she said.

In his address, Minister of Foreign Affairs Camillo Gonsalves declared that there is still more work to be done in preparation for the Samoa meeting.

He also stated that the SIDS seem to have been “treading water,” as most have been growing at an anaemic rate or have had negative growth in recent years.

“We’re in June, for a meeting that is going to take place in September and we are still getting ourselves together and that is not to blame anybody, but simply to say we are not where we should be at this stage in the game,” Gonsalves said.

The foreign minister noted that among a number of issues, SIDS need to find ways to factor in their vulnerability into the agenda, in order to noted why they are deserving of special attention from larger, developed countries.

Using natural disasters as an example, Gonsalves illustrated the damage that these …can do to a small island, in comparison to larger, more developed countries.

“When hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans in the United States, which is below sea level, it affects New Orleans. Life in New York City, in California in Utah…goes on. When three hours of rain, a trough system… it affects the entire nation of St Vincent and the Grenadines, it is a national event,” he said.

“So when we talk about vulnerability yes, every country is vulnerable. There’s flooding in Australia, there’s flooding in Brazil, there’s flooding in St Vincent and the Grenadines, but, and in no way to diminish any of those disasters or other loss of life that people tragically experience, those are local events and this is a national event and when we talk about vulnerability of SIDS, that is the way in which we have to have the conversation.”

He observed that the SIDS should not only look to highlight their plight in Samoa, but to suggest how these problems can be addressed.

“We don’t simply go to Samoa with a tale of woe, but we say this is what you can do about it and one of the things we have to do about it in a practical way is have the world look at us with new eyes and the eyes can’t simply be wearing the glasses of per capita GDP. It has to be a more nuanced vision and part of that nuance has to be the vulnerability of small island developing states,” Gonsalves said.(BK)