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Focus on SIDS issues: Small Island Developing States need more support

By RuthMoisa Stoute

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has expressed his dissatisfaction with the level of attention being given by international bodies to matters of urgency for Small Island Developing States (SIDS), such as those found within the Caribbean, and is calling for early agreement to unresolved issues that would help such states chart a better path towards sustainable development in the face of their “many inherent vulnerabilities”.

One of the vulnerabilities on which he focused his attention during his address at the Global Celebration For the World Environment Day (WED) 2014, was on climate change. The WED Celebration, in its 42nd year, was held yesterday morning in Independence Square, The City, and was attended by regional and international dignitaries, including United Nations Resident Coordinator for Barbados and the OECS, Stephen O’Malley and Under Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Achim Steiner.

The Prime Minister made the statement before United Nations representatives that SIDS needed support for undertaking urgent adaptation action; adequate financing, in particular the finalisation and operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund; and the conclusion of the discussion on loss and damage.

Carrying the theme “Raise Your Voice, Not the Sea Level”, Stuart noted that such a focus was in sync with the United Nations Year of Small Island Development States (SIDS) also being celebrated this year under the theme “Small Island development States and Climate Change”.

Remarking that though the designation of 2014 as the international year of SIDS was a very important achievement which provided the opportunity to focus on issues confronting small island states, such as the environment, he was of the strong view that inter- and intra-regional collaboration across the SIDS regions remained one of the weakest aspects of the implementation of the SIDS Agenda.

“In Barbados’ view, a clear indication of doing justice to this important and fundamental concept must be the establishment in each of the SIDS regions of a SIDS intern-governmental institutional mechanism to contribute to driving SIDS sustainable development… SIDS simply do not have the luxury of wishing and waiting [and such an institution] must be one of the critical outputs of the Third International Conference on SIDS,” Stuart argued.

He linked this assertion with the repeated call by SIDS worldwide for a coherent structural response on the part of the UN System to SIDS issues, noting that such a response could contribute significantly to focusing the UN System on the needs of SIDS and would channel actions in a more efficient and systematic manner.

Lauding the relationship Barbados had with United Nations Environment Programme UNEP, he said he was concerned that SIDS issues did not feature as a substantive agenda item for the upcoming first historic session of the United Nations Environment Assembly and called upon the UNEP’s Executive Director to addresses the matter with urgency.

Along with his attention on the United Nations, the Prime Minister also pleaded with the leadership of Brenton Woods Institutions to give consideration to convening a meeting of SIDS finance ministers, further explaining that the objectives of such would be to address debt, one of the most crippling issues facing SIDS.

Notwithstanding a need for more action from these international entities, Stuart made it clear that SIDS Prime Ministers and Presidents needed to step up to the plate by taking urgent action to strengthen the collective’s strategic coherence, particularly on issues at the international level. “… I [previously] raised the issue of the need for a greater commitment on our part to the ‘SIDS Collectivity’… we need to speak with one voice to ensure that our concerns are taken on board at international fora,” Stuart said.

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