Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed (second left) at the closing of the Fourth International Conference on Small Island States (SIDS4) in Antigua and Barbuda. UN News/Matt Wells - Photo: 2024

UN Conference Assures Small Island Developing States a New Era Of Resilience

By J C Suresh

TORONTO | ST. JOHN’S, Antigua and Barbuda | 1 June 2024 (IDN) — The United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has emphasized the need for investment in Small Island Developing States (SIDS). She made these remarks as the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) wrapped up on 30 May in Antigua and Barbuda with unanimous support for a bold new 10-year plan of action that will deliver meaningful change for this group of vulnerable countries.

World leaders adopted “The Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS)— A Renewed Declaration for Resilient Prosperity”, named after the Caribbean island nation that hosted them. “Over the course of the last four days many of you have made commitments to make—a Declaration for Renewed Prosperity ABAS a reality”, she said, adding, “We recognize the commitments from the European Union, Germany, Netherlands, and the United States. We hope others will also step up”.

“After three decades and three programmes of action, SIDS [small island developing States] remain a special case for sustainable development,” world leaders declared in that document. Recognizing their unique vulnerability, however, does not mean that those countries exhibit weakness or lack potential, it continued—“rather, it means recognizing that they are disproportionately impacted in terms of physical destruction and non-economic and economic losses to a far greater scale that elsewhere”.

The importance of the Declaration lies in the fact that SIDS remain a special case for sustainable development because of their unique challenges, from their small size and geographic remoteness to their narrow resource and export base, which makes them vulnerable to shocks and crises.

Many SIDS are still reeling from the double shocks of the global financial crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, with the recent confluence of global crises further exacerbating the situation. Over 40 per cent of SIDS are now on the edge of, or already grappling with unsustainable levels of debt, with resources often diverted from investments in health and education to service unsustainable debt.

Furthermore, SIDS are on the frontlines of the global climate crisis, despite contributing just 1% of global carbon dioxide emissions. International pledges to help SIDS develop their adaptation and mitigation efforts have fallen short, with SIDS only having access to USD 1.5 billion out of the USD 100 billion in climate finance pledged to developing countries in 2019.

A new, ambitious pathway

ABAS, the major outcome of the SIDS4 Conference, puts forth a new, ambitious pathway for SIDS’ sustainable development.

Ms  Mohammed said:“No effort should be spared to ensure that the voices of vulnerable and marginalized groups in SIDS continue to be heard, including persons with disabilities, older persons, and indigenous peoples.”

About 3,000 participants, including 22 Heads of State and Government, attended the Conference, advocating for the priorities of small island nations to be at the forefront of the global development agenda. Over four days, world leaders together with the private sector, civil society, academia and young people spotlighted challenges, presented innovative and practical solutions and delivered a host of new commitments to accelerate sustainable development in SIDS.

Other areas of the Declaration’s focus included the ocean-based economy, science, technology and innovation, and monitoring and evaluation, including improving data collection and analysis in SIDS.

Snapshot of Commitments

  • Antigua and Barbuda launched a Center of Excellence for SIDS and Debt Sustainability Support Service.
  • The United States announced its commitment to scale-up international public climate finance to over USD 11 billion annually by 2024, quadrupling the previous level.
  • The EU pledged to mobilize EUR 300 billion in public and private investments by 2027 to involve the private sector in sustainable development through its Global Gateway investment strategy, with several initiatives underway in SIDS.
  • Barbados announced the launch of a UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)-Barbados Global SIDS Hub for Sustainable Development.
  • UNDP announced a new $135 million Blue and Green Islands Integrated Program, launched jointly with UNEP.
  • The Green Climate Fund presented its “50by30” vision to manage USD 50 billion by 2030 and the Fund’s efforts to strengthen the network of entities it collaborates with to better enable countries to put forward ambitious programs.

For a full list please see the preliminary list of commitments here:

A close look at the ABAS Declaration reveals that the SIDS4 Conference has set the stage for the Summit of the Future taking place at UN Headquarters in New York from 22 to 23 September 2024. As a critical moment to renew multilateralism and deliver on the promise to leave no one behind, the Summit will be an opportunity to further address the concerns of SIDS and help ensure the most vulnerable countries can access both the finance and technology they need to support the Sustainable Development Goals.

World leaders are expected to agree at the Summit on a Pact for the Future that is well aligned with SIDS priorities. This includes addressing the significant financing gap to meet the Goals and incorporating measures of vulnerability into the allocation of concessional finance. The Summit calls for the reform of the international financial architecture to strengthen the voice and representation of developing countries; and to improve the global debt architecture to promote debt sustainability. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed (second left) at the closing of the Fourth International Conference on Small Island States (SIDS4) in Antigua and Barbuda. UN News/Matt Wells

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