By J Nastranis
NEW YORK (IDN) – Progress made in addressing the priorities of the highly vulnerable small island developing States (SIDS) will draw the focus of the United Nations General Assembly when it conducts a high-level review of the SAMOA Pathway on September 27 as part of the ACTION FOR PEOPLE AND PLANET that kicked off a week earlier at the UN headquarters.
Fifty two countries and territories are presently classified as SIDS by the UN OHRLLS (UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States). 38 are UN members and 14 are non-UN Members or Associate Members of the Regional Commissions.
The review is taking place five years after the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States was held from in Apia, Samoa. The Conference resulted in the adoption of the Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action – or SAMOA Pathway and the announcement of 300 multi-stakeholder partnerships in support of SIDS.
The African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States is “proud of the substantial engagement” it has had with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway. “The Pathway logically, is a natural arena of engagement by the ACP Group on Agenda 2030 given the number of SIDS that account for a significant proportion of the membership,” says ACP Secretary-General Dr. Patrick I. Gomes.
The September 27 review is considered an important opportunity for the international community to assess the status of implementation of the SAMOA Pathway agreement, address the gaps, and suggest actions that reaffirm solidarity with and support for small island developing states.
The unique challenges facing small island developing states are also featuring prominently in the Climate Action Summit, the SDG Summit, and the high-level meetings on Financing for Sustainable Development and Universal Health Coverage.
As part of the highl review, governments, private sector, civil society, academia and a wide range of other stakeholders are expected to be encouraged to build and launch new and additional partnerships that advance the implementation of priority areas of the SAMOA Pathway and the Sustainable Development Goals in small island developing states.
The review is expected to result in a political declaration as well as the announcement of new partnerships. The ‘zero draft’ declaration agreed on May 10, 2019 calls for the establishment of a global disaster fund for SIDS to rebuild better after natural disasters, and to support development strategies for the financial management of disaster risk in SIDS.
It also demands initiatives for the development of resilient infrastructure, data collection for development of evidence-based strategies, strengthened disaster risk governance mechanisms, innovative ex-ante risk-informed financing instruments, including financing approaches which incentivize disaster risk reduction, and integration of disaster risk reduction and climate action into policies, programmes and budgets across all sectors.
Furthermore it calls for “the urgent establishment and introduction by international financial institutions (IFIs), regional development banks and development partners of eligibility categories based on vulnerability measures which would reflect the principle of gradual transition in access to development financial assistance and the abandonment of per capita national income as the primary eligibility criterion for access to concessional and non-concessional development finance assistance”.
The declaration stresses the need for tailor made solutions including post disaster debt relief, which it says should be given greater weight in determining access to international development finance, in light of the special circumstances and vulnerabilities of SIDS.
“IFIs, and development partners,” emphasizes the declaration should “prioritize access and increase their funding to SIDS, including providing timely, predictable and sustained financial resources and technical support at the national, regional, inter-regional and international levels.”
The SIDS have a combined population of around 65 million people contributing to less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. They are extremely important for global biodiversity as islands harbor 20% of all plant, bird, and reptile species on only about 3% of the Earth’s land surface.
On average, almost 30% of small island developing states’ populations live at less than 5 meters above sea level. The economic costs of climate change for small island developing states are projected at 15% of GDP or more.
In 2018, while the average external debt in small island developing states reached 60% of their GNI, worsened by the need to borrow for the cost of natural disasters recovery, Official Development Assistance flows to small island developing states declined.
Climate finance to small island developing states has however increased over the past decade. The Global Environment Facility for instance, invested close to US$1 billion on SAMOA Pathway Priorities 2014-2018, including climate finance.
The zero draft declaration furthermore call for the scaling up of North-South and triangular cooperation in support of SIDS, complemented by South-South cooperation, including through enhanced knowledge sharing platforms, leveraging the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, UN DESA, UN OHRLLS and relevant International and regional organizations, for the dissemination of best practices and strengthening peer review and peer-to-peer learning processes;
It calls on development partners to implement concrete measures in support of the transition strategy for SIDS that have recently graduated or are about to graduate from least developed country status, so as to ensure the sustainability of the progress made, and call upon the Committee of Development Policy to address the special case, circumstances and vulnerabilities of SIDS, including in determining the criteria and transition period for graduation from LDC status, as part of its ongoing review
The SIDS furthermore demand continued work on “the full and effective implementation of all the recommendations of the Comprehensive Review of UN System Support for SIDS” prepared by the Joint Inspection Unit and reporting on the progress made in implementation.
The UN Secretary-General, they say, should mobilize the necessary resources, from all sources, and continue to address the needs resulting from the expanding mandates given to the SIDS unit of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) and the UN OHRLLS, including the SIDS Partnership Framework, the SIDS Focal Point Network, and the SIDS Global Business Network. [IDN-InDepthNews – 24 September 2019]
Image credit: UN
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