The Expert Explains: Do Small Island Developing States have enough influence?
The UN lists 39 countries as SIDS communities which are estimated to represent 5% of the global population. The SIDS was a key component of the speech delivered by Sir Anerood Jugnauth, at the United Nations Summit for the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals. So who are the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and do they have enough influence? For those who wish to dig deeper, here’s the explanation, straight from the desk of our expert guest contributor, Samantha Seewoosurrun, a reputed professional consultant in the financial services sector.
The position of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) was a key component of the speech delivered by the Mauritian Prime Minister, Sir Anerood Jugnauth, in New York on 27 September, at the United Nations (UN) Summit for the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals.
The Mauritian Prime Minister argued that it was urgent for the global community to take account of the specific vulnerabilities and challenges of SIDS, and to address the supply side constraints of SIDS to ensure their integration within the global trading system. He called for a pragmatic approach with regard to the special treatment for financial access to climate funds, and for SIDS to be granted special international recognition within the UN system.
The Foreign Affairs Minister of the Seychelles, Joel Morgan, highlighted the importance of the new Sustainable Development Goal 14, which sets out to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources, and called on developing nations to “sustainably harness the potential of their oceanic spaces”.
Taking a slightly different stance, however, the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Dr Kenny Davis Anthony, claimed that over the last 15 years very little has changed for most Small Island Developing States and that “my country’s share of the global space has never been more affected by decisions and policies taken beyond its borders”.
So who are the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and do they have enough influence? The UN lists 39 countries in total, which include Mauritius, Seychelles, the Maldives and Comoros. SIDS communities are estimated to represent 5% of the global population.
SIDS were first recognised as a distinct group of developing countries facing specific social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities at a UN Conference in 1992. They are part of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), an ad hoc negotiating body established by SIDS at the UN, which work together primarily through their New York diplomatic missions to the UN.
The UN has been extending cooperation to SIDS through a Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development and has appointed an Office of the High Representative for the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and small islands and developing states, a post which is currently held by Ambassador Gyan Chandra Acharya from Nepal. 2014 was the International Year of SIDS, which culminated in a conference in Samoa, reaffirming that SIDS remain a special case, and noting that their progress in attaining internationally agreed development goals has been uneven, with some SIDS even having regressed economically.
So, in reality, have SIDS succeeded in promoting their agenda, or is the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia right to be concerned? Two senior officials from the Governments of Australia and New Zealand, Ewen McDonald and Jonathan Kings, analysed the outcome of the July 2015 Addis Ababa Conference on Financing for Development and noted a number of positive developments. They highlight that the needs of SIDS are now enshrined in a global agreement on development finance, with their unique development needs referred to 31 times in the document, as opposed to just 4 references in Doha and 7 in Monterrey previously. They argue that this visibility and recognition sends a powerful message to citizens of SIDS that the international community recognizes that without affordable and sustainable finance, these states cannot overcome the unique constraints they face in achieving sustainable development outcomes.
Furthermore, at the Addis Ababa meeting, SIDS did manage to secure a major commitment from the international community that it would “find new ways to help small island development states finance their development needs in an affordable and sustainable way”, using successful approaches from the World Bank, and working with international financial markets to develop more innovative financing mechanisms. In addition, the international community would develop better risk management frameworks and help improve access to climate-linked finance mechanisms as a way of investing in more resilient infrastructure.
Overall, there is clearly much work to be done to ensure that the Small Island Developing States remain on the international radar at a time of major crises in many parts of the world. At the same time, SIDS have taken significant strides forward in promoting their agenda over the past few months, and it will be up to the leaders of SIDS countries to keep up the momentum.