Sustainable Economic Development; Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management will be among key areas on the agenda at the upcoming United Nations Third Global Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Apia, Samoa, from Monday, September 1 to Thursday, September 4.

The sustainable development of the 38 SIDS member-states will feature prominently, as their leaders seek to also address matters relating to Social Development; Non-communicable Diseases; Youth and Gender; Sustainable Energy; Oceans, Seas and Biodiversity; Water; Sanitation, Food Security and Waste Management.

In short, it will focus the world???s attention on a group of countries whose unique and particular vulnerabilities demand that attention be paid to their sustainable development.??The global conference is expected to assess their progress to date and examine the remaining gaps in the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) and the Mauritius Strategy for Implementation (MSI). It will also see renewed political commitment with a focus on practical and pragmatic actions for the further implementation of the BPOA and MSI.

The conference will also identify new and emerging challenges and opportunities for the sustainable development of SIDS and look at ways of addressing them, while at the same time selecting priority areas for their sustainable development in the post-2015 UN development agenda.??So just what is Barbados??? role in this global conference, and how does the country stand to benefit?

For starters Barbados, also a member of SIDS, is considered as ???the midwife to the SIDS Agenda??? as it stepped up to the challenge of placing SIDS on the international agenda under the astute leadership of then Prime Minister of Barbados, now Sir Lloyd Erskine Sandiford. The upcoming meeting marks the 20th anniversary of the first Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States which was held in Barbados from April 25 to May 6, 1994.

This came on the heels of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio, when the Agenda 21 was established to include a programme area on the sustainable development of small islands.??It was at the 1994 conference that the BPOA was adopted, and this is considered the starting point for action on behalf of SIDS. Just over a decade later, it was reviewed at the International Review Meeting in Port Louis, Mauritius, in January 2005.

Emerging from that meeting was the Mauritius Strategy for the further Implementation of the BPOA which was built on 14 thematic areas, and also included the planned graduation of SIDS countries from least developed status, trade sustainable production and consumption, health, knowledge management and culture.

These were among some of the accomplishments which Barbados made in setting the SIDS agenda. The island also hosted a number of significant events, and was the home to a number of agreements which have since been signed.??The Barbados Declaration on Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in Small Island Developing States, issued in May 2012 after the Ministerial conference on Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in SIDS ??? Challenges, Opportunities, Commitments, was one such accomplishment.

In addition, Barbados also hosted the Inter-regional Preparatory Meeting, which saw the presence of all three regions of SIDS in August 2013 from which the ???Outcome Document??? was produced as the basis for the SAMOA pathway document to be issued at the end of the upcoming meeting.??Furthermore, Barbados??? Prime Minister was the only representative of a SIDS country present on the UN Secretary General???s Global Sustainability Panel which met from 2010 to 2012. The panel???s report: Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future worth Choosing was launched in January 2012, following those meetings.

More recently, the country also played host to the World Environment Day Celebrations 2014, a significant milestone, especially as it occurred during the first recognition of the UN International Year of SIDS.??Fast forward to present day, and it should be noted that this year???s conference will bring an end to nearly 24 months of global preparations and negotiations across the SIDS countries. And, it is anticipated that the adoption of the SAMOA Pathway would be politically symbolic and substantive in advancing the development and aspirations of SIDS.

For Barbados, it is also an opportunity to highlight the Social Partnership, as well as the links this country has forged with the United Nations Environment Programme in building a Resource-Efficient Green Economy.??In fact, the island has a vested interest in the outcome of the meeting, and the delegation will use every opportunity to focus on areas of debt sustainability, graduation, and the vulnerabilities of SIDS.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has already outlined the recommendations which he hopes to see emerging from the upcoming meeting. These include the promotion of a SIDS-SIDS exchange and collaboration; the integration and revitalisation of SIDS Technical Assistance Programmes into the outcome; attention being given to the UN processes and reforms; the convening of a meeting of SIDS Finance Ministers; highlighting the role of technology in addressing youth unemployment into the outcome; and strengthening data platforms to measure and analyse environmental vulnerability.

These issues as outlined by the Prime Minister continue to be of extreme importance to Barbados and other Caribbean SIDS in a year that the UN is for the first time celebrating as the International Year of Small Island Developing States.

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