Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are poor, highly vulnerable countries which have been making a significant contribution to the development of human civilisation but need the support, including financial and technical assistance, of wealthier countries.

That is the message Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is hoping to leave in Samoa, where the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States will be held from September 1 to 4.

Mr. Stuart said: ???SIDS have peculiar challenges and if we can get that message across so that lending institutions and partner countries deal more sympathetically and more understandingly with SIDS, this conference would have been worth it. Click here for audio

???It is not what happens at this conference that is going to matter, but what happens after it. For example, how lending institutions frame their policies, how larger and wealthier countries view aid to SIDS, how issues like carbon emissions in larger and more industrialised countries are treated in the context of global warming, the potential for sea level rise, the potential for coastal erosion and all of those very deleterious effects that can bedevil SIDS. If we can get some sensitivity to all of those issues I think we would have done a great work in Samoa,??? he stated.

Acknowledging that SIDS never get all they want from developed countries, the Prime Minister said they have had to constantly make a case for various types of assistance. He maintained that many SIDS challenges were as a result of what larger and more powerful countries were doing, yet assistance from them was not forthcoming, especially during this very difficult period.

He noted that it was not unusual to hear the wealthier and larger countries say they were facing their own urgent and difficult challenges. In addition, he stated, resources were not easily available to them (SIDS) for disbursement because of the economic downturn.

???So we have to continue agitating for what we want. Many of the doors to concessionary financing have been closed to a number of Small Island Developing States. In fact, a lot of us have been punished for our own successes. We have been graduated, that is, we have been told that we are well positioned to take care of some of our more urgent needs and that the resources have to go to those who have not done as well as we have been doing.

???It is a continuing struggle. That is why the collaborative effort is so important and that is why it is important for us to be in the councils where decisions are being taken, so that we can influence the content of those decisions and ensure that benefits flow in our direction,??? Mr. Stuart said.

But in these difficult economic times, there is debate in some quarters as to whether small islands like Barbados should send delegations to these international conferences, which are seen as costly exercises. The Prime Minister is firmly of the view that they should be represented, since decisions are made at these conferences which could affect the countries positively or negatively. Click here for??video

Proffering the view that the SIDS agenda is too important and cannot be left to chance, he suggested that Barbados must be present to influence the outcome of the discussions. ???What happens at this conference is going to determine how other countries and international institutions deal with SIDS,??? he reiterated.

According to him, SIDS must not underestimate their power and influence in the global discourse and he suggested that it was absolutely necessary for them to come together to advocate their cause.

In the lead up to this conference, Prime Minister Stuart has, on two occasions, called for the Ministers of Finance of SIDS to meet because he believes they have a critical role to play in confronting some of the challenges. And, he intends to repeat his call for a meeting in Samoa.

???If they meet and can come to common positions on what is required for SIDS, they can, with more effective eloquence and forcefulness put the case for SIDS in those quarters where it matters and achieve the results that we need. Now if they don???t meet and the left hand in SIDS does not know what the right hand is doing, the narrative becomes disjointed and the overall case and cause are undermined,??? he said.

SIDS battle many issues, including climate change, rising sea levels, natural resource depletion, soil degradation, land and coastal pollution and stronger and more frequent storms, which are capable of reversing gains in development. Mr. Stuart is of the opinion that measures are needed to mitigate the effects of climate change and the Samoa meeting will give SIDS leaders the opportunity to forge critical partnerships in the area.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first global conference on SIDS, which was held in Barbados from April 25 to May 6, 1994. It was convened as a result of the international community???s recognition of the vulnerabilities of SIDS, which are made up of three distinct geographic regions ??? the Caribbean; the Pacific; and the Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea.

The SIDS conference is structured around several strategic and political dialogues, including forums dedicated to youth, major groups, renewable energy and the private sector. In addition to plenary sessions, there will be multi-stakeholder partnership dialogues, side events, parallel events and a SIDS Village.

The main topics at the conference will be Sustainable Economic Development; Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management; Social Development, Health and Non-Communicable Diseases, Youth and Gender; Sustainable Energy; Oceans, Seas and Biodiversity; Water and Sanitation, Food Security and Waste Management.

During the four-day meeting, the participants will also assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) and the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation (MSI) of the BPOA. And, Prime Minister Stuart will be heavily involved in the deliberations, having been invited to chair some important sessions, as well as participate in high-level meetings.

As heads of state, global leaders and their technocrats gather to address the many challenges vulnerable states face, it is clear that this conference will not be a talk shop. But there will be robust discussion, with well thought out decisions that would positively impact people who live in small island developing states.

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