UN chief calls for action as small island summit opens in Samoa
The Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States opened in Apia, Samoa on Monday, and the talks will focus on getting countries to pledge their support for small islands at risk from the effects of climate change. Heads of states, business leaders and civil society representatives are attending the event from 1-4 September.The theme for the conference is “the sustainable development of small island developing States through genuine and durable partnerships” and it is expected to adopt a declaration called “Small Island Developing States Accelerated Modalities of Action”, also known as the “Samoa Pathway”. The conference is promoting national partnerships that can help overcome the environmental and economic challenges facing small island states and seeks to raise the global awareness of the issues they are facing. Environmental degradation and access to energy will be particularly high on the agenda for this years summit. At the opening of the conference, Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, urged the international community to address the issues facing small island developing states (SIDS). Ban said: “The diverse coalition of small island nations we call SIDS lives on the front lines of climate change and sustainable development. They are also the vanguard in pioneering solutions that the entire world needs. The slogan for this conference is Island Voices, Global Choices. Let us heed those voices. Island issues affect us all. I see small island developing states as a magnifying glass. When we look through [their] lens, we see the vulnerabilities we all face. And by addressing the issues facing small island developing state we are developing the tools we need to promote sustainable development across the entire world.” Teilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, The Prime Minister of Samoa, said: “We understand the concerns of industrialized countries about economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions, but if we don’t act now it will be too late for many of our small islands that are already being inundated by rising sea levels. The international community has to understand that in an increasingly interrelated world, critical problems recognise no borders and ride roughshod over sovereignty.” According to the secretariat, the conference will seek to achieve the following objectives: 2014 is the International Year of Small Island Developing States and priorities of the conference include assessing the progress of the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation of the Program of Action for Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States; and identifying priorities for the sustainable development of SIDS to be considered in the elaboration of the post-2015 UN development agenda. UN statistics suggest there are 40 SIDS worldwide with a total population of nearly 65 million and a total gross domestic product of close to US$600 billion. The conference is held every ten years, with the previous two held in 1994 in Barbados and in 2005 in Mauritius.