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SIDS PrepCom Commences Negotiations for September 2014 Conference

SIDS Conference logo26 February 2014: The Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) elected the Bureau and discussed the objectives and substantive theme of the Conference, as well as organizational and procedural matters, during its first meeting. The session took place from 24-26 February 2014, at UN Headquarters in New York, US.

The Committee elected to the Bureau: from the Group of African States, Milan Jaya Meetarbhan, Permanent Representative of Mauritius, Ronald Jean Jumeau, Ambassador for Climate Change and SIDS Issues, Seychelles; from the Group of Asia-Pacific States, Katsuhiko Takahashi, Japan, and Karen Tan, Permanent Representative of Singapore; from the Group of Eastern European States, Elena Anca Jurcan, Deputy Permanent Representative of Romania, and Dmytro Kushneruk, Ukraine; from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC), Kereeta Whyte, Barbados, and Yanerit Morgan, Deputy Permanent Representative of Mexico; and from the Group of Western European and Other States (WEOG), Phillip Taula, Deputy Permanent Representative of New Zealand, and Juan Manuel González de Linares Palou, Deputy Permanent Representative of Spain. Ali'ioaiga Feturi Elisaia, Permanent Representative of Samoa, was elected as an ex officio member. The Co-Chairs of the Bureau are: Karen Tan (Singapore) and Phillip Taula (New Zealand).

Wu Hongbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Secretary-General of the Conference, said two sessions of the PrepCom and one intersessional “may not be a lot,” but by focusing on the issues identified in the regional meetings, much could be accomplished. These issues, he noted, are: climate change; natural disasters; crime and violence; high rates of unemployment; debt and health concerns; renewable energy; ocean-related issues and “blue economy”; need for special financing mechanisms and trade instruments for SIDS; and sustainable management of natural resources.

Gyan Chandra Acharya, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and SIDS, said the “historic SIDS conference that took place in Barbados in 1994 is coming to Apia via Mauritius.” The Conference outcome will contribute both to shaping the post-2015 development agenda and to the success of the Climate Summit taking place in September 2014. He added, “the situation in islands should be an eye opener to all of us,” saying that concrete actions to support SIDS in pursuing sustainable development is in the enlightened self-interest of the international community.

During the discussion, participants highlighted the specific development, economic, and environmental challenges facing SIDS, in particular their small size, limited resources, isolation, vulnerability to disasters and climate change, and the impact that all of these issues have on national development. Progress for SIDS on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been uneven, participants noted.

There were continuous calls for countries to fulfill commitments made previously in the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) and the Mauritius Strategy of Implementation (MSI), which call for a joint, international response, in the view of many governments.

In relation to the theme of the conference – ‘Sustainable Development of SIDS through Genuine and Durable Partnerships' – many comments addressed concepts of partnership. Member States stressed that partnerships should, inter alia: be action-oriented; be differentiated by level; hold stakeholders accountable; be built on innovative financial and partnership models; allow SIDS to collaborate; and identify new opportunities for alliance. Samoa, host of the Conference, stressed that partnerships should be specific to SIDS, achievable, and based on the ownership and engagement of diverse stakeholders.

Proposals for Conference thematic issues included: management of oceans, climate change and disaster risk response; sustainable energy; data; private-led investment; non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and health; coastal areas; food security; sustained and inclusive economic growth; and gender equality. On financing, Member States called for fulfillment of development financing for SIDS while also emphasizing the need to mobilize other types of resources. On climate change, statements recognized the existential threat to islands posed by sea level rise and increased natural disasters, but also stressed the importance of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) parallel negotiations. Some delegates suggested that the SIDS Conference process can provide value for other ongoing processes, such as discussions on the post-2015 development agenda. Calls were made for civil society participation in negotiations going forward.

Most SIDS delegations called for the Barbados Inter-Regional meeting outcome document to serve as the basis for the intergovernmental zero draft for negotiation. One said the development priorities of SIDS “must take center stage” in the zero draft.

On the outcome document, statements resoundingly called for a final Conference product that is concise and action-oriented, with achievable and strategic objectives. Other proposals for the outcome document suggested: showcasing partnerships; and creating an institutional mechanism to facilitate inter- and intra-SIDS collaboration.

Concluding the PrepCom, Wu called it a “major milestone for SIDS.” The Bureau Co-Chairs added, “we have our work cut out for us.”

The Co-Chairs are expected to release the zero draft of the Conference outcome document by 14 March, and the Preparatory Committee will convene in an inter-sessional meeting from 21-25 April, at UN Headquarters in New York, US. [First Preparatory Meeting Website] [Meeting Organization of Work] [Preparatory Meeting Statements and Presentations] [UN Webcast, First Meeting] [UN Webcast, Second Meeting] [UN Webcast, Third Meeting] [UN Webcast, Fourth Meeting] [Barbados Outcome Document] [Opening Statement of Conference Secretary-General] [Opening Statement of OHRLLS] [Consideration of the outcome of the Conference based on the objectives and the theme of the Conference (A/CONF.223/PC/2)] [Annotated Provisional Agenda (A/CONF.223/PC/1)[IISD RS Sources]