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WED 2014 Spotlights SIDS

worlddayunep5 June 2014: This year's World Environment Day (WED), hosted by Barbados and celebrated under the banner ‘Raise your Voice, Not the Sea Level', focused on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and the risks and opportunities they face, particularly with respect to climate change. The Day lent an additional focus to the 2014 International Year of SIDS, as well as the Third International Conference on the Small Island Developing States, which will convene in Samoa from 1-4 September 2014. 

The UN Secretariat and many entities within the UN family used the day to highlight both the resilience of and the challenges faced by SIDS. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged "everyone to think about the plight of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and to take inspiration from their efforts to address climate change, strengthen resilience and work for a sustainable future.”

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner highlighted that, while the world's 52 SIDS generate less than 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, rising sea levels from climate change could make many SIDS, such as Maldives, Kiribati and Tuvalu, uninhabitable. 

Also marking the Day, the UNFCCC Secretariat held a special press conference on the margins of the Bonn Climate Change Conference. SIDS Ministers from Grenada, Maldives and the Marshall Islands used the conference to call attention to the plight of SIDS and to the importance of reaching a strong climate deal. The press conference also called attention to the SIDS Foresight Report.

In other statements, Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary, UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said, "The world is better off environmentally today, and will be into the future, because [SIDS] took a moral stand on climate change." Irina Bokova, Director-General, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), explained that “small islands are really vast ocean states whose land area is only a part of their territory and whose experience is vital for all the inhabitants of our blue planet.” Continuing, she said that “no single country, however powerful, can resolve the challenges of our common environment,” and that, over the long term, “we must act together, as close as possible to the needs on the ground.”

WED is the UN's principal vehicle for encouraging worldwide awareness and action on the environment and is celebrated in over 100 countries on 5 June. [WED Website] [UN News] [Secretary-General's Statement] [UNEP Statement] [UNFCCC-SIDS Press Conference] [SIDS Foresight Report] [UNESCO Statement] [UNEP Press Release] [UNCCD Statement] [CMS Editorial] [UNEP Summary Press Release]