SIDS go forward with ‘new sense of hope, solidarity and determination’

By United Nations

SIDS go forward with ‘new sense of hope, solidarity and determination’

The roadmap towards achieving resilient prosperity for small island States adopted in Antigua and Barbuda “marks the beginning of a new journey” and a decade of delivery for their citizens and the world, said the UN Deputy Secretary-General.

Speaking at the closing of the Fourth International Conference on Small Island States (SIDS4), Amina Mohammed stressed that despite increasingly existential threats to SIDS, “we do have reasons for hope and optimism”.

More than 20 world leaders and senior ministers from over 100 nations joined close to 4,000 other participants on the lush campus of the American University of Antigua through the week – together with representatives from the private sector, civil society, academia, and youth – to tackle a raft of issues vital to the survival of the 39 SIDS in the face of the climate crisis and other shocks.

The deputy UN chief declared that the adopted outcome known as the Antigua and Barbuda Agenda (ABAS) presented a “vision for the future that SIDS wants and needs.”

On the right course

The plan for the next ten years agreed upon by all parties to the conference titled, A renewed declaration for resilient Prosperity, sets out the collective sustainable development aspirations of SIDS and the support required from the international community to meet them.

The deputy UN chief told delegates that ABAS sets the economies of SIDS on a strong course so they can strengthen resilience, with populations in ways that are safe, healthy, productive, and prosperous “but also where access to food, energy, and water is guaranteed.”

Biodiversity will be protected while the ocean and its resources are conserved, secured by strong climate action to limit temperature rises – and rising sea levels. She stated that all action to slow global warming must “meet the urgency of the moment.”

The new Centre of Excellence for SIDS – housed in Antigua and Barbuda – will be solutions-oriented and serve as a platform for crucial private sector engagement, she added.

ABAS also calls for significant new financing at scale, where it is most needed, given the crippling impact of high-interest debt repayments many SIDS face. A new Debt Sustainability Support Service is also being established as part of the forward-looking agenda and the provision of data that can really measure vulnerabilities to scale up finance “to where it matters most with a sense of urgency.”

Commitment ‘at all levels’

Although the path has been set, there is no automatic right to success, Ms. Mohammed cautioned: “Success relies on each of us – each and every one of us – stepping up in genuine partnerships that are timely, that are robust and effective” to make the ABAS a reality.

Ms. Mohammed said there needed to be a “reality check” when it comes to monitoring and evaluation.

“Let me say that halfway through the SDGs, what we did measure has not been done and that’s a wake up call for us…not to lose the credibility of the multilateral system”. She stressed the real work will be in implementing the Agenda.

Speaking for the UN she said “we commit to joining your efforts at all levels.” UN Resident Coordinators and Country Teams will work hand in hand with all partners to deliver resilient prosperity and aid digital, “green and blue” transformation.

New journey

“Let us remember that this conference marks the beginning of a new journey. Our responsibilities don’t stop here. The ABAS must guide our efforts towards 2030 when we meet in 10 years’ time”.

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne, who presided over SIDS4, agreed that while much has been accomplished “our real work has just begun.”

“We have the roadmap and the institutional arrangements in place. Let us stay committed to multistakeholder partnerships innovation collaboration and inclusivity, working together to overcome our unique challenges”, he added.

Investing in people should be the ‘absolute priority’

Earlier in the day, delegates met to discuss the importance of health, especially to the youngest generation.

The fragility of health systems in many small island States is stymying the “growth and potential of our younger generations” the Minister Plenipotentiary from Sint Maarten Patrice Gumbs warned, addressing an interactive dialogue session on addressing health crises and bolstering young people.

Investing in human capital in terms of health, education, and empowerment of youth “is not merely a policy choice but a need for survival and growth”, he added.

This needs to be led by innovative healthcare solutions such as telemedicine, mobile health teams, and partnerships “that bring expertise and technology to our shores.”

Co-chair of the event, Jose Ulisses Correia e Silva Prime Minister of Cabo Verde said investing in people overall “must be an absolute priority for us” along with defending women’s dignity, respect for human rights, gender equality, and tolerance.

“We must strengthen investments, policies, and partnerships for access to quality education and healthcare and place top priority on eradicating extreme poverty and creating decent jobs for young people,” he stressed.

Speaking from her perspective as head of the world’s largest humanitarian agency, the World Food Programme, (WFP) Cindy McCain told the meeting that boosting healthcare provision, education, and skills, was about allowing people to thrive, not just survive.

Human capital provides the very foundations for sustainable development, she noted.

“It’s a golden thread that runs through all of our conversations”, she declared, “as we’ve discussed how we can work together. To adapt to climate change, protect livelihoods, and assist small island developing states as they chart a course toward resilient prosperity. “