Consultations for the first major international conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) since the global pandemic opened in Port Louis, Mauritius on July 24. At the meeting, the small island nations of the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Sea (AIS) will meet with international partners to review sustainable development progress and propose new partnerships and solutions in advance of the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Antigua and Barbuda in 2024.
SIDS are in the crossfires of multiple crises: climate change, inequality and the economic and social repercussions of COVID-19, especially related to debt. COVID-19 hugely impacted all SIDS, especially the collapse in tourism that left large holes in coffers and severely set back efforts to invest in the Sustainable Development Goals, including climate action.
“Small Island Developing States are in the midst of a global crisis,” said Hon. Alan Ganoo, Minister of Land Transport and Light Rail, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and International Trade of Mauritius. He continued, “We must send a collective message reaffirming our determination to address the complex challenges that we face.”
The eight AIS countries—Cabo Verde, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritius, Maldives, Seychelles, São Tomé e Príncipe, and Singapore—represent significant differences in exposure to climate change, natural hazards, and global markets. Since independence, some have developed strong economies, but their size and geographies leave them vulnerable to economic and ecological shocks.
Climate-related disasters such as severe storms, floods, and drought have almost doubled over the last 20 years, and they affect SIDS like no other countries. In a sudden-onset disaster, SIDS can lose everything overnight.
SIDS are responsible for only 0.2 per cent of global carbon emissions and yet suffer most from the impacts of climate change. The constant cycle of disaster and recovery leaves them weakened and unable to build resilience.
“The eight SIDS spread between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans and the South China Sea are as diverse as communities can be,” said Li Jinhua, United Nations Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Secretary-General of the 2024 SIDS Conference. “The United Nations is committed to supporting these islands in their quest for a more resilient and sustainable future. They may be geographically remote, but their problems are not theirs to face alone.”
19 percent of the coral reefs in the world are in SIDS’ waters. The combined Exclusive Economic Zones of Mauritius and Seychelles – the waters they control – are bigger than the size of India. The meeting will assert that a sustainable future for the planet relies on a renewed and strengthened partnership between all island nations and the international community.
The Mauritius meeting is the first regional review meeting on the path to the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States, taking place in Antigua and Barbuda in 2024. Further regional meetings will be held this summer in Tonga for the Pacific region and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines for the Caribbean. These meetings will be followed by a final interregional gathering in Cabo Verde.
The Antigua and Barbuda conference next year will undertake a comprehensive review of the implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (S.A.M.O.A.) Pathway, a major international development compact agreed in 2014.
The Mauritius meeting will adopt an outcome document with recommendations that will feed directly into preparations for the 2024 Conference. The meeting will bring together ministers and senior government officials from SIDS across the region alongside representatives of development partners and the UN system.