14 Nov 2018 - Luis Felipe López-Calva, UNDP - Small Island Developing States’ (SIDS) communities have long been blessed with vast ocean and island resources, inspiring rich heritages and cultures. But this geography also exposes them to common challenges, vulnerabilities, indebtedness and dependencies that make their paths towards sustainable development even more complex.
For this reason, nations gathered in Samoa at the 2014 International Conference on SIDS reaffirmed commitments to the sustainable development of SIDS, identifying 17 priority action areas to help achieve the 2030 Agenda. These priorities range from climate change, to sustainable and inclusive economic growth, gender equality and partnerships.
This week I joined the implementation progress review of the Samoa pathway, which emphasizes concerted actions at the national, regional and global levels. These action areas mirror the common vulnerabilities and challenges SIDS face and provide guidance for the needed joint actions thereafter.
The landscape of SIDS’ vulnerabilities is constantly changing along with the world’s development dynamics. In the recent special report by the IPCC, the vulnerabilities of SIDS were projected to be significantly exacerbated by a 1.5 C warmer climate - threatening SIDS population’s health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, infrastructure, human security, cultural heritages and economic growth.
The anticipated decline of marine fisheries of 3 million metric tons per degree warming would have serious impacts for the Indo-Pacific region and the Arctic. Yet, simultaneously, various development opportunities are in play to help mitigate vulnerabilities and dependencies. Tourism, one of the world’s fastest growing sectors, is becoming the main economic activity for many SIDS, creating employment and generating income and foreign exchange earnings that are equivalent to over 20 percent of GDP in two fifths of the SIDS (where data is available).
Additional public sources of environmental financing, such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), are also changing SIDS’ state of affairs. In June 2018, 15 projects totalling $786 million, or 21.4 percent of the total GCF approved funding, began implementation. The projects will increase SIDS’ resilience to the environment and economic shocks and improve the management of their natural resources.
It is critical to recognize that today’s SIDS have evolved away from 2014’s SIDS. Through innovation and the amalgamation of technologies, SIDS are paving a way towards enhanced productivity, resilience and inclusion, by turning some of the challenges they face into opportunities and re-conceptualizing the traditional perceptions of SIDS. The ideas of “smallness” and “remoteness” of SIDS are giving rise to “agility,” “potentiality,” and what we call “large ocean states.”
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