The United Nations is bringing together some 300 environmentalists and officials from the world’s small island developing states to meet in the Bahamas from today (Monday Jan. 26), to prepare a common agenda for a ten-year review of their progress towards sustainable development. The review of the 1994 Barbados Programme of Action is to be held at a United Nations follow-up conference in Mauritius in the Indian Ocean from August 30th to September 4th.
The Bahamas meeting is expected to merge the discussions among small islands in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and South China Seas, and the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.The 1994 Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Islands Developing States (SIDS), held in Barbados, established that small islands face major challenges such as the rising sea levels caused by global warming which could threaten their existence and harm further development.The Barbados Programme of Action and the Bridgetown Declararation called on the international community to recognise the islands’ particular fragility and vulnerability to hurricanes and storms.In early January, this vulnerability was highlighted by the destruction on the South Pacific of Niue which left one out of five residents homeless. The UN estimated that Niue would need resources amounting to three to four times the size of its economy to clean up and rebuild.The United Nations said in a statement in advance of the Bahamas meeting that the Barbados Programme of Action had only been partially implemented as a result of a reduction of foreign aid over the last decade.Despite this, the
UN said the island states have “increasingly worked as a relatively efficient and influential group on the international scene in spite of their geographic dispersion, and they pragmatically strive to present their common concerns in order to both become more integrated in the world economy and protect their fragile ecosystems”.The Bahamas meeting will address both existing and emerging issues for the development of small islands, including the impact of HIV/AIDS, trade, tourism, freshwater, energy, transport and communications, and good governance. A common agenda of priority areas for action is to be identified by the Bahamas meeting, which will then be presented to the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development in mid-April at UN headquarters in New York.Describing small island people as being the “most vulnerable segment of humanity”, the Secretary-General of the review conference, Anwarul K. Chowdhury, said recently that the international community needed to support a “new resurgence” in Mauritius to “bring true benefit and progress” for the islands.