UN official says small islands have major role to play

A senior United Nations official today told a conference in the Bahamas on small island developing States (SIDS) that these nations, though facing a set of specific challenges, have a great contribution to make to the global community. The week-long meeting in Nassau is part of the preparatory process for a meeting slated for later this year in Mauritius to review progress since the adoption, in 1994, of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.

“For the conference in Barbados, our slogan was ‘Small Islands, Big Issues,’” said Anwarul K. Chowdhury, the Secretary-General of the Mauritius meeting. “For Mauritius, reflecting today’s realities, I would like to adjust it to say: ‘Small Islands, Big Potential.’”

Mr. Chowdhury also acknowledged that in spite of the efforts made by small islands, the expectations for international cooperation for the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action have not materialised. Mr. Chowdhury revealed that the overall assistance for small islands has fallen from $2.3 billion in 1994 to $1.7 billion in 2002.

“In order to enhance implementation of the priorities that the small islands identify, I urge development partners to enhance official development assistance (ODA) directed towards these countries,” he declared. “I also urge them and the international financial institutions to enhance flows of concessional financing through regional and other multilateral financial institutions to promote the economic growth and human development and enhance the domestic and regional capacities of the small island developing State.”

The UN Under Secretary General for Social and Economic Affairs, Jose Antonio Ocampo, also addressed the Bahamas meeting, which was opened in the presence of the country’s Prime Minister and some 300 representatives of small islands, including several ministers, many donor countries, UN officials, experts and non-governmental organisations (NGO).