Island states feel isolated

Published: Sunday 29 February 2004

ten years since the blueprint for sustainable development of Small Island Developing States (sids) was envisaged in the form of the Barbados Programme of Action (bpoa), many plans have yet to be implemented due to lack of capacity and aid. The overall assistance for small islands has fallen from us $2.3 billion in 1994, to us $1.7 billion in 2002. These were some of the issues highlighted at the five-day inter-regional preparatory meeting of sids in Nassau, Bahamas, in the last week of January.

Over 40 island states of the Caribbean, Mediterranean and South China seas, and the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans comprise sids. A ministerial declaration adopted at the meeting noted that the present emphasis on security across the world "has resulted in the diversion of resources from the sustainable development agenda". It added: "Security must be viewed in a multidimensional fashion, including threats such as natural disasters, food and water security problems, incidence of hiv/aids, narco-trafficking, and illegal trade in small arms."

Anwarul K Chowdhury, secretary-general of the next meeting from August 30 to September 4 in Mauritius, said: "We generally associate (these countries) with their idyllic nature and beauty, but overlook the fragility of their economies and ecosystems."

The South Pacific island of Niue is a case in point. The resources required to rebuild the state after a cyclone ravaged it in January 2004 will exceed by three times the value of goods produced on the island every year. The Nassau Declaration stressed on more global support to sids to face such threats.

Since bpoa came into force, the economic performance of many sids members has actually deteriorated due to declining trade. The meeting recognised the importance of international trade in building resilience among the bloc.

Participants at the meet demanded special status for sids in the World Trade Organisation (wto) so that they could have a say in international financial decision-making and setting global rules, codes, norms and standards.

The meeting also aimed to develop a basis for discussions for the bpoa 10-year review, to be held in Mauritius. The review will address issues such as rise in sea level and global warming, vulnerability to cyclones, trade, tourism, freshwater and hiv/aids. "For the Barbados conference our slogan was 'Small Islands, Big Issues'. For Mauritius, I would like it to be 'Small Islands, Big Potential'," said Chowdhury.

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