In the last week of this month and the first week of the next, leaders and representatives from nearly 200 countries will gather in Samoa. There will also be a host of experts of all persuasions, scientists, bureaucrats, NGOs and media to make the third Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) Conference, the biggest ever to be held in the Pacific Island nation. This high level gathering will discuss the challenges that small islands nations around the world – chiefly the Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Caribbean states besides other far-flung low-lying islands and atolls that dot the world map – have to contend with in the face of a range of world trends. Climate change and sea level rise are obviously serious concerns.
As well as the issue of sustainability in the face of unrelenting climate change there is also the question of economic sustainability because of isolation, increasing migration, the runaway increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and the rising costs of fuel and the uncertainty of its sustained supply. Though all these themes are billed for threadbare discussion at this mega event that rivals global climate change jamborees like those held in Bali and Copenhagen in scale and scope, there are no prizes for guessing which would be the most discussed topic on the agenda. It will undoubtedly be climate change, thanks to the wide coverage it has received all these years and continues to do so.
The spotlight on climate change is likely to be so intense at this event that many other important and equally threatening issues that differently plague individual island nations are in danger of receiving less attention. Leaders and official teams of individual island nations must identify these issues particular to them and highlight these on this global stage and not simply let the singular though important issue of climate change overshadow all others. Though climate change impacts many other issues that the small island developing states face and runs through them like a common thread, concentrating solely on measures to address and reverse the effects of climate change will not go as far in dealing with the other issues. But looking at tackling climate change as a panacea for all of the small island states’ problems would be a one size fits all approach to the islands multiple problems.
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• We Say is compiled and edited by Samisoni Pareti