Small islands must help themselves

Samoa deserves all the credit for successfully pulling off the third United Nations Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) conference in Apia last month. It was the biggest event of its kind to be ever held in the Pacific with more than 3000 delegates from some 193 countries believed to have attended. Samoans commendably worked hard in a united manner to put up this big show and won praise from all quarters. Hosting of the conference successfully would have definitely given Samoans the confidence of comfortably organising big events in future. Predictably, like all such events across the world, the conclusion of the conference produced a lengthy outcomes document, which by all counts teams have been working on months ahead of the conference.

The document acknowledges all the pledges made in previous conferences for small islands, climate change, development issues, trade, sustainability, environment and renewable energy besides a host of other topics. It further promises to tackle challenges posed by these issues in the years to come. The document, named the Samoa Pathway, calls upon all concerned around the world to take an action oriented approach to deal with the situation that small island states around the world are facing. Many of these relate to climate change and the maze of interconnected issues like sustainable economic development, alternative energy, threatened livelihoods and shelter and food and water security.

Like all documents, it is long on words and we can hope the action will be matched in the months and years ahead. There is little doubt that most of the challenges that small island states face today stem from the effects of climate change. Other challenges are isolation, particularly in the Pacific Islands context, the tyranny of distances and the lack of economic scale because of their small populations.

These problems have been known for decades and much has been promised all along in terms of measures, ideas, co-operation and funding. The Samoa Pathway also essentially makes these same promises. But will they be delivered in the fullness that the situation demands? Unlikely, at least as long as most of these are tied to the issue of climate change, particularly anthropogenic climate change, on which there is hardly any agreement on how to tackle among the world’s big as well as emerging industrial powers.

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We Say is compiled and edited with the oversight of Samisoni Pareti.

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