The Pathway to the 3rd SIDS Conference in Samoa

Samoa will make history this year as the first Pacific island country to host an international United Nations conference. The 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), to be held from 1 to 4 September, will also mark a 20 year milestone along a journey with which the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) has been actively involved. Martin Luther King Jnr once said: “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

To help move forward, let’s take stock of how we got here and retrace the pathway to the 3rd UNSIDS Conference in Samoa. In 1992, the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro, brought together over 30,000 participants, including more than 100 of the world’s leaders, and resulted in leaders agreeing to “Agenda 21” – a set of global principles and targets for sustainable development. The Rio Earth Summit was the world’s largest ever conference addressing environmental issues in the context of human development.

That Earth Summit also resulted in three global agreements – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change; the Convention on Biological Diversity; and the Convention to Combat Desertification. For the Pacific islands, the most significant outcome of the Earth Summit was the global recognition of the special case and vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States and, in 1994, the first ever Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island States was held in Barbados. This “SIDS summit” agreed the Barbados Programme of Action, which addressed the special needs and vulnerabilities of small islands, and set out a strategy for implementing sustainable development in Small Island Developing States.

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