The Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States


Hiroko Morita-Lou, Chief, SIDS Unit, DESA/Division for Sustainable Development, United Nations.

The Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States held in Apia, Samoa from 1 to 4 September 2014, was seen from the start of its preparations to have a historical significance as the first global conference of this magnitude to be held in the Pacific region. In my view, the unprecedented success of the Samoa Conference can be largely attributed to the following three aspects: a) the completion of the negotiation of the political outcome, the SAMOA Pathway, ahead of the Conference; b) the theme of the Conference being “genuine and durable partnerships” around which the international community and stakeholders have been mobilised and that the Partnerships Dialogues were organised to be an official part of the Conference; and equally important, c) the highest level of political commitment demonstrated by the host country throughout the two-year preparatory process, inclusive of the Conference, and the support it has been able to rally around the necessary logistic and substantive preparations.

The national level preparations for the Samoa Conference, consisting of review, assessments and multi-stakeholder consultations, served as building blocks for the three SIDS regions: Pacific, Caribbean and the so-called AIMS (Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and South China Seas). The process allowed them to identify their respective priorities for the post-2015 development agenda, which they brought to the inter-regional level to coordinate and eventually consolidate as collective and strong “SIDS positions” on key issues of importance before coming to the global negotiating table. The successful adoption of the SAMOA Pathway as the SIDS blueprint for the way forward was quite timely as the global negotiation for post-2015 and SDGs has only just begun.

The Samoa Conference yielded some 330 partnerships.

The Samoa Conference yielded some 330 partnerships, some new, some expanded and some representing ongoing activities. These partnerships, and the Partnership Dialogues, side events and private sector forum where they were featured, constituted the highlight of the Conference that drew over 3,500 participants around the world, including 21 Heads of State and 40+ Ministers of Government, as well as a large number of representatives from the UN system, international, regional IGOs and Major Groups, including civil society and the private sector.

Since about a month after the successful conclusion of the Conference, the attention has shifted to the question of responsive follow up and monitoring. A crucial question posed to the UN system in particular, with DESA having the convening and inter-agency coordination mandate, is: how shall we do it differently from the past processes whose promises fell short of the original expectations, to ensure that the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway is effectively followed-up and that good-willed partnerships launched and/or highlighted in Samoa be kept energised, monitored and made accountable, with identified partners staying engaged?

Through brainstorming and a series of consultations, several steps are being taken to strengthen the existing monitoring and accountability mechanisms. One is the development of a SIDS Action Platform that would allow close monitoring not only by the Secretariat but also by all parties who have committed themselves to specific partnerships with their respective timelines and deliverables. Second, the two existing inter-agency coordination mechanisms are being reinvigorated to perform distinct, but complementary roles in the follow up of Samoa outcomes as follows:

ECESA Plus, which consists of all entities of the UN system to monitor the implementation of the Samoa Pathway using an Implementation Matrix, with reference to specific actionable paragraphs; and Inter-Agency Consultative Group (IACG) on SIDS to monitor and review the implementation of the SIDS-focused partnerships through the updated SIDS Action Platform, taking advantage of SIDS-focused membership from both UN and non-UN entities, active at national, regional and/or global levels.

The SIDS Action Platform will clearly differentiate new partnerships launched in Samoa and new aspects built, from those that have been ongoing without much change and are being concluded. One partnership project where the SIDS Unit has been involved and supported since its initiation in 2009, was the launch of the Joint Virtual (combination of in-class and online) Master’s Programme on Sustainable Development for SIDS among the seven member regional and national universities of the University Consortium on Small Island States (UCSIS). They jointly developed common curricula, with the IT platform to be housed in the South Pacific University, while each member worked on the necessary technical, programmatic and administrative adjustments. Meanwhile, UCSIS announced the research partnership collaboration in Samoa building on the same network.

Several steps are being taken to strengthen the existing monitoring and accountability mechanisms.

The political and substantive profiles of SIDS have certainly been enhanced in the last few years, thanks to the SIDS-focused intergovernmental processes in relation to Rio+20 and for the Samoa Conference. The SIDS Unit, serving as the core of the Secretariat on SIDS issues, has been intimately engaged with these processes to provide substantive support to the preparatory processes, particularly at SIDS regional, inter-regional and global levels, including in the context of the UN General Assembly, to provide substantive analysis, as well as opportunities for a broad range of inter-agency brainstorming and sharing of information, and to help strengthen “island voices” in the context of the International Year of SIDS.

The SIDS Unit published the second issue of the SIDS Trends Report, tailored to follow the priority areas identified by SIDS, just in time for the Samoa Conference. It was prepared in close collaboration with the Statistics Division. Strengthening SIDS Data and Statistics have been among the priority areas in the SAMOA Pathway and it is no coincidence that along with the SIDS Trends Report, DESA published a SIDS Statistical Pocketbook, as well as the SIDS Demographic Wall Chart.

VRP allows each country to profile and highlight its own vulnerabilities, regardless of their respective per capita income.

There are other initiatives that the SIDS Unit has initiated and continue to undertake. One such notable example is the development and piloting of the Vulnerability-Resilience Profile (VRP), in collaboration with the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) and through inter-agency and expert consultations. The VRP is a national policy tool to help monitor the implementation of The Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA)/Mauritius Strategy of Implementation (MSI)/now SAMOA Pathway. It is based on priorities and vulnerabilities identified through multi-stakeholder consultations and VRP-related activities with relevant entities, including the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Seychelles and Mauritius became the first set of countries to pilot the VRP methodology, which will continue to be refined and applied in linking to their national planning and implementation, while lessons learned from these experiences will be shared with other interested parties.

The VRP approach also provides hopes for SIDS who are seeking so-called “beyond-GDP” assessment criteria vis-à-vis development partners, as VRP allows each country to profile and highlight its own vulnerabilities, regardless of their respective per capita income.

SIDS have made it clear that they do not wish to wait another ten years to have to mobilise global attention back to SIDS, nor do they wish to see the expectations and promises of Samoa remain empty. We are committed to do what we can to make the difference, based on the lessons learned from the past, while also being open to explore new, innovative ways of doing things.

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