Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to participate on behalf of the High Representative, in this important MSI+5 Caribbean Regional Review Meeting. I would like to thank UN partners in particular ECLAC and DESA and others organizations like the Caricom for preparing and organizing this meeting so well.
Our particular gratitude and thanks go to the government of Grenada who are graciously hosting the meeting and providing us such warm hospitality. My deep appreciation is due to Ambassador Dessima Williams who has so ably chaired the SIDS group in New York and actively promoted the SIDS cause.
Let me begin by reiterating the mandate of my office, and present our activities in support of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
The United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and the Small Island Developing States was established by UN General Assembly Resolution 56/227 in 2001. Our office has a mandate on the least developed countries, landlocked developing countries, and small islands developing states, which as many of you know, are the three categories of countries with special needs. With regards to SIDS, we have a clear and special mandate, which is mainly to support the coordinated follow-up of the implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. A cornerstone of this task is to undertake global advocacy efforts by highlighting the case for special treatment for SIDS. Most of this is done in partnership with the relevant United Nations entities as well as with civil society, media, academia and various foundations. Additionally, our Office is charged with assisting in the mobilization of international support and resources for the successful implementation of the Programme of Action.
Whilst the SIDS Unit located in the Sustainable Development division of DESA provides the right thematic and substantive setting for programmatic support to SIDS issues, locating the advocacy and resources mobilization role for SIDS and the MSI in the OHRLLS has its own advantages Thos is because the office is specifically tasked to advocate for countries in special situations and with special needs requiring special attention, treatment and support from the international community. Locating the SIDS issues in the larger context of development challenges, vulnerabilities, and urgencies of international actions and support is indeed an important consideration. This is especially important because many SIDS, especially in the Caribbean, by virtue of their middle income countries do not get their due, nor is their inherent vulnerabilities and case for special and urgent treatment and affirmative action by international community sufficiently recognize.
Allow me to illustrate the work OHRLLS has undertaken in partnership with other organizations towards the implementation of its mandate regarding SIDS thus far and to indicate what we would be keen to do in promoting your cause for the future.
As part of our commitment to improve capacity development in SIDS, OHRLLS has organized capacity-building events to strengthen the negotiating capability of SIDS. For example, in preparation for the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen at the end of last year, my Office invited the UNFCCC Executive Secretary who briefed SIDS delegates on the ongoing state of climate change negotiations. Given that climate change is and is likely to continue to be a burning issue for small islands, OHRLLS took the initiative and organized a seminar on climate change in partnership with the Alliance of Small Island States and the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation last September.
With the generous support of the Turkish government, UN-OHRLLS collaborated with the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation and the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, which saw the publication of a comprehensive study on Pacific connectivity. Last September, OHRLLS assisted in the preparation of and attended the AOSIS Summit held in New York chaired by the Honorable Tillman Joseph Thomas, Prime Minister of Grenada.
Indeed, the challenges facing SIDS are numerous. Each quarter our office publishes a newsletter and it has been our sincere commitment to profile some of these issues. Our Office has been responsible for the SIDS World Statistics Pocketbook, an invaluable resource containing current statistical data.
At this juncture you are looking to finalize the national and regional reviews of the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy as represented in the synthesis report and to put together a forward looking and action oriented outcome document directed toward MSI+5 interregional review and the high level event to be held in September 2010.
I would therefore seek to make some suggestions for a strategic approach to using the MSI+5 review process and meeting in its entirety to achieve your key development objectives:
· Make common cause with major UN Conferences and frontline thematic issues such as global economic crisis, climate change, food security, disaster management, food security, and financing for development as the occasion provides.
· Highlight issues of SIDS concerns in global economic governance and decision making fora such as G-20, IMF, World Bank, and WTO and seek voice and participation there.
· Stress the need for implementation and identify specific modalities and concrete deliverables in each of the priority areas from the MSI. Programmes put up for support should be also of interest to international partners, should be practical and bankable, must have been validated in regional or inter-regional efforts of SIDS, produce vulnerability reducing, resilience and productive capacity building and multiplier impacts.
· Affirm that, as the national and regional reviews and records of the Caribbean States amply bears out, that you have done your part to the best of your abilities towards institution building, regional cooperation, sustainable development strategizing, and good governance.
· Clearly indicate however that, due to systemic constraint and emergent challenges, international support measures, particularly in the form of ODA, debt relief, and FDI, as well as trade related support are critical and have not been as forthcoming as justified and must be pledged by development partners from the North and South with appropriate benchmarking and targeting.
· Another purpose of the MSI+5 review is to update the balance sheet of challenges and opportunities in the light of changing circumstances, and to assess the new and evolving context in which Caribbean SIDS are seeking to work out their sustainable development nirvana. The global economic crisis has come as a double whammy on top of the havoc caused by natural disasters. It is important that you highlight its impact and seek a special global stimulus and resilience building package for SIDS. This package, could include, measures such as enhanced levels of ODA, which has regrettably been declining, incentives by home countries for FDI in SIDS directed towards sustainable development projects including regional ones, special trade finance facilities, issues of SDRs¸ and aid for trade facilities, BOP support and debt relief.
· All of the areas of the MSI are important to you, but not every issue needs to be taken up for getting international support in an equally and proactive way. Hence, we would recommend as your advocate that, you focus on some key areas of the MSI where your partners also have big stakes, over and above the climate change issue. We would for example, like to work with agencies and member states to develop advocacy platforms on marine and coastal resources, biodiversity, energy, food security and agriculture, and trade and productive capacity. These platforms could be built around some special purpose funds, as well as institutional and normative initiatives. In this way the MSI could be seen as making a real impact on the ground.
· To make the MSI+5 review truly a meaningful exercise, you may consider setting some quantitative and measurable targets for international support in different sectors and areas such as ODA where need for quantitative targets could be at least presented to the donors. This will be in addition to the special purpose and dedicated facilities and resource banks for SIDS ranging from those for agro-bio technology, renewable energy, climate adaptation, support for fisheries and marine sectors, skills development etc.
As a matter of messaging it may be worth highlighting vulnerabilities in order to get international sympathy and solidarity but equally your messages should be aimed at highlighting what stake the international community has in your successful overcoming of those challenges and being on a steady path towards sustainable development.
The SIDS have considerable value for global peace and security, ecological and environmental sustainability, and access to precious marine resources. This must be leveraged in a calibrated manner.
In the light of these strategic perspectives, I would like to apprise you of the work my Office intends to carry out in the coming months.
OHRLLS will be developing a number of advocacy platforms based on key themes highlighted in the Mauritius Strategy. We expect to have close engagement with the SIDS in order to produce an advocacy strategy that is not only topical but goal-oriented and delivers results as suggested to you. These advocacy platforms could be linked to major UN thematic events and conferences. MDG 8 calls for the need for the development of global partnership for development and sets as a target addressing the special development needs of SIDS. We intend to consistently raise this amongst development partners. I would like to stress that it is our every intention to ensure that ownership of the advocacy platforms rests primarily in the hands of Member States. Therefore, we call on your guidance in this regard. We will also work closely with your regional bodies like Caricom and with our UN partners such as DESA and ECLAC.
It is also our intention to co-organize a conference on Oceans, Maritime and Coastal resource management in partnership with the Mission of Portugal to the UN, AOSIS, and other UN bodies including DESA SIDS Unit. This conference scheduled for March 25 in New York will also provide the opportunity to articulate the many other actions or policies that are a priority for the SIDS, in the broader context of sustainable development and in pursuance of the MDGs.
Our ongoing endeavor to mobilize international support and resources in favor of SIDS is expected to increase so that greater ODA is allocated to SIDS. OHRLLS has within its annual work programme prioritized the development of a resource advocacy strategy, which is expected to guide our efforts as we push towards securing greater ODA for SIDS. Already consultations between OHRLLS and various stakeholders including the SIDS are ongoing.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today’s meeting will consider constraints and opportunities for the implementation of the Mauritius Strategy. Overarching concerns include the reduced flow of ODA, capacity constraints, lack of investment in research and development that result in minimal progress in innovation and the development of ICTs, limited capacity to trade and new jobs -related protectionism in major markets and more competition for FDI.
But while these may appear as insurmountable deterrents, I foresee collaboration for example towards the establishment of a ‘best practices sharing mechanism’, which would allow for the free flow of information amongst SIDS, at the same time providing an opportunity to bridge the digital divide.
As the discussion gets underway, I am convinced that given the expertise gathered here, we will ensure a meaningful outcome.
With these few remarks, I once again welcome and wish you a fruitful exchange of ideas and outcomes.