Mme Executive Secretary of UN ESCAP,
Ladies & Gentlemen,
May I congratulate you, Chair, on your election and thank you for the warm welcome extended to me.
We are here today to deliberate on the five years review of the Mauritius Strategy for the further Implementation of the programme of action for the Sustainable Development of SIDS.
It is an honour and privilege to be with you here today and participate, on the ground as it were, at the regional level where implementation of global plans of action, including the Barbados programme of action and the Mauritius strategy of implementation, are often launched, monitored and evaluated.
It is rather timely as well, I might add, as I have just participated in preparatory proceedings at the global level on this very issue of the review of the Mauritius Strategy for implementation which will take place this September at the General Assembly.
But coming back to the regional level and your important work, I would like to, firstly, commend ESCAP who, with the support of other UN entities and Pacific Regional Organizations, convened what was, by all accounts, a successful pacific regional preparatory Mauritius strategy for implementation+5 meeting in Port Vila, Vanuatu, in February this year.
Following the Port Vila meeting two other regional meetings were convened in the Maldives for the African, Indian Ocean and Mediterranean and South-China Sea SIDS regions (AIMS), and in Grenada for the Caribbean SIDS region.
The common thread in the outcomes of these regional meetings is that the inherent vulnerability of SIDS still remain. The “special case” for SIDS in terms of their environment and development that was first recognized in United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992 is as relevant today as it was 18 years ago.
Indeed in many ways these vulnerabilities have increased. The vulnerabilities associated with isolation, small area and population sizes, lack of resources, the high frequency of natural disasters and vulnerability to rising sea levels have been exacerbated by recent and emergent threats and challenges of the fuel, food and financial crises.
For SIDS environmental vulnerability and economic vulnerability are intrinsically linked.
However, despite the inherent limitations, constraints and challenges that SIDS face, they have – in the five years since the adoption of the Mauritius strategy for implementation – made positive gains. Many SIDS, for example, have incorporated the Mauritius strategy for implementation in their own national development plans & strategies and have taken steps – some of them significant – to implement the Mauritius strategy for implementation and its various themes.
Equal effort has also been advanced to build resilience at the regional and inter-regional levels through closer cooperation in the adoption of regional development policies and through concrete steps taken to further implement regional integration.
The regional initiatives in the pacific SIDS region are particularly noteworthy.
I congratulate pacific SIDS on their more than 30 regional initiatives which were implemented in the five years since Mauritius including successes in conservation (i.e., the Micronesia Challenge), energy (e.g., the bulk purchasing of fuel, production of renewable energy and setting of national targets to reduce reliance on fossil fuels), subregional shipping, aviation reforms and tourism. The opening up of labour markets in neighbouring areas, including on foreign ships are also positive developments.
Indeed, Mauritius strategy for implementation+5 review provides an important opportunity to take stock of what has worked well over the past five years and where the gaps still remain. This is a crucial period for SIDS and all stakeholders to assess and agree on a way forward.
It is acknowledged that the aspirations of the SIDS and the international community on the sustainable development of SIDS remain intact within the Mauritius strategy for implementation and the Barbados Programme of Action for SIDS.
The focus now should be on implementation of this strategy and programme of action.
This message was heard loud and clear during the SIDS-day convened last Monday during the 18th session of the Commission of Sustainable development, which also served as the preparatory committee for the high-level meeting this September at the General Assembly.
The continued support of the international community remains vital if the constraints and challenges faced by SIDS in their efforts to realise the Mauritius strategy for implementation are to be overcome.
Climate change and its adverse associated effects, including sea level rise and more frequent and increasingly intense weather conditions remain as the biggest challenge for pacific SIDS and all SIDS.
I am aware that SIDS were bitterly disappointed with the outcome of the Copenhagen Negotiations. But as negotiations continue, the need to provide SIDS with new, additional, predictable, transparent and adequate sources of grant-based financing to fully meet their adaptation needs, and to ensure that access by SIDS to funds is timely, direct, prioritized and simplified, should continue to be pursued through AOSIS.
My office, in accordance with its mandate on SIDS, is currently developing advocacy platforms to support the realization of the Mauritius strategy for implementation for SIDS by identifying and supporting tangible outcomes, particularly at the regional and inter-regional levels.
We are focusing on six thematic areas: oceans and marine coastal resources, renewable energy, food security, transport and communication, biodiversity, and trade & finance. These areas are also highlighted as the priority areas by SIDS themselves as well.
Our objective is to identify, support and advocate for concrete actions on specific deliverables under the above six themes. We look forward to partnering with other UN entities, including UN ESCAP, and development partners, as we move forward in identifying these concrete and tangible deliverables.
Concrete outcomes could include the establishment or designation of relevant regional and inter-regional research centers and facilities in SIDS regions; including UN convention on the law of the sea (UNCLOS) mandated regional marine scientific research centers.
This, we believe, will assist SIDS in building their resilience through strengthening their capacities and technical know-how, facilitate appropriate technology transfer, including in the field of oceans and marine science.
The pacific SIDS region has been referred to as the ‘aquatic continent’. Indeed, the pacific ocean is vast. It plays a major role in defining SIDS vulnerabilities, particularly in defining their isolation and remoteness. The adverse effects of climate change, including sea-level rise and extreme weather conditions, are all influenced by the ocean. At the same time it also provides them with a ‘sea of opportunity’, as stated in the Port Vila outcome.
The importance of the pacific ocean to the world is well known. The Pacific is the most important tuna fishing ground in the world. The region supplies an estimated one-third of all landed tuna.
The pacific’s marine biodiversity is among the richest and most diverse in the world.
The custodian role that pacific SIDS have over these vast ocean spaces with its resources must be acknowledged and supported by development partners and the international community.
Marine resources have and continue to play a fundamental role in the daily lives of islanders. Fish and sea produce continue to be among the main source protein for many islanders. Tuna fishery is by far the most valuable fishing activity in the pacific, contributing more than 10% of GDP and over 50% of exports in some Pacific SIDS.
The potential for economic gain from non-living marine resources is also great. Some pacific SIDS are among the first countries in the world to issue seabed mining exploration licenses to prospectors.
However, there is still a need to build capacities and expertise in the field of oceans and marine science. The creation of UNCLOS based marine scientific research centres could play a direct role in building the capacities of SIDS nationals.
We know that there are pacific SIDS inter-governmental bodies, that are already actively engaged in the field of marine science and research. We believe, however, that there is added value in having an UNCLOS based marine centre in the pacific SIDS region. Such UNCLOS based marine centre could foster the transfer of marine technology as well.
It should also be recalled that most SIDS are State parties to UNCLOS. And so are their development partners. The opportunities for SIDS to seek support under and through the provisions of UNCLOS could yield positive and sustainable results. All stake holders, including SIDS, would be implementing both the UNCLOS as well as the Mauritius Strategy of Implementation.
It should be recalled that the aforementioned six priority areas my office is focusing on, while MSI themes in themselves, are also being addressed by other UN processes, some of which predate the Mauritius strategy for implementation. These include the MDGs, the Brussels Programme of Action for LDCs and the Johannesburg Progamme of Implementation processes. These also have their own upcoming reviews and SIDS issues should continue to be highlighted as well in these other processes. Other processes, like those of UNFCCC and the aforementioned United Nations Conference Law of the Sea, are governed by legally binding treaties.
As such, there is a need to meaningfully link the Mauritius strategy for implementation to these other processes, and vice versa.
This naturally leads to the need for improved coordination within the UN system on SIDS issues. There needs to be increased synergies within the region and between the regional commissions and UNHQ departments and entities as well.
I would like to commend ESCAP for its leadership and the partnership it has developed with other regional organizations in the pacific islands region, including the Pacific Islands Forum and the South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme, in advancing the preparatory process leading up to the high-level review of the MSI in September.
There is a need to better coordinate SIDS related activities as well as other more normative related issues that could create a space for UN entities to better respond to SIDS unique situations and development needs more effectively.
My office will also be focusing on addressing coordination issues in partnership with UNDESA as well.
We acknowledge the significant role that ESCAP plays in implementation as well as monitoring and follow-up of the MSI and other processes, including the Brussels Programme of Action and MDG reviews and conferences and look forward to working closer with ESCAP as we advance the course for some of the most vulnerable countries at the UN.
I also note and welcome the fact that ESCAP, and its Pacific Sub-regional Office in particular, also attended the SIDS inter-regional and the preparatory committee meetings in New York earlier this week.
Particularly on process, resolution 64/199 decided that the high-level review of the Mauritius strategy for implementation in September will be chaired by the President of the General Assembly. The PGA is also tasked with presenting a draft political declaration to be considered by the General Assembly. As such the outcomes or decisions of this Special Body on Pacific Island Developing Countries should be relayed, through the usual channels, to the office of the PGA. My office stands ready to assist in any such transmission as well.
I wish you all a successful meeting and outcome.
I thank you