Guest Article #1

DESA's Commitment to SIDS

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have often been considered some of the most vulnerable countries to environmental changes and external shocks. In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) identified SIDS as requiring special consideration (Chapter 17 of Agenda 21). This recognition led to the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA), which was adopted at the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of SIDS in 1994. Ten years after agreement on this landmark document, member States adopted the Mauritius Strategy for the Further Implementation (MSI) of the BPOA in 2005.

DESA's Support to SIDS

The mandate of supporting the sustainable development of SIDS falls under the responsibility of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), through its SIDS Unit of the Division for Sustainable Development (DSD).

Since its inception in 1995, the SIDS Unit has promoted SIDS' efforts to implement the BPOA and Mauritius Strategy by:

  • Providing secretarial support to intergovernmental processes;
  • Monitoring and reporting on progress made in implementation of the BPOA and MSI;
  • Providing technical assistance and advisory services, upon request;
  • Mobilizing and coordinating the necessary support of the UN system, and relevant intergovernmental and regional organizations, through the Inter-Agency Consultative Group (IACG) on SIDS.

On a more specific level, the DESA/SIDS Unit has undertaken several projects targeted to assist SIDS.

Transformed SIDSnet

One of these projects, “Capacity Development through Education for Sustainable Development and Knowledge Management for SIDS,” is made possible through the generous contribution of the Government of Spain. It is aimed at sharing information, experiences, local and international expertise and case studies. Furthermore, it seeks to promote partnerships among SIDS and development stakeholders to better address many of the development challenges SIDS face.

A key component of the project is the revitalization of the Small Island Developing States Network (SIDSnet), originally established in 1997. SIDSnet is an important information network that helps facilitate the exchange of knowledge and experiences among SIDS policy makers and practitioners. In order to continue to build capacity, SIDSnet is being upgraded and transformed into a decentralized and highly interactive knowledge management platform, providing the opportunity for greater participation of all SIDS stakeholders in the production and sharing of knowledge on SIDS. On the revitalized SIDSnet, the website users will also be the creators of the content, maximizing the value-added of the platform.

I am also pleased to underscore the partnership between the SIDS Unit and the Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in the SIDSnet initiative; SIDS Policy and Practice will be providing news content for SIDSnet. Another key component of the project, the University Consortium of Small Island States (UCSIS), is developing a joint online Master's degree programme in Sustainable Development for SIDS. This programme will allow students to make use of geographically dispersed academic resources and share in the knowledge of the participating universities.

SIDS in Rio+20

These activities help DESA give priority to SIDS-related issues, especially as we approach the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD, or Rio+20).

SIDS have been actively participating and articulating their own areas of priorities in the ongoing preparatory process leading up to the Rio+20 Conference. The following have been highlighted by SIDS stakeholders as having priority in the Rio+20 process: oceans and marine resources; development of renewable energy and improving energy access; climate change; and vulnerability to economic, financial, and environmental shocks.

One of the means of implementation for SIDS is a global partnership for sustainable development. The engagement of international partners and SIDS stakeholders in the revitalized SIDSnet is one such partnership that has already begun to produce dividends. This collaboration enables SIDS stakeholders to increase their knowledge management capabilities, and engage in the Rio+20 process and follow-up actions.

My Department is committed to the issues of Small Island Developing States. I am very pleased to continue to prioritize their issues through the activities and support of the SIDS Unit in DESA.