The island economy can look forward to tips on developing its ocean economy at the upcoming conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in September.

UN’s Third International Conference on SIDS is scheduled to be held in Apia, Samoa, on 1-4 September, and aims to identify the unique needs and vulnerabilities of island nations and opportunities for international assistance.

Incidentally, 2014 has been declared the international year of Small Island Developing States by the UN.

Milan Meetarbhan, Mauritius’ ambassador to the UN, noted that maintaining ocean health will be a centrepiece of the conference, adding that this should lead to the development of a global strategy for a healthy ocean economy.

He stressed that this will be done through discussions on climate change, where SIDS’ experiences are providing both an example of the devastating impacts and the outcomes of efforts to fight the phenomenon.

He concluded that, given the ocean’s crucial importance to the international community and to SIDS in particular, the Samoa summit should consider making a clear recommendation in favour of a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal on the oceans.

The conference will echo and reinforce targets likely to be outlined in the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as many of the topics addressed have global significance, says Conference secretary-general Wu Hongbo.

The SDGs ‘zero-draft’ document lists 17 suggested topics to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that expire next year.

The outcome document for this year’s conference will outline priorities for all SIDS and provide a road map for future action to address sustainability priorities, he added.

The conference will also promote alliances among small island nations to tackle common challenges of sustainable development, climate change and eco-friendly tourism.

Wu noted that the challenges facing SIDS are interlinked and cannot be tackled in silo or by one country alone.

 “This calls for collaboration and partnerships, with active engagement by all stakeholders, governmental and non-governmental,” he noted.

Accordingly, the conference will focus on critical areas where new global partnerships are needed, including climate change, oceans, waste, sustainable tourism and disaster risk reduction.

Various voluntary commitments have already been announced, including the creation of a Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency to ensure access to affordable energy, energy security and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Slated to be fully operational by 2018, the centre will be spearheaded by the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

UNIDO renewable energy expert, Martin Lugmayr noted that the centre will assist energy industries in developing countries in taking advantage of growing sustainable energy market opportunities and provide a platform to promote South-South and North-South knowledge and technology transfer.

Among other collaborative projects, the University Consortium of Small Island States plans to develop a degree in sustainable development delivered internationally through an online portal. This course will be offered in collaboration with the Spanish government and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

In addition, six countries and various organisations have announced support for the Coral Triangle Initiative that will protect the region, which is home to the highest coral diversity in the world.

This will incidentally be the first SIDS conference in the Pacific. The inaugural conference, held in Barbados in 1994, resulted in the Declaration of Barbados which officially recognised the sustainable development needs of SIDS and called for regional and international support to deliver these.

The second conference was held in Mauritius in 2005 and culminated in the Mauritius Strategy, a further implementation of the Barbados plan with emphasis on the vulnerability of island nations.

Image (Norway UN): The Sustainable Development Goals ‘zero-draft’ document lists 17 suggested topics to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that expire next year, and includes climate change as a development goal.

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