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Championing the development aspirations of island states

Championing the development aspirations of island states

By José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the FAO

As we approach 2015, it is time for a final push to reach the Millennium Development Goals and to set the development agenda that will come next. The post-2015 agenda will have to be truly inclusive and ambitious to guide the sustainable development efforts that the world wants and needs.

In fashioning the post 2015 landscape, there is a group of countries, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), whose special and unique needs must be carefully taken into account to ensure their resilience, sustainability and competitiveness in an increasingly globalized world.

Located in different parts of the world, SIDS share many similar social, economic and environmental challenges, including relatively small populations, limited land resources, vulnerability to natural disasters and external shocks, as well as high food import bills and an excessive dependence on foreign trade.

This group of countries has made many strides since the first Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro 1992 and yet they continue to confront economic, social and environmental vulnerabilities aggravated by problems related to climate change.

The international community has recognized that SIDS are a special case for development and has supported major conferences over the past two decades: the Barbados Programme of Action in 1994 and the 2005 Mauritius Strategy of Implementation, both of which have served to firmly place sustainable development on the SIDS countries’ agendas.

The Third International SIDS Conference scheduled from 1-4 September 2014, in Apia, Samoa offers a key opportunity to renew political commitment for action, identify gaps in implementation and the challenges and opportunities for sustainable development.

There is a lot that can and needs to be done nationally. Improving the use and management of natural resources, exploring opportunities sustainably, strengthening local food production and consumption circuits and building resilience.

FAO Is a partner in this process and invested over 40 million dollars in the past two years to support SIDS address issues related to food and nutrition security, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and natural resources management.

However, action cannot stop at the national level. The SIDS are among the most affected by climate change, yet they are not the ones that cause it. So overcoming climate change needs global commitment and action. This is a shared responsibility.

It goes without saying that fisheries and aquaculture make a significant contribution to food security and the livelihoods of people along the world’s shores and waterways.

As such, FAO’s Global Blue Growth Initiative has a special resonance with SIDS countries as it represents a coherent framework for balancing priorities between growth and conservation, between industrial and small-scale or family fishing. Crucially, it also seeks to ensure that communities enjoy a fair share of the benefits derived from trade and employment opportunities created by the “blue economy”.

For example, FAO is working in partnership with local and regional stakeholders to unlock the potential of 2.4 million tonnes of tuna caught in the Western Pacific Ocean for revenue generation and livelihood improvement and greater opportunities for future generations including through greater levels of economic self-reliance.

Aquaculture is currently playing a crucial role in supplying fresh food and high quality proteins, as well as providing employment and improving livelihoods in remote, isolated coastal and atoll communities in most Pacific countries.

But a special focus on the “blue world” does not mean neglecting the ongoing importance to the SIDS of diverse but often interlinked and interdependent, land-based activities, such as crop and livestock production.

FAO for example, is working in partnership with local and regional stakeholders in the Cook Islands to shift fruit and horticultural production towards catering for the needs of the domestic market, including tourism.

In the Caribbean, in the wake of harsh rains and winds from the recent low-level trough, FAO responded to requests from St. Vincent and the Grenadines and St. Lucia with rehabilitation assistance to the farming sector and resilience building in vulnerable forested and riverain areas.

These are efforts in which FAO responds to the needs of the national governments and regional bodies and that have the increasing presence of non-state actors.

SIDS countries are embracing this way of working, a fact which will be reflected at the Apia conference through a Partnerships Platform which will serve as a forum to build on existing successful partnerships as well as to launch innovative and concrete new ones

With the anticipated high level of participation of heads of state and government, UN agencies, civil society and the private sector the Third International SIDS Conference appears to contain the right mix and dynamics needed to ensure a strong call for action.

For the SIDS, overcoming climate change and moving towards sustainable development is a question of survival.


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