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Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of SIDS


The United Nations Global Conference on the Sustainable Developmentof Small Island Developing States has its roots in Chapter 17 ofAgenda 21. UN General Assembly resolution 47/189, which establishedthe Conference, set the following objectives: review current trendsin the socio-economic development of small island developing States(SIDS); examine the nature and magnitude of the specificvulnerabilities of SIDS; define a number of specific actions andpolicies relating to environmental and development planning to beundertaken by these States, with help from the internationalcommunity; identify elements that these States need to include inmedium- and long-term sustainable development plans; recommendmeasures for enhancing the endogenous capacity of these States; andreview whether institutional arrangements at the internationallevel enable these States to give effect to the relevant provisionsof Agenda 21.


The Preparatory Committee for the Conference held itsorganizational session in New York on 15-16 April 1993. PenelopeWensley, Australia's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva andAmbassador for the Environment, was elected Chair of the PrepCom.The four Vice-Chairs are: Takao Shibata (Japan), Ioan Barac(Romania), John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda) and Jos‚ Luis Jesus(Cape Verde). Barbados, as host country, is an ex officiomember of the Bureau. The PrepCom adopted guidelines suggestingthat its consideration of SIDS should include actions at the microlevel aimed at environment and development planning, measures forenhancing local skills and expertise, and medium- and long-termsustainable development planning.


As part of the preparatory process, two regional technical meetingswere held. The first meeting for the Indian and Pacific Oceans wascoordinated by the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme(SPREP) and was held from 31 May - 4 June 1993 in Vanuatu. Thesecond meeting for the Atlantic/Caribbean/Mediterranean regions washeld in Trinidad and Tobago from 28 June - 2 July 1993. The meetingwas coordinated by the Caribbean Community (Caricom), withassistance from the UN Economic Commission for Latin America andthe Caribbean (ECLAC).


The first session of the PrepCom was held in New York from 30August - 10 September 1993. By the conclusion of the two-weeksession, the PrepCom had set the process in motion for the adoptionof a programme of action for the sustainable development of SIDS.The draft Programme of Action contains chapters on the following:climate change and sea level rise; natural and environmentaldisasters; management of wastes; coastal and marine resources;freshwater resources; land resources; energy resources; tourismresources; biodiversity resources; national institutions andadministrative capacity; regional institutions and technicalcooperation; transport and communication; science and technology;human resource development; and implementation, monitoring andreview. While delegates were able to reach agreement on themajority of the chapters in the Programme of Action, the preambleand the chapter on implementation, monitoring and review remainedentirely in brackets. As a result, delegates called for anadditional session of the PrepCom to be convened so thatnegotiations could continue.


At its 48th session in the fall of 1993, the UN General Assemblydecided that the first session of the Preparatory Committee shouldbe resumed for a period of five working days to complete thepreparatory work assigned to it, including the review of the draftProgramme of Action for the sustainable development of SIDS.General Assembly Resolution 48/193, adopted on 21 December 1993,also decided to convene the first UN Global Conference on theSustainable Development of Small Island Developing States inBarbados from 25 April to 6 May 1994, including a high-levelsegment from 5-6 May. The resolution urges that representation atthe Conference be at the highest possible level and decides toconvene one day of pre-Conference consultations at the venue of theConference on 24 April 1994. The resolution also: endorses thedecisions of the PrepCom regarding the participation of associatemembers of regional commissions and NGOs in the Conference and itspreparatory process; endorses the PrepCom's decisions regarding theprovisional rules of procedure and the provisional agenda for theConference; requests the Secretary-General to ensure the timelysubmission of the report of donor activities requested in Decision11 of the PrepCom; requests the Secretary-General, through theDepartment of Public Information, to widely disseminate the goalsand purposes of the Conference; and invites all member States andorganizations in a position to do so to contribute to the voluntaryfunds for the Conference.


The PrepCom met in a resumed session from 7-11 March 1994 at UNHeadquarters in New York. Delegates spent most of the week ininformal sessions where they painstakingly negotiated the remainingbracketed text in the Programme of Action (A/48/36). For the mostpart, delegates based their comments on a comprehensive informalpaper prepared by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS),"Suggested Amendments to the Draft Action Programme for theSustainable Development of Small Island Developing States." Thisdocument contained the AOSIS/G-77 amendments and other comments andfacilitated the work of the Committee during the week. Whiledelegates spent the most time on Chapter XV, "Implementation,Monitoring and Review," and the preamble, they also managed toreview and remove some brackets in the other 14 chapters, as wellas comment on the nature of the Barbados Declaration.

Most of the bracketed text remains in the preamble and Chapter XV.Sections of the preamble that remain in brackets include: humanbeings as the center of concern for sustainable development;reference to environmental destruction caused by externalinterventions; despite population density, the small populationsize of SIDS inhibits them from generating economies of scale; thevulnerability of the economic performance of SIDS; women's criticalcontributions to sustainable development; the special situation andneeds of the least developed countries; and references to nationalgovernments as being primarily responsible for the implementationand financing of the action programme.

In Chapter XV, issues remaining to be resolved include: referenceto the international community's commitment to meeting Agenda 21agreements on implementation; the role of the public indecision-making; reordering of economic priorities in the use ofresources and increased use of economic instruments; the role ofthe private sector and the rights of resources owners andintellectual property rights; increasing public awareness andinformation dissemination; the sharing of financingresponsibilities for sustainable development in SIDS; the role ofthe UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) in monitoringimplementation of the Programme of Action; and other institutionalfollow-up to the Conference.


Pre-Conference consultations were held Sunday, 24 April 1994, toreach agreement on several procedural and organizational matters.The recommendations will be transmitted to the first session of thePlenary, Amb. Besley Maycock, Permanent Representative of Barbadosto the UN, was elected Chair of the consultations. The decisionstaken were based on document A/CONF.167/3, "Organization of Work,including Establishment of the Main Committee of the Conference."The provisional rules of procedure, as contained in documentA/CONF.167/2, were adopted. Costa Rica, on behalf of the LatinAmerican and the Caribbean Group, nominated the Prime Minister ofBarbados, L. Erskine Sandiford, as the President ofthe Conference and Branford Taitt, the Barbados Minister of ForeignAffairs, as the ex officio Vice-President. Maycock announcedthat the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) had proposed NewZealand and Germany and the Asian Group proposed Samoa and China asVice-Presidents. Nominations to complete the Bureau were postponeduntil Monday to allow the African and Eastern European regionalgroups to select their candidates.

The provisional agenda, as set out in document A/CONF.167/1, wasapproved. The proposals contained in document A/CONF.167/3regarding the division of agenda items between the Plenary and theMain Committee, time limits for general debate, the establishmentof the Main Committee of the Conference, the timetable for work,the organization of meetings, the High-Level Segment, theCredentials Committee, and procedures for the preparation of thereport of the Conference, were adopted for recommendation to theConference. The Chair announced that all efforts will be made toaccommodate delegations who are not represented at the Head ofState or ministerial level to participate in the High-LevelSegment. The Chair adjourned the meeting so that delegates could"go to the beach."


Trinidad and Tobago, as Chair of AOSIS, has held a series ofinformal consultations with key delegations in New York on theoutstanding differences over the preamble and Chapter XV,Implementation, Monitoring and Review. Many of the problems thatremained at the end of the resumed PrepCom have been resolved,although work remains to be done on details of the specific fundingmechanism for SIDS and other issues on finance.


NATIONAL WELCOMING CEREMONY: The Government of Barbados willhost the National Welcoming Ceremony beginning at 9:30 am at theSir Garfield Sobers Complex. The session will be opened by L.V.Harcourt Lewis, the Minister of the Environment, Housing, and Landsof Barbados, with opening remarks from Prime Minister ErskineSandiford, UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Samuel R.Insanally (Guyana), President of the UN General Assembly and AOSISChair Amb. Annette des Iles (Trinidad and Tobago).

PLENARY: The first Plenary session is scheduled to begin at3:00 pm in Conference Room 1 at the Sherbourne Centre. UNSecretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali will present the openingremarks, followed by L. Erskine Sandiford, who will speak after hiselection as President of the Conference. The Plenary will thenaddress a series of procedural items. The Pre-ConferenceConsultations, held Sunday, agreed to recommend proposals on eachof these items, which are expected to be contained in documentA/CONF.167/L.3. It is likely that the delegates will move swiftlythrough: the adoption of the rules of procedure; the adoption ofthe agenda; the election of officers other than the President; theorganization of work, including establishment of the Main Committeeof the Conference; and the appointment of the members of theCredentials Committee.

The Plenary will then hear a report on the results of the Group ofEminent Persons on Sustainable Development of SIDS, possiblypresented by Samuel R. Insanally, President of the GeneralAssembly. This group of 10 persons met on 21-22 April, under thepatronage of Dame Nita Barrow, Governor-General of Barbados, toexamine progress and prospects for sustainable development and itsimplication for SIDS. The Group will present a series ofrecommendations (A/CONF.167/5) that may include: enhancedcollaboration between governments and NGOs; a more flexible GlobalEnvironment Facility (GEF) as a funding mechanism; a strengtheningof AOSIS; the establishment of an International Centre forSustainable Development for SIDS; a UN institutional mechanism forfocus on SIDS; and an inventory of biological resources in SIDS.The last item of today's agenda will be a presentation of a casestudy on the topic of "Tourism and Sustainable Development" byGeorge Vassiliou, former President of the Republic of Cyprus.

PROGRAMME OF WORK FOR THE CONFERENCE: General debate willbegin on Tuesday morning and continue through early next week inPlenary. Representatives from each government and many NGOs, UNspecialized agencies, regional and other intergovernmentalorganizations are expected to speak. The Main Committee will meeton Tuesday, 26 April to elect Penelope Wensley as the Chair andbegin work immediately on the outstanding bracketed portions of thedraft Programme of Action. The Main Committee is scheduled tocontinue its work until Wednesday, 4 May. The High-Level Segmentwill meet on Thursday, 5 May and the morning of Friday, 6 May. ThePlenary will meet on Friday, 6 May to consider the work of the MainCommittee and adopt its report, before the Conference is closed.