Daily report for 25 April 1994

Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of SIDS


The Government of Barbados welcomed Conference participants to itscountry with a colorful National Welcoming Ceremony at the SirGarfield Sobers Complex Monday morning, amidst pomp andcircumstance, music, dancing, and TV cameras that broadcast theevent live throughout the region. In his opening address, the PrimeMinister of Barbados, the Rt. Hon. Erskine Sandiford, welcomed alldelegates and NGOs to Barbados and invited everyone to mix businessand pleasure within the limits of national laws. He described themany vulnerabilities of small island developing States (SIDS). Headded that Barbados is also doing what it can to implementsustainable development policies.

The next speaker was UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Hesaid that this Conference marks the first time that a UN globalconference is held in a small island developing State. The UNstrives to make development a national reality.

Samuel R. Insanally, the President of the 48th UN General Assemblyand Permanent Representative of Guyana to the United Nations, saidthat this Conference marks the first test of the commitments madeby the international community at the Earth Summit in Rio two yearsago. SIDS should use their great human potential to confront theenvironmental challenges before them.

Amb. Annette des Iles, the Chair of the Alliance of Small IslandStates (AOSIS) and Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobagoto the UN, assured everyone that AOSIS will do everything it can toensure the Conference is a success. She invited all developedcountries to join AOSIS in implementing the commitments they madein Agenda 21.

Following the speeches, there were a series of dance, cultural andmusical presentations from the Royal Rarotongans from the CookIslands and a number of Caribbean dance companies, including theBarbados Dance Theatre Company, the Plantation Dancers, DancingAfrica, St. Lucian Cultural Group and a spectacular limboperformance by the Pinelands Creative Workshop. There was also aperformance by the Barbados Combined Choirs and the Royal BarbadosPolice Force Band. Perhaps the most creative performance was givenby the students of Barbados Secondary Schools, who dancedthemselves into a human reproduction of the logo of the Conference.At the conclusion of the dance, a 14-year old Barbadian girl gavean impassioned plea to everyone to work hard, using their hands andtheir heads, to achieve sustainable development.


UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali welcomed the delegatesand noted that this Conference marks an important moment in thehistory of development and it faces three special tasks: to drawattention to the special needs of SIDS; to address the particularissues that impact SIDS; and to add to the momentum generated inRio. The international community as a whole, as well as SIDSthemselves, will look to the Conference for leadership.Boutros-Ghali spoke of the unique characteristics of SIDS: distancefrom markets and supplies; scarcity; the small size of populations;lack of economies of scale; costs of communication and transport;and their vulnerability to natural and man-made environmentaldamage. He noted that the development and destiny of SIDS is linkedto coastal and marine resources. Too often poor coastal and marinemanagement has undermined sustainable development. He cautionedthat unless properly managed, tourism can degrade the environmentupon which it depends. But more than anything else, people are anasset to SIDS. He urged the Conference to address the impact ofpopulation on the development of SIDS. The Conference must alsoensure that the agreements reached in Barbados can be implemented.Developing countries need financial and technical resources toimplement Agenda 21 and, despite the progress in many fields,developed countries need to provide an enabling economicenvironment for this to happen. He noted that only Norway, Sweden,Denmark and the Netherlands have achieved the target of 0.7% of GNPfor ODA and that Finland, once in that league, had recently dippedbelow the target. France and Belgium have committed to achieve thislevel of funding by the year 2000, yet the average within the donorcommunity is still 0.33%, a figure that has remained static forover a decade. Increases from Japan have been offset by decreasesin aid from other countries. The Secretary-General stressed therole of the UN -- where the General Assembly affords each memberState, no matter how small, one vote -- as the forum forinternational cooperation on development.

The newly-elected President of the Conference, Erskine Sandiford,Prime Minister of Barbados, told the delegates that theinternational community had done Barbados a great honor byconvening this meeting. The Conference has its roots in the UNCEDprocess and is the clear indication that SIDS represent adistinctive category of States that deserve special attention. Headded that it has been agreed at the highest level that all Statesneed to act in concert to achieve sustainable development. It isimportant to put an end to the vicious circle in which a vastmajority of countries are locked and that threatens their continuedsurvival. This resolve to change must be translated into concreteaction. Sustainable development should be the ultimate goal. It isnot an arcane concept, but a matter of survival, which involves achange in values and attitudes toward people. He also called for agreater flow of assistance and more cooperation among SIDS. NGOswill play a crucial role and greater participation needs to takeplace at the national, regional and international levels.

Sandiford then moved to Item 3 of the agenda (A/CONF.167/1), theadoption of the rules of procedure, as contained in A/CONF.167/2.Item 4 was the adoption of the agenda, followed by the election ofofficers. Sandiford announced that after the pre-Conferenceconsultations officers had been selected from the followinggroups: Asia -- Samoa and China; Western European and Others Group-- New Zealand and Germany. The African Group selections wereannounced as Mauritius and Niger and the Eastern Europeansnominated Hungary, with the other seat to be filled after furtherconsultations. Cuba was selected from the Latin America andCaribbean region. Branford M. Taitt, the Minister of ForeignAffairs of Barbados, was elected as the ex officio member ofthe bureau. According to the rules of procedure, the Conferencethen elected Amb. Penelope Wensley (Australia) as the Chair of theMain Committee. The President then moved to Item 6 of the agenda,organization of work, including establishment of the Main Committeeof the Conference (A/CONF.167/3). Together with the comments inparagraphs 12-15 of A/CONF.167/L.3, delegates adopted the programmeof work. The Conference also took note of the other issuesdiscussed in the pre-Conference consultations, including agreementsreached on the High-Level Segment. Item 7(a) on the agenda, theelection of the Credentials Committee, saw Austria, Bahamas, Chile,China, C“te d'Ivoire, Mauritius, the Russian Federation and the USelected by acclamation. Under Item 8, the President noted that thelist of speakers for the general debate would be closed at 6:00 pmon Wednesday, April 27.

Dame Nita Barrow, Governor-General of Barbados, then presented thereport of the meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons onSustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, ascontained in document A/CONF.167/5. She said that the reportcontained interesting conclusions on the special vulnerabilities ofSIDS that are now more widely understood. While awareness hasincreased, there is still a lack of appreciation of the value ofisland ecosystems. SIDS exercise jurisdiction over one-sixth of theEarth's surface and they should seek to use their strengths. Thereport contains 18 recommendations that are neither particularlyexpensive nor difficult to apply and that should be followed ifGovernments are to live up to their commitments in Rio.

George Vassiliou, former President of Cyprus, then presented thereport of a case study on sustainable tourism. This case study isbased on the experience of Cyprus. Tourism is the activity that canmost impact the environment of any small island State and, in thatrespect, presents both the greatest promise and the greatestthreat. It has a series of negative impacts, both on theenvironment and on the social fabric of SIDS, and it also affectsother sectors of the economy. Growth, therefore, needs to becontrolled, and there are limits to the number of tourists thatshould be admitted each season. Any tourism development that hasnothing in common with the people or the environment should beavoided.


PLENARY: The Conference will begin its general debate inPlenary at 10:00 am in Conference Room 1. The tentative speakers'list for the day begins with Algeria, on behalf of the Group of 77,and Greece, on behalf of the European Union. The subsequentspeakers may include Antigua and Barbuda, China, Malaysia,Australia, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),Bahamas, Grenada, Japan and the United Nations EnvironmentProgramme (UNEP). Possible speakers in the afternoon include: theCaribbean Community (Caricom), Iceland, Marshall Islands,Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritania, the Republic of Korea,the Philippines, the United Nations Development Programme for Women(UNIFEM) and one NGO representative. The speakers' list for thegeneral debate will be closed at 6:00 pm on Wednesday, 27 April.

MAIN COMMITTEE: The Chair of the Main Committee, Amb.Penelope Wensley, will open the meeting this morning in ConferenceRoom 2 by introducing the work that remains to be done. There isconcern that the Main Committee now has only one week in which tocomplete its work as negotiations must end by Tuesday, 3 May, sinceAOSIS intends to hold a Heads of State Summit on Wednesday, 4 May,preceding the High-Level Segment of the Conference, which will takeplace on 5-6 May.

Wensley is expected to start with a reading of Chapters I-XIV,allowing AOSIS maximum time to consult on its expected amendmentsto the Preamble and Chapter XV. It is not yet clear how the NGOcomments, incorporated by AOSIS into a composite paper, will bebrought into the discussions.

IN THE CORRIDORS: During the intersessional period, Trinidadand Tobago, Chair of AOSIS, held informal meetings with otherdelegations in New York, including those of developed countries, onthe institutional arrangements section of Chapter XV and thePreamble. Look for these texts to be offered during the course ofnegotiations in the Main Committee. Furthermore, AOSIS has prepareda composite text, including NGO comments, to the final document,which may also be introduced during the negotiations.

NGO ISLANDS FORUM '94: The site of all NGO activities islocated at the Barbados Community College, a short walk from theSherbourne Center. Activities include a daily NGO briefing from8:30 - 9:30 am and a series of workshops and other events organizedby women, youth, indigenous people and NGOs.