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Resumed Preparatory Committee for the SIDS Global Conference


The first meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the Global Conference on theSustainable Development of Small Island Developing States begins today at UNHeadquarters in New York. The two-week session will focus on preparations for theConference and consideration of plans and programmes to support the sustainabledevelopment of small island developing States and the utilization of their marineand coastal resources.

The Conference, which is scheduled for 4-15 April 1994 in Barbados, has its rootsin the preparatory process of the UN Conference on Environment and Development(UNCED). Participants at the third meeting of the UNCED Preparatory Committeeexpressed considerable interest in the problems facing small island developingStates and requested the Secretary-General to add a programme area on islands tothe oceans chapter (17) of Agenda 21.

When Programme Area G, "Sustainable Development of Small Islands" was firstpresented at PrepCom IV in New York in March 1992, it was accepted by thedelegates with comparatively little debate. The objective of the programme areais to adopt and implement sustainable development plans for islands, includingthe utilization of marine and coastal resources, the maintenance of biodiversityand the improvement in the quality of life for island peoples. Paragraph 17.131of the final text of Agenda 21 stated that: "Small island developing States, withthe support, as appropriate, of international organizations, whether subregional,regional or global, should develop and strengthen inter-island, regional andinterregional cooperation and information exchange, including periodic regionaland global meetings on sustainable development of small island developing Stateswith the first global conference on the sustainable development of small islanddeveloping States to be held in 1993."


The UN General Assembly resolution establishing the Global Conference on theSustainable Development of Small Island Developing States was one of the fivemajor resolutions on UNCED follow-up to be negotiated during the 47th GeneralAssembly in 1992. The final resolution states that the Conference will:

  • Review current trends in the socio-economic development of small island developing States;
  • Examine the nature and magnitude of the specific vulnerabilities of small island developing States;
  • Define a number of specific actions and policies relating to environmental and development planning to be undertaken by these States, with help from the international community;
  • Identify elements that these States need to include in medium- and long-term sustainable development plans;
  • Recommend measures for enhancing the endogenous capacity of these States; and
  • Review whether institutional arrangements at the international level enable these States to give effect to the relevant provisions of Agenda 21.


The Preparatory Committee for the Conference held its organizational session inNew York on 15-16 April 1993. Penelope Wensley, Australia's Ambassador to theUnited Nations in Geneva, was elected Chair of the PrepCom. The four Vice-Chairsare: Takao Shibata (Japan), Marian Dinu (Romania), John Ashe (Antigua andBarbuda) and Jos‚ Luis Jesus (Cape Verde). Barbados, as host country, is anex officio member of the Bureau.

The PrepCom had before it three documents for consideration: the draftprovisional agenda (A/CONF.167/PC/1); a report of the Secretary-General on thepreparations for the Conference (A/CONF.167/PC/2); and the draft provisionalrules of procedure (A/CONF.167/PC/3).

The discussion on the draft guidelines for the work of the PrepCom was the mostcontentious. Issues that generated debate included the responsibilities of theinternational community in providing small island developing States access tofinancial resources; and the international community's responsibility to smallisland developing States regarding "access to environmentally sound andenergy-efficient technology, including delivery mechanisms." The guidelineseventually adopted suggest that the PrepCom's consideration of the role of smallisland developing States should include actions at the micro level aimed atenvironment and development planning, measures for enhancing local skills andexpertise, and medium- and long-term planning for sustainable development. Theguidelines also emphasize the importance of regional technical cooperation onenvironmental problems and the necessity for regional organizations andcommissions to participate in this process.


As part of the preparatory process, two regional technical meetings were held.The first meeting for the Indian and Pacific Oceans was coordinated by the SouthPacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and was held from 31 May - 4 June1993 in Vanuatu. The report of this meeting is contained in documentA/CONF.167/PC/7.

The meeting recommended that the PrepCom consider the following 15 priority areasas the basis for developing an action programme for small island developingStates. These priority areas include: climate change and sea level rise; naturaland environmental disaster preparedness; environmentally sound management ofwastes and toxic substances; coastal and marine resources; freshwater resources;land resources; management of energy resources; management of tourismdevelopment; conservation of biological diversity; national institutions andadministrative capacity; regional institutions and technical cooperation;transport and communication; management of science and technology; humanresources (population, education, urban development and health); andenvironmental legislation.

The meeting also decided to endorse and recommend to the PrepCom guidelines forimplementation, monitoring and review of the action programme for small islanddeveloping States. The recommendations include action to be taken at thenational, regional, subregional and international levels. Some of the recommendedactions at the national level include: prioritization of national strategies;nationwide reviews of national development and environmental plans; integrationof environmental management into development planning; development of appropriatelegislative measures; and improving understanding at the political and publiclevels.

At the regional and subregional levels, the meeting recommended that theappropriate organizations assist small island developing States to: buildcapacity to implement principles of sustainable development; participate ininternational negotiations on sustainable development issues; meet theircommitments relating to international and regional instruments on sustainabledevelopment; facilitate the involvement of NGOs; and develop and applyenvironmental law. At the international level, the recommendations include: theprovision of improved access to financial resources; support for agencies andprogrammes; encouraging private capital flows; encouraging cooperation andcoordination between regional and subregional organizations; facilitating accessto sound, efficient and appropriate technology; and ensuring education and thedissemination of information.


The second regional technical meeting for the Atlantic/Caribbean/Mediterraneanregion was held in Trinidad and Tobago from 28 June - 2 July. The meeting wascoordinated by the Caribbean Community (Caricom) with the assistance of theEconomic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The report ofthis meeting is contained in document A/CONF/167/PC/8.

The meeting noted the constraints on small island developing States in pursuingsustainable development and the subsequent options. These options were developedas a series of programmatic actions on priority areas at the national, regionaland international levels, as well as some cross sectoral actions. The priorityareas were identified as the management of environmental problems of small islanddeveloping States, the integrated management of natural resources, and capacitybuilding.

Programmatic areas noted within these areas included natural and anthropogenicenvironmental disaster preparedness; climate change, sea level rise and climatevariability; pollution and waste management; coastal zone management and marineresources; energy resources; tourism; fresh water resources; land resources andhuman settlements; biological resources; national institutions; regionalinstitutions; regional transport and communications systems; science andtechnology including indigenous knowledge; human resource development includingeducation, training, health and pollution; finance including insurance; andinformation management.

As a general recommendation, the meeting encouraged the participation of NGOsand other major groups in policy formation and called for further work ondeveloping a vulnerability index that would better reflect the particularsituation of small island developing States. The meeting noted that the GlobalConference, with the involvement of national, regional and internationalcommunities could provide a unique opportunity to develop supportive andintegrated approaches to programme development.


The proposed programme of work for the PrepCom meeting is contained in documentA/CONF.167/PC/5/ Corr.1. The PrepCom will focus on preparations for the firstGlobal Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island DevelopingStates (Item 2) and consideration of plans and programmes to support thesustainable development of small island developing States and the utilization oftheir marine and coastal resources (Item 3).

Discussion of Agenda Item 2 will include the following items: activities of theUN system and intergovernmental and other bodies of relevance to the preparatoryprocess; reports from regional technical meetings; preparations by the hostGovernment (Barbados); participation of NGOs; and operation of the voluntaryfund. Discussion of Agenda Item 3 will include: meeting essential human needs;maintaining biological diversity; and improving the quality of life for islandpeople; as well as measures that will enable small island developing States tocope effectively, creatively and in a sustainable manner with environmentalchanges and to mitigate the impacts on and reduce the threats posed to marine andcoastal resources. The general discussion of Agenda Items 2 and 3 is scheduledto last throughout the first week of the meeting. Informal consultations arecurrently scheduled for the second week of the meeting. Agenda Item 4 --Provisional agenda for the Conference -- is scheduled to be introduced onWednesday, 8 September.

The documentation for the PrepCom includes:

  • A/CONF.167/PC/4: Draft report of the Preparatory Committee for the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States on its organizational session
  • A/CONF.167/PC/5 and Corr.1: Provisional agenda
  • A/CONF.167/PC/6: Overview of system-wide activities relevant to General Assembly Resolution 47/189
  • A/CONF.167/PC/7: Report of the regional technical meeting for the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Port Vila (Vanuatu), 31 May - 4 June 1993
  • A/CONF.167/PC/8: Report of the regional technical meeting for the Atlantic/Caribbean/Mediterranean Region, Trinidad and Tobago 28 June - 2 July 1993.
  • A/CONF.167/PC/9: Activities of the Conference Secretariat and other matters
  • A/CONF.167/PC/10: Plans and programmes to support sustainable development of small island developing States
  • A/CONF.167/PC/11: Provisional agenda for the Conference


PLENARY: The PrepCom for the Global Conference on the SustainableDevelopment of Small Island Developing States will open today at 10:30 am in theTrusteeship Council Chamber. The meeting will begin with statements byUnder-Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development NitinDesai and PrepCom Chair Amb. Penelope Wensley. The Committee is expected to adoptthe agenda for the meeting (A/CONF.167/PC/5 and Corr.1) and begin the generaldebate on Agenda Items 2 and 3. The first speakers are expected to be the Groupof 77, AOSIS and the European Community.

The adoption of the agenda may provoke some discussion. The general debate onAgenda Items 2 and 3 is scheduled to last four days. However, given the fact thatthis session includes only nine working days (Monday, 6 September being a USholiday), some delegates may wish to cut the general debate down to two days.Thus far there are no evening, weekend or holiday meetings scheduled. Consideringthe announcement last week by UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghaliregarding a wide range of cost-cutting measures that will be instituted duringthe forthcoming session of the General Assembly, it seems unlikely thatadditional meetings will be scheduled.