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United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

UN Headquarters, New York, 27-28 September 1999

ENB Coverage
1 October
27 September


The Special Session of the General Assembly (GA) for the review and appraisal of the implementation of the Programme of Action (POA) for the Sustainable Development of small island developing States (SIDS) was held on 27-28 September 1999.

Over the course of the meeting, delegates met in five Plenary sessions and heard addresses from 13 Heads of State or Vice-Presidents, 46 Ministers and more than 100 permanent representatives. The GA established an Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole (COW), which met in two parallel sessions to the Plenary. The Special Session adopted a political declaration and a text on the state of initiatives for the future implementation of the POA. The Special Session also forwarded a draft resolution on the Caribbean Sea to the regular session of the GA for further consideration by the second committee.  Background of the meeting

Photos and RealAudio

General Assembly
On Monday, 27 September, Martin Andjaba, Permanent Representative of Namibia, opened the 22nd Special Session of the General Assembly (UNGASS)
The Plenary elected Dr. Theo-Ben Gurirab, President of the 54th General Assembly (Namibia, center), to preside over the 22nd UNGASS.
President Gurirab welcomed participants and, recalling the commitment made in Barbados in 1994 to pursue sustainable development and economic growth for SIDS, called upon delegates to renew and strengthen the Barbados Programme of Action.
Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General (on the left), recalled the conference slogan from Barbados, "small islands big issues." He described SIDS as the frontline zones where many of the main problems of environment and development are unfolding and stressed that they therefore provide a test of the commitments made at UNCED.
The president of GUYANA, on behalf of the G77, said discussions at the Special Session would serve to highlight SIDS' special needs and to focus attention of the international community on the problems and constraints they face to achieve sustainable development. He noted the Barbados Declaration described SIDS as being particularly vulnerable to natural as well as environmental disasters and acknowledged their limited capacity to recover from such disasters.
SAMOA, on behalf of AOSIS indicated that SIDS have done their best to implement the POA and noted that although the review process should have been a comparatively simple task, negotiations had not been easy. He said that participants at the Special Session should ask themselves whether their message about SIDS to the world was "a powerful one" and whether the international community truly shared a common vision for the future.
SAINT LUCIA expressed disappointment at the lack of support from the OECD countries for the development of SIDS.
FINLAND, on behalf of the EU, highlighted the following emerging concerns for SIDS: continuing deterioration of the marine environment; freshwater and land degradation; increased frequency and severity of natural disasters; economic difficulties due to external factors; and the expansion of globalization since Barbados, which puts SIDS at risk of economic marginalization.
of NGOs, highlighted negative impacts of globalization and trade liberalization. He supported
the Caribbean Sea initiative and called for the removal of all external military bases and a cessation
of transboundary movement of hazardous wastes. He said all stakeholders should be held publicly
accountable for commitments made.
Delegates considered the report of the COW (A/S-22/9), which was introduced by COW Chair John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda). This report contained a provision stating that the GA adopts the Declaration and the document on the State of Progress and Initiatives for the future Implementation of the POA for the Sustainable Development of SIDS as contained in A/S-22/2/Add.1, which the Plenary adopted. The Plenary also agreed to forward the draft resolution on the Caribbean Sea (A/S-22/6) to the Second Committee for further consideration under the agenda item entitled "Environment and sustainable development."
GA President Gurirab indicated that without adequate financial support the way forward for SIDS was uncertain. He indicated time was running out for action. He concluded by saying that the Special Session sent a powerful message of the international community's solidarity with SIDS and characterized it as an occasion to ensure that the well-being of SIDS was the business of all humanity.
The Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole
Klaus T÷pfer, UNEP Executive Director, said SIDS are a microcosm of the challenges facing all nations and, stating that their sustainable development is about more than just coral reefs and climate change, said it is about the existence and survival of a people. He stated that the promotion of tourism was indispensable to the sustainable development of SIDS.
The FAO presented the Plan of Action on Agriculture in SIDS, along with a Ministerial Declaration on Agriculture in SIDS, both of which are contained in A/S-22/3. He highlighted the results of the Special Ministerial Conference and said it agreed the Plan of Action on Agriculture in SIDS would focus on the following five commitments: adjusting to changes in the global trading environment; developing more intensified, diversified and sustainable agriculture; meeting needs of fisheries; ensuring sustainable management of land, water and forestry resources and environmental protection; and promoting capacity building and institutional strengthening.
The UNDP highlighted its commitment to capacity building in critical areas of the POA, including the establishment of SIDSNet through which SIDS can access and share sustainable development information on the Internet. He highlighted consultations being organized through its Resident Coordinator system between the UN system and SIDS' governments, the private sector, NGOs and civil society.
John Ashe (Antigua and Barbuda), Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee of the Whole
ECLAC stated that her organization, jointly with CARICOM, undertook a role in the coordination of implementing POA activities and added that the February donor conference was an important milestone for Caribbean SIDS' as it provided an opportunity for all SIDS to congregate and interact. She stated that the POA is but a framework which needs to be deepened to capture future challenges, such as changes in trade regimes and protocols resulting in losses of preferential access to markets.
The UN DRUG CONTROL PROGRAMME noted that a serious consequence of globalization on SIDS has been an increase in crime, violence and drug abuse due to SIDS' geographical location and miles of unmonitored coastline. He stated the Caribbean SIDS recognized their vulnerability and agreed in 1996, as part of the Barbados Plan of Action for Drug Control Coordination, to, inter alia: monitor the movement of vessels; encourage police cooperation and joint training; and harmonize drug control and anti-money laundering.
THE WORLD METEROLOGICAL ORGANIZATION (WMO) noted that the WMO is ensuring the availability of reliable information on weather, climate and water resources; prediction of phenomena such as El Ni´┐Żo and La Ni´┐Ża; and associated impacts on the socioeconomic development of nations. He supported the full implementation of international conventions that would help alleviate and reduce serious obstacles to SIDS' sustainable development.
The COW addressed the draft resolution on the Caribbean Sea (A/S-22/6) and discussed the possibility of forwarding it to Second Committee of the GA for further consideration. The EU noted specific challenges faced by Caribbean countries and said UNCLOS should be a reference framework for reference and the work of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) should be taken into account.
GUYANA, on behalf of the G-77/CHINA, looked forward to further negotiations on the Caribbean Seas resolution in the Second Committee.
AOSIS held a press conference on Monday morning to discuss the communiqu´┐Ż adopted at the AOSIS Summit on 25 September and their hopes for the UNGASS on SIDS. Present were, from left to right: Billie Miller, Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados; Patrick Albert Lewis (Antigua and Barbuda), Vice-Chairman of AOSIS; Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa and Chairman of AOSIS; and Rajkeswur Purryag, Deputy Prime Minister of Mauritius.
Chairman Malielegaoi summarizes the main points of the communiqu´┐Ż
Miller discusses the Draft Resolution recognizing the Caribbean Sea as a special area in the context of sustainable development
UNEP and the EU convened this special event to announce the launch of the Caribbean, Pacific Island and Western Indian Ocean Environmental Outlook Reports. These three reports detail the environmental conditions of the three major island regions of the world, evaluate policy responses and highlight priority issues. The reports are companion volumes of the Global Environmental Outlook 2000 (GEO-2000) report. Among the speakers at this event were, from left to right, Dr. Francisco Granelll, EC Directorate General for Development; Dr. Klaus Töpfer, UNEP Executive Director; and Amb. Satiwan Gunasee, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mauritius. For more information on the Outlook reports, contact

The launch of the central node of the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (GPA) Clearing-House Mechanisms was also announced. For more information, please visit the GPA CHM at

Töpfer outlined the main environmental challenges of SIDS and discussed the recommendations made in the Outlook Reports
Gunasse gave concrete examples of the environmental and economic challenges, both natural and man-made, faced by SIDS in the Indian Ocean
The "Capacity Building for Sustainable Development: The Role of UNDP in SIDS" side event brought together several speakers to share their experiences in various UNDP capacity building programmes. The presenters were Geir Sjoberg, UNDP Energy and Atmosphere Programme (EAP, far left); Linus Spencer Thomas, Ministry of Finance of Grenada (second from the left); Surresh Hurry, EAP (second from the right) and Neil Pierre, UNDP Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean (RBLAC, far right). Elena Martinez, UNDP RBLAC (third from the left), chaired the discussion.

SIDS related web sites

bullet ENB coverage of the Barbados Conference on SIDS (April-May 1994)      (web site for our coverage) bulletENB's coverage of CSD-7
bulletUnited Nations web site on SIDS, including documents and background information for the UNGASS bullet SIDSnet

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´┐Ż Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1999. All rights reserved.