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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


A Special Session of the General Assembly will be held from 27 to 28 September at UN Headquarters in New York to review and appraise the implementation of the Programme of Action adopted by over 100 countries at the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, held in Barbados in 1994. The Barbados Programme of Action (POA) aims to strike a balance for the sustainable development of small island developing states (SIDS), which promotes needed economic growth and improved social well-being while preserving the environment. The purpose of the Special Session is to examine progress in the implementation of the POA and to discuss how the international community can enhance action in support of small island nations.

Close to 40 SIDS attending the Special Session will seek support from the international community to address pressing problems they face, such as: adapting to climate change and sea level rise; improving preparedness for and recovery from natural and environmental disasters; preventing worsening shortages of freshwater; protecting coastal ecosystems and coral reefs from pollution and overfishing; developing solar and renewable energy; and managing tourism growth to protect the environment and cultural integrity.

The Special Session is expected to culminate with the adoption of a political declaration and a text on the state of initiatives for the future implementation of the POA.

Press Briefing

On Thursday, 23 September at UN Headquarters in New York, Ambassador Tuiloma Neroni Slade of Samoa, Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and JoAnne DiSano, Director of the UN Division for Sustainable Development held a press briefing about the Special Session focusing on key issues and expected outcomes.

Joanne Disano traced the history of the POA and noted the importance of undertaking a review and appraisal of its implementation five years after its adoption. She emphasized SIDS� efforts to implement the POA at the national level and cited actions on institutional strengthening, capacity-building, regulatory reform and economic instruments as examples. She also drew attention to the way that SIDS had organized to make their voices heard at international meetings and fora. In spite of these efforts, she said that much remained to be done and noted the need for support from the international community. She concluded that the Special Session was an opportunity to revitalize attention to pressing problems being faced by SIDS and said it would contribute to opening greater horizons for these nations.

Tuiloma Neroni Slade pointed to the particular disadvantages faced by SIDS which render them especially vulnerable, and noted that most of them are very small developing nations with a limited resource base, limited sources of income and limited representation at international fora. While he highlighted SIDS� sense of ownership and responsibility for implementing the POA, he underscored the need for renewed partnership and international support. He noted SIDS� inability to address pressing global environmental problems such as climate change, sea-level rise and marine pollution by themselves and called for renewed partnership from the international community to address these problems. He also noted that the challenges of globalization, trade liberalization and the erosion of trade preferences have undermined SIDS� ability to compete effectively in the international trading system.

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Earth Negotiations Bulletin, 1999. All rights reserved.