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On 5-6 May 1994, 45 Heads of State and Government, special representatives and ministers participated in the Conference's High-Level Segment. The High-Level Segment focused on the theme of "Forging Partnerships for Sustainable Development," which lies at the heart of the commitments made by the international community at Rio. This theme was adopted because it was felt that the unique characteristics of SIDS -- their small size and populations, limited resources and isolation from markets, high transport and infrastructure costs, vulnerability to natural disasters and to the vagaries of the international economy -- call for the forging of new types of partnerships to achieve sustainable development. Each dignitary was given seven minutes to address the theme, but inevitably the average length of statements was twice that. Speakers included the prime ministers of Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Bahamas, Vanuatu, Tonga, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Niue; the presidents of Nauru, Cuba, Kiribati, Micronesia, and Guyana; the Governor General of Papua New Guinea; ministers from Iceland, Australia, Cyprus, Venezuela, Jamaica, Mauritius, Brazil, Maldives, Fiji, Malaysia, Germany, the Solomon Islands, Indonesia, Seychelles, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Pakistan, Belize, Haiti, Grenada, and New Zealand; deputy ministers from China, the United States and Colombia; and ministerial representatives and special envoys from the Marshall Islands, the United Kingdom, Canada, the Republic of Korea, Japan, India and Italy.

The recurring themes included: the new partnership that must be forged to achieve sustainable development for SIDS, including transfer of technology; the end of the traditional donor-recipient relationship; implementation of the relevant conventions that can further the sustainable development of SIDS; the impacts of marine pollution and of sea level rise; improving the status of women; the redistribution of wealth within and between countries; and common, but differentiated, responsibilities between developed countries and SIDS.

In the summary report of the debate, the participants identified the major assets of SIDS as being their coastal and marine resources, their natural beauty and their people. They also highlighted the inadequacies of GNP per capita criteria as a measure of economic development and called for the adoption of a vulnerability index that would take into account environmental considerations and would give the small islands more equitable access to international assistance, including financial assistance. Appropriate partnerships must be formed between national governments and the people they serve. International cooperation should include, but not be limited to, access to technical and financial resources, since there is much that the developed countries can provide that could benefit SIDS. Examples included the need for developed countries to increase their efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, ocean dumping and transboundary movement of hazardous and toxic wastes.

On Friday, 6 May 1994, high-level participants gathered for a roundtable discussion. Upon the recommendation of the preparatory Committee for the Conference, the roundtable was open to participation at the Head of State or Government and ministerial level. The roundtable heard presentations by: the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Patrick Manning, on the AOSIS perspective of the sustainable development of small island developing States; the Premier of Niue, Frank F. Lui, on regional and international cooperation; Henrique Brandao Cavalcanti, Brazilian Minister for the Environment and the Amazon, on the theme "From Rio to Bridgetown: Regaining the UNCED Momentum;" and Klaus T”pfer, Germany's Minister for the Environment, on international support for the sustainable development of SIDS. In his report to the Conference, Barbados Prime Minister Erskine Sandiford said that the roundtable provided an important opportunity for an open and frank exchange of views at a high political level on issues of sustainable development for SIDS and the challenges the international community and SIDS themselves face in this area.

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