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Another accomplishment of the negotiating process was the maturation of AOSIS over the past nine months into a full-fledged group within the UN system, with its own strengths, weaknesses, divisions and personalities. When AOSIS was first conceived, its purpose was to unite small islands States and increase their impact on the climate change negotiations. They worked together to ensure that the risks they face as a result of climate change and related sea level rise were taken into account in the Convention. In the UNCED process, SIDS were successful in achieving special recognition of their plight in Agenda 21 and managed to have language included that called for the first global Conference on the sustainable development of SIDS.

However, as the preparations for this Conference got underway, AOSIS stumbled in its transition from a single issue pressure group on the sidelines to the coordinating body for SIDS and all of their interests. This change posed political, logistical and strategic problems. The political problems involved the difference in approach between the Pacific and the Caribbean. Pacific islands face markedly different situations than the islands in the Caribbean. The difficulties in incorporating both sets of concerns, not to mention the concerns of islands in other regions, into a common position were not always easy to resolve. The logistical problems involved bringing experts from all of these often remote islands together. Pacific island representatives who do not have permanent missions in New York often felt left out during the many intersessional consultations. The strategic problems faced by AOSIS involved learning to push their own agenda, delegating responsibility within the group, and mastering their collective negotiating skills. To complicate matters further, there was a change in the Chairmanship of AOSIS midway through the preparations for the Conference -- from Vanuatu to Trinidad and Tobago. With all of this as background, it is surprising that AOSIS did not completely lose its focus. By the time AOSIS arrived in Barbados, however, the Alliance was focused like a "laser beam" under the "steady, quiet and tenacious" diplomatic skills of Trinidad and Tobago. As a result, AOSIS successfully represented its members' interests and delivered a strong Programme of Action to guide the sustainable development of SIDS into the future. [Return to start of article]