Amidst the sun, sea, corals and sand that draw hundreds of thousands of tourists to small islands every year, the United Nations Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States met in Bridgetown, Barbados, from 25 April - 6 May 1994. Yet, during the course of the two-week meeting, delegates were constantly reminded that small island developing States (SIDS) are much more than vacation paradises. They also face numerous problems, including poverty, high unemployment, shortages of freshwater, sewage and waste disposal concerns, and the possibility of total annihilation due to climate change induced sea level rise.
During the course of the Conference, delegates negotiated the fifteen-chapter Programme of Action that sets out a series of recommended actions for the sustainable development of SIDS at the national, regional and international levels. Delegates also negotiated and adopted the Barbados Declaration, which was supposed to give the Programme of Action its political impetus. In addition, they listened as more than 40 Heads of State and Government, ministers and other high-level government officials participated in the High-Level Segment and roundtable discussion during the final days of the Conference. By the time the final session was gaveled to a close, this first post-Rio global Conference had succeeded in charting a new course for a group of countries whose needs have often been ignored by the international community.