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THE BARBADOS CONFERENCE

The Global Conference for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States met in Bridgetown, Barbados, from 25 April - 6 May 1994. During the course of the Conference, delegates reached agreement on the 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.

Most of the substantive negotiations took place in the Main Committee, which was chaired by Amb. Penelope Wensley (Australia). The Main Committee"s task was to finish what the PrepCom had begun and, thus, focused its work on reaching agreement on the draft Programme of Action. The Programme of Action includes a preamble and 15 chapters on: climate change and sea level rise; natural and environmental disasters; management of wastes; coastal and marine resources; freshwater resources; land resources; energy resources; tourism resources; biodiversity resources; national institutions and administrative capacity; regional institutions and technical cooperation; transport and communication; science and technology; human resource development; and implementation, monitoring and review.

The Programme of Action is significant in that SIDS are dealt with holistically and not, as has been traditionally the case, just "coral reefs and beaches." Unlike Chapter 17 of Agenda 21, which calls for national and international actions, this policy blueprint specifies measures to be taken at the national, regional and international levels. As such, it reflects accurately on the concept of common but differentiated responsibilities. Whereas no major new and additional financial resources are identified in the Programme of Action, there are specific recommendations on efficiency and re-prioritization of existing resources. This was reinforced in the statements of many of the donor countries during the High-Level Segment who signaled that SIDS should now receive greater proportions of existing aid.

The second document emanating from the Conference was the Declaration of Barbados, which was intended as a statement of the political will that underpins the precise agreements contained in the Programme of Action. The Declaration reaffirms the UNCED agreements, including the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the Statement of Forest Principles, Agenda 21, the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Casting itself in the spirit of those agreements, the Declaration contains two parts. In the first, the participants at the Conference affirm the importance of: human resources and cultural heritage; gender equity; the role of women and other major groups, including children, youth and indigenous people; the sovereign right of SIDS over their own natural resources; vulnerability to natural and environmental disasters; climate change and sea level rise; limited freshwater resources; special situation and needs of the least developed SIDS; economic vulnerability; capacity building; constraints to sustainable development; and partnership between Governments, IGOs, NGOs and other major groups in implementing Agenda 21 and this Programme of Action. In the second part, the participants declare the importance of national, regional and international implementation, including the reduction and elimination of unsustainable patterns of consumption and production, and the provision of effective means for the implementation of the Programme of Action, including adequate, predictable, new and additional financial resources.

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