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GENERAL ASSEMBLY HIGHLIGHTS

On Monday, 7 November 1994, the General Assembly began its consideration of Agenda Item 89(e), the Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. The General Assembly had before it the following documents: the report of the Conference (document A/CONF.167/9); the report of the Secretary-General on action taken to implement the programme of action (A/49/425 and Add.1); and studies by UNDP on the feasibility of developing SIDS/TAP, a technical assistance programme for SIDS to promote inter- and intra-regional cooperation for sustainable development (A/49/459), and on the feasibility of developing SIDS/NET, an information network for SIDS (A/49/414). The following are the highlights of this debate.

ALGERIA: On behalf of the G-77 and China, Amb. Ramtane Lamamra said that the SIDS Conference represents an important follow-up to UNCED. While it is clear that the specific implementation of the Programme of Action is the primary responsibility of SIDS, the efforts of these countries alone are insignificant without support from the international community, including the UN system. It is essential to establish within the Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD) a qualified and competent entity that could provide secretariat services to intergovernmental and inter-agency coordination in implementation of the Programme of Action.

GERMANY: On behalf of the EU and Austria, Gerhard Walter Henze said that the EU hopes that the Programme of Action will assist SIDS on the path to sustainable development by enhancing their international competitiveness and reducing their economic instability and ecological fragility. The role of the private sector and NGOs in the implementation of the Programme of Action is important. Substantial financial and technical support is being provided by the EU and its member States. 620 million ECUs (US$775 million) are being channeled through the Lom‚ Convention. He called for a lasting commitment on the part of all parties involved, improved regional cooperation and donor coordination to ensure effective implementation.

BARBADOS: Richard Cheltenham, Minister of Tourism, International Transport and the Environment, on behalf of the Caribbean Community, said that the Barbados Conference was significant because it was the first follow-up process to the Rio Summit and because it marked the first time that a full-fledged UN Conference has been held in so small a member State. He urged the international community to give its full endorsement to the Programme of Action and the Barbados Declaration. It is vital that the UN Secretariat, through the DPCSD, be equipped to fulfill the monitoring and coordination mandate assigned to it in the Programme of Action. A complementary response capacity within the relevant operational organizations and programmes of the UN system must also be established. He also highlighted the role of the CSD for monitoring and reviewing the implementation of the Programme of Action, and the importance of inter-agency collaboration. He welcomed the reports submitted by UNDP on SIDS/NET and SIDS/TAP.

ICELAND: Amb. Gunnar P lsson, on behalf of the Nordic countries, said that the main accomplishment of the Conference was the adoption of the Programme of Action. It is both ambitious and comprehensive and focuses on practical steps at the national, regional and international levels to address crucial environmental and development concerns of SIDS. It identifies realistic means and measures for increasing the capacity of SIDS to cope effectively with their environment and development problems.

INDIA: M.P. Chandrajeet Yadav said that India has set up an Island Development Authority to formulate policies and programmes for ecologically sound, suitable and integrated development of the relatively remote islands in India that sustain small communities. The creation of jobs for ecological restoration is a marginal investment with significant returns. Decentralization and involvement of local communities is an effective way of managing the process. The international community must determine how it can help reduce the vulnerabilities of SIDS to natural and economic uncertainties. The challenge is to integrate SIDS into the global economic system, while ensuring self-sustaining development.

TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: On behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), Amb. Annette des Iles said that the implementation of the Programme of Action must be pursued at three levels. At the national level, the collective efforts of governments and all groups in society, including women, youth and NGOs, must be harnessed. At the regional level, cooperation is needed within and between regions. However, actions taken by small islands will not guarantee the attainment of the objectives of sustainable development without assistance from the international community. With the full implementation of SIDS/TAP, each State will be able to devise strategies to address common problems. SIDS/NET could create a concrete and practical information sharing programme. These two programmes should be implemented before the 50th anniversary of the UN. She also called for the UN regional commissions to concretize their support to SIDS. Within the DPCSD, a clearly identifiable, qualified entity should be put in place to provide secretariat support for activities emanating from the implementation of the Programme of Action.

CHINA: Amb. Wang Xuexian said that both the Programme of Action and the Barbados Declaration called on the international community, especially the developed countries and the relevant international agencies, to provide necessary financial resources and technologies. Many of the problems that SIDS have to face in their economic development and environmental protection are not of their own making, nor can they be solved by these countries alone. Consequently, the international community should attach importance to this issue. The developed countries have a great responsibility in this respect.

REPUBLIC OF KOREA: The representative highlighted the role of the unique ecosystems of SIDS as both a source of income generation and a safeguard of biological diversity. The two major threats to the sustainable development of SIDS are internal development activities and the environmentally unsound activities of the external world. He added that the development of human resources should be given the highest priority since the long- term sustainable development of SIDS depends ultimately on the islands" inhabitants themselves.

AUSTRALIA: On behalf of the South Pacific Forum member States, Amb. Richard Butler said that the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action requires a partnership between governmental and non-governmental organizations and international and national communities. The island countries of the South Pacific have put into effect the commitments undertaken in the Programme of Action, including national environmental legislation and environmental management strategies. A regional mechanism to coordinate and facilitate the implementation of the Programme of Action has now been established with the convening of an advisory committee of high officials, in conjunction with SPREP and ESCAP.

NEW ZEALAND: Amb. Colin Keating said the Barbados Conference was widely viewed as a test of post-UNCED acceptance of global responsibility. The successful adoption of the Programme of Action represents an enormous achievement, but the international community must ensure that the effort put into Barbados is carried forward. Although the primary responsibility for implementation of the Programme of Action rests with SIDS themselves, they need regional and international support to make it happen. Development assistance should be managed in partnership with recipient governments. Strong regional cooperation and robust regional institutions are essential. He called on the UN system to give higher priority to developing implementation strategies for the Programme of Action.

CANADA: Amb. Louise Fr‚chette welcomed the successful conclusion of the Barbados Conference and said that it is a model for operationalizing Agenda 21 and adapting it to a particular set of circumstances. SIDS face a unique environmental and development situation and the Programme of Action and the Declaration provide road maps for securing their future. To get there, however, the international community will need to follow through and carry out the actions envisaged, and Canada is ready to continue its assistance aimed at environmental management and protection, and to help build capacity in enhancing economic cooperation.

SAMOA: Amb. Tuiloma Neroni Slade said that the Programme of Action is a blueprint for a global effort and incorporates a realistic and practical tripartite approach of national, regional and international actions. Effective implementation will be the true test of commitment and he warned against the severe blow to the post-Rio optimism that he feared would be induced by the absence of concrete commitments from the international community. While SIDS have been encouraged to explore "existing financial resources," they do not know what "existing financial resources" are there, how they should tap into them, and how the UN should address the question of development resources management and effective programme delivery and implementation.

PHILIPPINES: The representative noted that the Philippines contains over 7,100 small islands and understands the concerns of SIDS. The SIDS Conference was the first test of the commitments made in Rio. He noted the vulnerabilities of SIDS to the international economic climate, natural disasters and tourism. He stressed the need to establish vulnerability indices. Important follow-up issues include the provision of financial resources and the transfer of environmentally sound technology.

FIJI: Graham E. Leung said that there is a real sense that when all the rhetoric is analyzed, little new financial assistance is available for the SIDS. The sincerity towards fulfilling the commitments of the Earth Summit are now being called into question. While Fiji welcomes the acknowledgment of the unique characteristics of SIDS, recognition itself will not solve all the problems. The Barbados Conference did have valuable and constructive outcomes, such as UNDP"s preparation of the feasibility studies for SIDS/TAP and SIDS/NET. The Declaration and Programme of Action are also significant achievements that can serve as a blueprint for SIDS to realize the goals of sustainable development.

SINGAPORE: Amb. Chew Tai Soo highlighted the special vulnerability factors confronting SIDS, which illustrate the special problems faced in the pursuit of economic and social development. It is crucial for the international community to implement the Programme of Action since the problems of developed countries pale in comparison to those of developing countries. He emphasized the importance of the speedy establishment of an entity within the DPCSD and to ensure that sufficient resources are made available for the implementation of the Programme of Action.

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: Amb. Lionel Hurst addressed the formulation of a range of indicators of economic and ecological vulnerability that are needed to measure sustainable development in a way that the "crude" GNP per capita device cannot. This device does not reflect the dis-economy of scale caused by the small size of SIDS. The emerging Vulnerability Index is not intended for use as a yardstick of poverty or wealth, rather it will be a measurement device for the lack of economic resilience arising from the relative inability of a country to shelter itself from forces outside its control.

MARSHALL ISLANDS: Amb. Laurence N. Edwards expressed his disappointment at the low level of turn-out from the developed countries in Barbados, since this was, after all, supposed to be a Conference on, and not of, SIDS. The goals of the Programme of Action cannot be implemented without the assistance of the international community and the funding aspects are an entirely inadequate section of the Programme. He urged the developed countries to extend some of their ODA to SIDS and supported the call by the G-77 to ensure that the target of 0.7% of GNP for ODA is achieved. He commended the work carried out by the UNDP on SIDS/NET and SIDS/TAP and called for the creation of an appropriate entity within the DPCSD.

FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA: The representative said that a lot of effort had been put in the negotiation of the Programme of Action, but its implementation will be a tremendous task and will require the assistance of the international community, particularly the developed States. Many of the mechanisms for UNCED implementation are in place and the DPCSD should be home to the focal point for the implementation of the Programme of Action. The work of the CSD should effectively integrate the outcomes of the Conference.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: The representative said that the Conference represents a milestone for the promises of Rio, but that the survival of SIDS depends on the cooperation of the international community. He welcomed the work of UNDP on SIDS/NET and SIDS/TAP, as well as the joint effort of UNDP, the UN Commission on Human Settlements and the World Bank on urban settlements. Papua New Guinea is strongly involved in the preparations of a regional convention on the transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and other efforts relating to inter-island transportation. He said he looked forward to the report of the CSD and encouraged UN agencies to give greater consideration to the implementation of the Programme of Action.

JAPAN: Amb. Shunji Maruyama said that the Barbados Programme of Action and Declaration are landmarks on the road from Rio and provide fresh impetus to the work of the international community on the sustainable development of SIDS. Now it is time for implementation. The Programme of Action emphasizes the importance of human resources development and the need to enhance institutional and administrative capacity. This is an orientation that is in accord with Japanese development assistance policy. He thanked the Secretary-General and UNDP for their reports. It is vital to conduct a continuing review of plans and programmes. Japan also supports SIDS/NET and SIDS/TAP as a means of achieving South-South cooperation.

MALTA: Walter Balzan said that the SIDS Conference was the first concrete step in the implementation of the results of Rio. Investment in the human resources of SIDS has consistently yielded high dividends. Malta welcomes the inclusion in the Programme of Action of its proposal to set up a vulnerability index. Barbados does not mark the end of an exercise. It signals the commencement of an on-going process that monitors and ensures that the results obtained are consolidated and enhanced.

GUYANA: Neil Pierre said that UNCED was unequivocal in its emphasis on the unique nature and vulnerability of small island States and those of low-lying coastal regions. The task is now to pursue, with vigor and enthusiasm, the full and urgent implementation of the agreements and decisions of the Conference. But important as they are, these agreements will amount to very little unless appropriate mechanisms are established for effective monitoring and implementation on a system-wide basis. This responsibility should be appropriately located within the DPCSD, as provided for in the Programme of Action.

BAHAMAS: Amb. Harcourt Turnquest said that the Programme of Action represents a blueprint for a comprehensive and integrated approach to sustainable development, but that its successful implementation will need the full support of the DPCSD. In this regard, the necessary resources must be provided to the Secretariat so that it may fulfill the functions outlined in paragraph 123 of the Programme of Action. He welcomed the quick response of UNDP on SIDS/NET and SIDS/TAP, but he highlighted the fact that SIDS themselves should be the primary generators of information for the network. He was particularly pleased with the manner in which the feasibility studies were prepared, in association with the members of AOSIS themselves.

CYPRUS: Amb. Alecos Shambos said that the Conference can be characterized as a success, however, recognition and awareness alone do not suffice to cure the acute problems faced by SIDS. Degradation of the environment, vulnerabilities to climate change and sea-level rise, and threats to unique ecosystems emerge as issues of great concern. Their mostly single product markets, small size and remoteness, small scale economies, lack of adequate endogenous capacity, and exposure to pollution and natural disasters further aggravate the overall challenges confronting SIDS. He urged the international community to work jointly to fulfill its obligations to present and future generations.

BRAZIL: Amb. Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg said that the characteristics of SIDS have made the international community recognize their significance to our planet. He noted that the international community is apparently still unwilling to meet the financial obligations of both Rio and Bridgetown. Less than 10% of the funding for environment-related programmes and projects agreed at UNCED have been honored. He welcomed the UNDP feasibility studies and expressed confidence that similar studies will be prepared so that effective action can be taken to implement the Barbados Programme of Action. Given appropriate assistance from the international community, SIDS can and will implement relevant plans and programmes to support their development.

VENEZUELA: The representative highlighted the need for more funding for the implementation of the Programme of Action. He added that Venezuela is committed to the Barbados Declaration and considers itself bound by the Programme of Action. Human resources are the greatest assets of SIDS.

MALAYSIA: Amb. Razali Ismail said that it was urgent to address the issue of the survival of SIDS. The Programme of Action provides a blueprint for their sustainable development and while all the countries need to make the transition to sustainable development, the bulk of the burden of change should not be placed on the developing countries, including SIDS. Developed countries already possess and enjoy competitive advantages, compared with the severe handicaps of SIDS. The security of small States has been discussed in other fora and the economic, ecological and security challenges confronting SIDS must be effectively addressed to ensure their continued well- being.

UNITED STATES: Herman Gallegos said the Barbados Conference established an agenda to which the US is committed. The US is working to ensure the participation of developed and developing countries, international and non-governmental organizations, academia and the private sector in this effort. It is the private sector that will ultimately determine the failure or success of a policy. In addition to its coral reef initiative, the US will follow up the Conference through bilateral programmes and multilateral assistance agencies, and ensure that the CSD undertakes the important reviews that will be necessary to monitor the implementation of the Programme of Action.

PAKISTAN: The representative said that although Pakistan is not a small island, it shares many of the problems confronting SIDS. Pakistan is convinced that the implementation of the recommendations of the Barbados Conference will go a long way towards achieving sustainable development objectives. Since Rio, however, environmental degradation has continued unabated. Pakistan is committed to making sustainable development a reality. The developed countries have an important role to play in the implementation of the Programme of Action and in assisting SIDS.

RUSSIAN FEDERATION: The representative said that the Programme of Action has a practical significance for preserving the ecosystems and stimulating the economies of SIDS. He also highlighted the importance of developing the human resources potential. He said his country was ready to establish cooperation with the small island States. He hoped that the Programme of Action will be accompanied by the necessary political will for effective implementation.

GRENADA: The representative said that the adoption of a Programme of Action is not a guarantee of success, but that political will and funding will be determinant factors. The global interdependence manifested at Rio gave reason for hope, but failure of the process could lead to a void that would be detrimental to SIDS. A new and special partnership is needed. SIDS have been made to understand that many developed countries now suffer from donor fatigue and they realize that too much reliance on aid would be detrimental.

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