A successful Rio Process is not a luxury, but an imperative for small islands

2011-03-07 Ambassador Peter Thomson of the Republic of Fiji Download PDF

Topic: Sustainable Development

I have the honor to speak on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). We align
ourselves with the statement of Argentina on behalf of the G77 and China.
AOSIS stands ready to engage in the important questions asked of member states; we encourage
our fellow members to quickly resolve otherwise lengthy – and potentially distracting – debates
over process and definition. Starting today, we all need to focus our efforts closely on the
substance at hand.
Our island peoples, closely dependent on limited environmental resources, have since our
existence pursued a more efficient and environmentally sound economy to grow sustainably – to
not compromise our future generations – and however it is ultimately defined, we know we desire
and need a truly sustainable global development. And whatever is ultimately prioritized in a
possible global “green economy” must impact us positively – not negatively.
As island nations, we are uniquely dependent on our oceans, our fisheries and our corals – here
we are not “small island” nations, but “large ocean” nations. A central pillar of the Rio Plus 20
outcome must focus on not just a possible “green economy” but also a “blue economy”, as Rio
must strongly emphasize the importance of conservation, sustainable management and our related
development aspirations in ocean and marine resources, including fish stocks and the protection
of coral reefs. Rio itself – and all the years inbetween – has outlined the necessary policy options,
yet global oceans have slipped backwards into deeper crisis. Now it is time to ask the hard
questions and answer them with measurable , specific commitments.
Our own development strategies – the BPOA and MSI – are grounded closely in the Rio Process.
I am telling you today that our sustainable development and a possible “green economy” strategy
suffers from foundational flaws and structural gaps. Last year’s MSI Plus 5 review provided a
grounding to bring these flaws into the clear – we expect that the forthcoming Secretary
General’s report and recommendations will help to further pinpoint the way forward. We would
urge our partners to fulfill their commitments and historical responsibilities, specially those
related to financial support, technology transfer and capacity building. We also urge them to
closely review the recent AOSIS submission in this regard, particularly on the issue of
institutional framework.
Rio Plus 20 must respond to SIDS, as we are truly the legacy – and the graying guardians – of
Rio. We do not need yet another review for the sake of having one, but instead a closely focused
and sobering evaluation of where the international community, including ourselves, have been
missing the mark, and how we can build the necessary analytical power to identify and achieve
measurable goals, as well as contemporary, emerging issues. While we can point proudly to
where success has been achieved, in so many instances we have been disheartened by the
apparent abandonment of international promises made by the BPOA.
How do you know if a car runs out of gas if you lack a gauge? Without baselines and
benchmarks – without these very basic tools – how do we measure our progress and failures?
Our MSI and BPOA process sets forward our guiding pillars and firm foundation – but also exists
only in generalized policy options and, in some instances, broad platitudes. Rio Plus 20 must
contain a commitment not only to review our sustainable development, but, as SIDS, to
eventually identify baselines, benchmarks and measurable , if not quantified, targets and goals,
focused more specifically upon key priorities. Such a process must set forward the level of effort,
preparation and detailed analysis needed to arrive at and negotiate such options. Other global
sustainable development process has done so – and we deserve no less.
The international
community must stop endless applying old coats of paint to an increasingly aging development
vehicle. The buyer is no longer fooled, no matter how skillful the salesman.
The necessary build-up to defining a target-based strategy must rest upon necessary data, and we
must fix the pipeline. The well-developed data sets in our capitals which do exist are often lost in
international translation, and oversized global standards, however well-intentioned, can
overwhelm our small systems. In other instances, we must work with partners to address our own
capacity and gaps. Thus a critical component of SIDS and Rio must improve our data flow –
ensuring our data is in hand to inform political decisions. Further, while have made inroads since
Rio, in many instances our own governments, and also our international partners, must do far
more to better integrate MSI and global sustainable development goals into assistance and key
sectoral decision-making.
SIDS remain particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, which threatens our
livelihoods and in some cases, our very borders. While we pursue the UNFCCC as a the primary
negotiation forum, the Rio Process offers a critical opportunity to define and discuss on
a “green economy” and sustainable global and domestic development frameworks ultimately
necessary to ensure that our islands survive, under the principle of common but differentiated
responsibilities and respective capabilities. As we face among the greatest global challenges in
turning adaptation into local reality, climate threats should make the case for improving SIDS
sustainable development strategies all the more necessary and compelling.
For AOSIS, a successful Rio Process is not a luxury, but an imperative.

Sub Topic: SDGs

Forum: GA

Meeting: UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)