Statement to the CSD on the outcomes of the Mauritius International Meeting

2005-04-22 HE Ambassador Enele Sopoaga Download PDF

Topic: Sustainable Development

In the absence of His Excellency the Permanent Representative of Mauritius, the
Chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States Ambassador Jagdish Koonjul, and in my
capacity as Vice-Chairman of AOSIS, I have the honor to make present some viewpoints
from our group. This statement will build upon our introductory statement to the opening
session of the CSD. I would also point out that the MSI to give us a most important
reaffirmation, namely that of integration. Water, sanitation and human settlements are
very important topics for AOSIS. From physical and geographic perspective the special
needs of SIDS can be observed. But it is also important that we bear in mind that the MSI
has reaffirmed the special case for SIDS for sustainable development, and that SIDS must
integrate sectors in order to achieve resilience building in the face of their vulnerabilities.
Water, sanitation and human settlements present us with just such opportunities for
integration. For example in the smaller islands, having water catchment systems attached
to housing is an important strategy, either with household storage facilities or aquifer
recharge. It is also important to integrate water and sanitation, to reduce the amount of
water used and to avoid contamination of the aquifer. In this regard, there are some
differences of situation between SIDS, in terms of how these challenges are actually
expressed for individual SIDS. Our Member States will raise some of these particular
regional or geo-physical specificities as this High Level Segment progresses, in
compliance with your various questions.
AOSIS is by no means complacent about these challenges. As I mentioned these sectors
are very important for SIDS, and are underpinned in our view by the overarching issue of
SIDS vulnerability. Any effort by SIDS to address actions and policies under these
sectors must take our special situations and our vulnerability into account. Indeed it is the
cross-cutting issue of resilience building which is to our groups so important. AOSIS
recently participated in a workshop on “Building the economic resilience of small states”,
organized by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the University of Malta Islands and
Small States Institute held in Gozo, Malta. The workshop requested that AOSIS urge the
CSD to “take note of the special situation of SIDS in the context of the outcomes of this
workshop and to request the international donor community to support SIDS in their
resilience-building efforts”. The workshop also urged “relevant UN agencies, including
the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UN Development
Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), to continue
providing support to small states, particularly SIDS, towards the promotion of sustainable
development in general and resilience building in particular; in this regard, special
reference was made to the UNDP Resilience Building Facility, established at the
Mauritius International Meeting to assist SIDS in their efforts to cope with their inherent
vulnerabilities and to build their resilience.” Finally the workshop called for the
“international donor community, including multilateral financial organisations, to extend
financial and technical support to small states in their efforts to cope with their inherent
vulnerability and to build their resilience.”
The workshop concluded that “the inherent economic vulnerabilities of small states have
been internationally recognized. Such vulnerability arises from exposure to adverse
external shocks beyond the country’s control, as well as structural handicaps, exacerbated
by inter alia a high degree of openness, export concentration and high dependence on
strategic imports, remoteness and high transport costs, susceptibility to natural disasters
and climate change.
Although these conditions pose serious handicaps for the sustainable
economic development of small states, participants noted that a number of small states
have been able to mitigate the effects of these difficulties through appropriate policy
orientations focused on building resilience.” In this regard it will therefore be important
for CSD to support resilience building in SIDS.
The nexus of water and sanitation issues for SIDS is as I have mentioned very much
related to our resilience building requirements. As noted in the preparatory meeting of
CSD, water and sanitation have a particular set of elements that are peculiar to SIDS.
Some relate to our finite size and catchment area for water, as well as for our possibilities
for storage and disposal. Size and oceanic location do govern our water and sanitation
regimes. Climate change is also an aspect.
The potential harmful effects of global climate change in islands require an immediate,
urgent application of science and technology to provide coping strategies related to rising
sealevel and the increased frequency and duration of droughts and floods. It has been
scientifically documented that global temperatures are increasing faster than at any other
time in the past thousand years. Glaciers and ice caps are melting at historically
unprecedented rates, contributing to rising sealevel. General circulation models (GCMs)
reveal that natural phenomena such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires cannot explain
the unprecedented warming. Accordingly, a report from the United Nations
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2001 stated that human activity almost
certainly caused most of the Earth’s warming during the past century. Several GCMs
have been developed that predict substantial modification of existing climate patterns in
response to carbon-dioxide increases in the atmosphere. These models indicate that
precipitation distribution will be markedly altered in the tropics, with rainfall diminished
over the tropical oceans, islands, and coastal areas.
Finally, it is widely recognized that extremes in weather may be the most significant
impacts of climate change. Flooding from increases in the magnitude and frequency of
rainfall, combined with stronger, more frequent hurricanes and storm surges can be
expected. Equally disturbing will be the length and severity of droughts. Clearly, these
environmental changes portend an ominous future for the island-nations and coastal areas
of the world. More than 100 million people worldwide live within three feet of mean sea
level. By 2100, sealevel is expected to rise three feet, mainly from expanded warmer
ocean water and melting glaciers and ice caps. Application of science and technology
within SIDS for developing strategies to build resilience to natural disasters caused by
extreme weather events must be institutionalized as soon as possible.
One of the more serious consequences of diminished rainfall near tropical oceans would
be a reduction in the occurrence and availability of fresh surface-water and groundwater
resources. These hydrologic depletions could result from a variety of global-warming
effects including reduced frequency, duration, and intensity if rainfall, increases in solar
radiation and air temperature, changes in temperature and movement of ocean currents,
and increases in sealevel. Every inch of sealevel rise could result in eight feet of
horizontal retreat of sandy beach shoreline due to erosion, with dramatic implications for
our human settlements.
A recommendation for action emanating from the MIM is that there is the need for CSD
to continue to be the forum for reviewing the implementation of the BPOA and the MSI.
We have requested that a special committee be set up under CSD for this purpose in our
resolution adopting the MSI being currently before the General Assembly.
This permanent working group, with the appropriate secretariat support from DESA and the
SIDS Unit in particular, would be the best format for addressing SIDS issues in a
meaningful way for each CSD session.
AOSIS feels that this review should not only include the topics of the day for CSD, but
also new and emerging issues, specific progress or major obstacles to progress. It is the
view of AOSIS that the sessions of the CSD should review progress in the
implementation of the BPOA and the MSI on a regular and predictable basis. This would
entail that certain special consideration be given to the SIDS specific elements related to
the thematic topics. We do not expect that the working group reviews all aspects of the
BPOA and the MSI each year. Rather, the working group should receive reports on
progress and obstacles to sustainable development in SIDS related to that years thematic
cluster as well as for any major new developments in SIDS sustainable development
I thank you Mr Chairman.

Sub Topic:

Forum: Conference on Sustainable Development (CSD)

Meeting: CSD