Small Island Developing States responding to climate impacts and planning for sustainable futures: Leadership, Innovation and Partnership



Monday, 18 September 2017 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

West Terrace, UN Secretariat

Thank you for the kind introduction.

Excellencies and Colleagues,

It is a great honour to be here among my fellow small island colleagues and other distinguished partners.

At the outset, let me convey my sympathies to those impacted by Hurricane Irma just a few weeks ago. The images of total devastation in the Caribbean are heartbreaking and our thoughts and prayers go out to the members of our island family who have lost loved ones and property and who have such a difficult road ahead of them.

Excellencies and Colleagues,

Today's event is to showcase the leadership, innovation and partnership of small islands in achieving our sustainable futures.

Let me begin by reflecting on partnerships.

Small islands have long recognized the necessity of partnership for us to effectively pursue our goals in the international sphere. It is wonderful to see so many of our most important development partners are here with us today. As my colleague from the UNDP has told you, we are launching a new AOSIS and UNDP publication today: "Rising Tides, Rising Capacity: supporting a sustainable future for small island developing states". This booklet tells the story of a unique partnership between AOSIS, the EU, Sweden, Norway and Australia.

Support provided by these partners have facilitated the expansion of AOSIS's capacity to engage in international negotiations on climate change, sustainable development and oceans. This continued support has allowed successive chairs of AOSIS to provide leadership to our members and ensure the ability of all our small island states to participate in the global discussions that will shape our futures.

But partnership means more than funding arrangements.

In 2014 at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States held in Samoa, the very theme of the meeting was "genuine and durable partnerships". We like to think that this spirit of partnership brought forward by the islands helped to usher in the range of frameworks that we agreed to in 2015 including: the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, the New Urban Agenda, the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.

Ensuring a coherent, coordinated, and universal implementation of these frameworks, will only be possible through genuine cooperation and partnerships that are based on mutual respect and trust.

Excellencies and Colleagues,

Partnerships can also often lead to innovation.

Through the programme of support from the EU, we jointly decided to establish a climate change fellowship. The program, launched under Nauru's chairmanship of AOSIS, brings early career professionals from the small islands here to New York for an intense year of training and work experience in their country's permanent missions. Not only does it transform these young professionals but it also significantly increases the capacity of our missions.

I'm happy to report that all of the graduates of this program are continuing to actively engage on climate issues for their respective governments. Some are even lead thematic coordinators for AOSIS at the climate change negotiations. This programme has been a tremendous success, and we wish to thank both the Netherlands and Italy for enabling this fellowship to continue.

These are the sorts of exciting and innovative partnerships that we can develop, grow and share with others to materialize the objectives of genuine and durable partnerships we agreed to in Samoa.

Excellencies and Colleagues,

Let me turn to the theme of leadership. Small islands have been at the forefront of leading the international effort on climate change for decades.

In fact, in 1989, when the science of climate change was still in its infancy, and three years before the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, island state representatives from around the world met in the Maldives for the first Small States Conference on Sea Level Rise.

After sharing our experiences with the impacts of climate change, which many of our island communities were already experiencing, we issued the "Malé Declaration" calling on the "States of the world family of nations to take immediate and effective measures according to their capabilities and means at their disposal, to control, limit, or reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases."

Small islands were instrumental in establishing the UNFCCC and our continued engagement and leadership has been instrumental in the pushing for more ambitious action to address climate change.

It is also through the leadership of SIDS that we brought coherence between our sustainable development and climate change efforts. We have long recognized that climate change and sustainable development action are so interlinked we have helped the world to recognize that we cannot address climate change without sustainable development and cannot achieve sustainable development if we do not address climate change.

Excellencies and Colleagues,

The leadership of small islands was clearly demonstrated with the Paris Agreement. We were among the first countries to submit NDCs before we had even agreed to the text of an agreement.

In Paris, we were crucial to ensuring a strong outcome that included many of the most important issues for us, such as 1.5 degrees and loss and damage.

We continued our leadership by being among the strong initial push to ratify the Paris Agreement and we were instrumental in bringing the Paris Agreement into force.

We will continue our leadership at COP 23 in Bonn, which will be presided over by the distinguished Prime Minister of Fiji, but will be held in partnership with our German friends. Through this partnership we will for the first time have a COP presided over by a small island.

As this will be the "SIDS COP" I welcome the island focus and have every confidence that Fiji will be successful in guiding us to a strong outcome.

Excellencies and colleagues,

We have every intention of continuing our leadership in the implementation of the Paris Agreement. We know that only through ambitious action on climate change can we ensure our healthy and prosperous future.

This means investing in clean energy and building resilient infrastructure. This is a difficult challenge for small islands, given our small economies, dispersed populations and remoteness. However, with the support of the international community and the use of innovative partnerships, technology and thinking, we are confident that we can secure such a future.

Excellencies and colleagues,

SIDS have been unfortunately thrust into the leadership role of dealing with the aftermath of deadly storms and disasters. From Maldives to Antigua and Barbuda to Fiji, we are experiencing the consequences of changing weather patterns and natural disasters. We are working to take coordinated steps to build resiliency to future damages, especially injuries and fatalities. We are undertaking the steps necessary to understand and address the linkages between short-term humanitarian crisis management, including internally displaced people, long-term mitigation and adaptation strategies, and disaster risk reduction.

In conclusion, I would like to highlight that small islands have long recognized the value of partnership, innovation and leadership. We look forward to continuing to work with colleagues to strengthen these ties to achieve a prosperous future for us all.

I thank you.