Symposium on Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the SAMOA Pathway in Small Island Developing States

Opening session: Special Remarks by His Excellency Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of Maldives to the United Nations

9:00am – 10:15am Tuesday 21 February | Plenary Ballroom A&B, Bahamas


The Right Honourable Perry Christie, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Bahamas,

Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs and Honourable Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister of the Bahamas,

Mr. Wu Hungbo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and other Executive officers of the United Nations

My dear colleague, Ambassador Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, President of the Economic and Social Council and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the United Nations,


Distinguished guests,

A very good afternoon to you all.

Let me begin by thanking the Prime Minister and Government of the Bahamas and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UNDESA, for hosting this important symposium.

At the outset, let me say what a pleasure it is to be in the beautiful islands of the Bahamas for the first time. The arrangements you have made are exemplary and your country's hospitality lives up to its world-class reputation.

I've had the privilege to visit many fellow small island countries around the world, and no matter where I go, I am reminded of home.  Our small islands have so many wonderful things in common – sandy beaches, blue skies, crystal clear waters, untouched vegetation, warm and friendly people.

But we also know there is a troubling side of paradise. Limited economic opportunities, exposure to environmental impacts, and, of course, the overarching climate change crisis.

Taken together, these issues pose unique challenges to small island states achieving sustainable development.

As we now often say: we can't develop sustainably unless we tackle climate change and we can't tackle climate change unless we develop sustainably.

So, on that note, I would like to turn to the nexus of climate change and the 2030 Agenda, and the instrumental role small island countries have played in the development of the international response to these dual challenges for I believe the history is instructive.

Indeed, it is no accident that we led the effort to integrate climate change into the 2030 Agenda.

As early as 1989, when the science of climate change was still in its infancy, and three years before the world would commit to addressing the crisis at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, island state representatives from around the world met in the Maldives' capital, Malé, for the first Small States Conference on Sea Level Rise.

After an alarming presentation by scientists on global warming, the impacts of which many island communities were already starting to experience, the participants issued a prescient warning, and called 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."

The Alliance of Small Island States was formed the next year and our efforts were central to the development and adoption of the Rio Declaration, Agenda 21 and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

I was privileged to be at the Earth Summit as a young diplomat, and saw the power of the Alliance firsthand.

Since then we have been working diligently to further elaborate and build on the linkages between sustainable development and climate change ever since.

Certainly, our experiences offer an invaluable lesson to the world:

Out of necessity we've had to integrate adaptation to climate change into our national planning processes and budgets, while increasing portions of our resources now have to be allocated to fortifying against climate change impacts instead of being spent on education or health care.

Events of the past couple of years alone have shown, in Fiji and in Haiti and elsewhere, that a single storm can erase a decade's worth of infrastructure – schools, hospitals, roads -- by the blink of an eye.

In addition to these extreme events, we must prepare our islands for slow onset impacts such as sea level rise, ocean acidification and coral bleaching, all of which undermine the tourism industry which is a key driver of sustainable development for many small islands.

These new realities informed the development of the SAMOA Pathway document and made it another landmark agreement in the effort to manage the dual challenges of climate change and sustainable development.

For the first time, it entrenches the idea that climate change is a truly cross cutting issue that impacts every facet of our sustainable development efforts in SIDS. Recognizing this in 2014 was critical to ensuring that climate change impacts on SIDS were given due prominence in the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement.

It was during the negotiations of the SDGs that AOSIS pushed for the inclusion of a separate goal on climate change, in recognition of the critical role that climate change plays in our development planning.  Even though climate change is reflected as a standalone SDG, the cross cutting nature of climate change is also reflected through the goals on water and energy, among others.

It also established the concept of durable partnerships--international cooperation across a wide variety of stakeholders (government, civil society and the private sector)--as being essential to  implementing long term solutions.

Let me say a little more about what that means in practice:

First, it's a very flexible model, where different configurations work effectively in different contexts.

Second, as we agreed in the SAMOA pathway, partnerships should be based on the principles of national ownership, mutual trust, transparency and accountability. Partnerships to be driven by local needs and not to be imposed from outside without sufficient engagement and consultation with those people that will be affected by projects on the ground.

Third, we need to make sure that these aren't just announcements.  Successful partnerships require rigorous follow-up on effective implementation.

As a part of this effort, along with Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi of Italy, who has been a very good friend to small islands, I have the honour to serve as co-Chairs of the steering committee on Partnerships for SIDS.

Already, the SIDS Partnership Framework has leveraged approximately 300 partnerships between UN agencies, donors and SIDS since 2014. The aim of this Steering Committee will be to follow-up on the commitments that have been made, to bring to the fore and showcase best practices as well as identify challenges and gaps in an effort to replicate and scale up what works.

We all know that addressing climate change is vital for small islands. I'm optimistic that the partnership model will continue to be a critical and effective part of the implementation of our national development plans.  What this will require is that small islands stay engaged at the international level, but also work to ensure that effective linkages are made to our national processes.  I see this symposium as an important step in ensuring this happens and I commend our hosts and organizers.

The location is beautiful. The setting is perfect. It is now our turn to make our discussions most productive. I look forward to an enjoyable session.

I thank you.