The International Year of SIDS

1. What is the international year of SIDS?

islands_yearThe international year of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) was launched on February 24th, 2014 at the UN Headquarters in New York City, United States.

Both John Ashe, President of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the importance of assisting the SIDS in battling their limited resources, natural disasters, defending their environments, improving their socioeconomic downfalls, and creating new commitments from the international community in assisting the SIDS with sustainable development.

Commenting on the purpose of the event, the Secretary-General explained “The International Year is an opportunity to appreciate the extraordinary resiliency and rich cultural heritage of the people of SIDS

For more information on the opening ceremony and statements please click here.

2. What is climate change and how does it affect SIDS?

Climate Change, in basic terms, is any sort of change in climate on our planet that occurs directly or indirectly from human-generated events or actions (For an elaborated definition click here).

Climate Change is one of the SIDS major concerns since most of the small island states do not have much elevation. Much of the climate change that is occurring in the SIDS is due to: (1) sea-level rise -which is causing saltwater pollution of their freshwater resources and eroding their landmass-, (2) stronger storms –which is causing more destruction of their cities and towns, (3) droughts, and (4) decrease in fishing production. When put together, the effects are devastating.

3. What political voice do SIDS have at the UN?

In 1991, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), was established to generate more consensus on the similar priorities of small island state around the world. Previous to 1991, SIDS were not recognized by the UN as a distinct group of countries. However, at the 1992 UN Conference on Environmental and Development in Rio de Janeiro, the SIDS were finally recognized. By combining these nations as one group, it has given them strength in numbers to fight climate change and their survival as peoples and as nations.

Since then, SIDS have gained tremendous support from the international community and the UN, including affirmation that climate change is affecting the SIDS (2002), The Mauritius Declaration (2005) and the Declaration that 2014 is the “International Year of Small Island Developing States”. These steps have not only created recognition of the SIDS, but also have created recognition of climate change as a detrimental factor for humanity’s future and its development. Most importantly, the international community and the UN have been able to show, give and continue their support for these fragile and exotic nations.

Between February 24th and 26th, the UN held one of many preparatory meetings for the discussion of SIDS and other smaller nations throughout the year (for more information please click here). In September the 3rd Annual UN Conference on SIDS will be held in Samoa. (For more information on the September conference, please click here.)

Although these steps and pro-active efforts are now in place, they have yet to be enough: climate change and underfunding for projects in the SIDS continues to have a profound effect on the SIDS.

For the full list of SIDS, please click here.

4. SIDS case studies on the impact of climate change

Take for example Kiribati, a member of SIDS; scientists and the Kiribati population have become extremely concerned with climate change. The melting of the polar caps, icebergs and the warming of the Pacific Ocean has caused an eminent danger: Kiribati being swallowed by the ocean before the end of the century. But there is a much more urgent and pressing situation: the rising oceans are polluting their fresh water supplies with salt water at a rapid pace. Kiribati is not the only nation that is in jeopardy of extinction. The Maldives, and the Marshall Islands- along with most of the SIDS, are in the exact same predicaments.

Marshall Islands

The worsening situation in the Republic of the Marshall Islands is a strong warning for the whole of the Pacific of the potential suffering that drought brings, particularly as many [of the region’s] islands have limited water supplies,” said the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction’s (UNISDR) Asia-Pacific head, Jerry Velazquez. 

Please click here for more information on an exclusive GFDD Global Roundtable meeting with H.E. Mr. Ahmed Sareer, Ambassador of the Permanent Mission of the Maldives to the UN about the extreme vulnerability of SIDS to Climate Change and international policy developments in that field.

For more examples of the severe repercussions of Climate Change around the world, click here.

Questions for the reader:

1.     Do you think that SIDS are really in jeopardy of going extinct due to climate change?

2.     How do you think we, the international community, can help SIDS in developing and preserving their land?

3.     Who do you think should be in charge of this and how can you help make a difference?

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