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Saint Lucia and other Small Island Developing States (SIDS) within the Commonwealth will have to attempt to live up to the challenge to in helping build resilience against the many climate change threats which confront them.
The country is hosting the third Global Biennial Conference on Small States, where representatives of government, academia and international organisations will have a platform to discuss concerns of small states, share practical lessons and review policy options.
Minister of External Affairs, International Trade and Aviation Alva Baptiste, who addressed the opening ceremony of the conference on Wednesday (Mar. 26) at the Bay Gardens Hotel, said countries ought to pay attention to sourcing funds from international partners for resilience building works.
Referencing the Christmas Eve trough, and pointing to the loss of life and millions of dollars in damage in three Caribbean islands, Baptiste said no country – big or small – is immune to the climate change phenomenon.
“Small Island Developing States like us are more vulnerable and susceptible to the effects of adverse climate events and therefore the world must take due cognisance of our need to build resilience,” he reiterated.
Baptiste has advised the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that it has the responsibility to “tackle the problem as a collective for the benefit of all peoples of the world.”
“The impact of a single event on a small state can be catastrophic while in a large state the same event could have sometimes an insignificant effect in comparison. It is therefore incumbent upon the Commonwealth and other international organisations to consider the situation facing small island developing states. As critical to our mandate and central to our activities, we must be committed to the sustainable development of SIDS we must participate meaningfully in the global debate and programmes to address SIDS issues,” he said.
Moreover, Baptiste in his remarks underscored the importance of sustainability in fostering development within nations of the Commonwealth, particularly small island states within the grouping.
“As the guardians of our respective national assets, we cannot speak about development if we do not consider sustainability and protecting our patrimony for succeeding generations,” he said.
He further stated that richer and larger nations need to recognize that notwithstanding the different gross domestic products of small states “we are resource poor and in need of financial resources to undertake resilience building work whether in the areas of infrastructure, agricultural investment, social protection or economic transformation.”
In addition, the minister said that an integrated and inclusive approach is necessary for success, with not only government and expert voices being hearkened to but ordinary citizens.
“It cannot be only about what governments and technical experts believe. It must take onboard the relevant concerns and experience and advice of indigenous peoples, civil society organizations, the private sector and regional and international organizations. “
Baptiste also believes that in order for success, small island states should adopt new pathways to progress and should promote new partnerships and friendships “in our fight to secure a better future for the next generation.”
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, who also addressed the meeting, said that small island states ought to remain focused on doing what it takes to help the world understand the importance of and extent of their concerns.
He encouraged participants at the two-day biennial conference to take the time off to understand the difficulties and issues affecting the different participating countries.
The 2014 Global Biennial Conference on Small States is organised by the Economic Affairs Division of Commonwealth in collaboration with St. Lucia’s government.
The forum “provides an opportunity for senior government representatives, academics and officials from regional and international organizations to discuss how key development concerns of small states can be highlighted in international agencies.”
Officials at the Commonwealth Secretariat believe the forum is a significant one as it is being held during the year designated as International Year of Small Island Developing States and at a time when the international community prepares for the post-2015 goals.
Secretary General of the Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma said his organisation is committed to assisting small developing states in whatever way possible, including their particular needs as it relates to tackling their economic, energy, climate change, and security challenges and building their resilience for the future.
This week’s conference, according to Sharma, seeks to be a “voice expressing the concerns of those who do not have a seat at the table.” The theme of the meeting is “Building Resilience in Small States.”
Among countries represented at the conference were Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados.