Island Sustainability in a Changing World

Koror — There are exciting new opportunities to accelerate economic and social progress on Small Island Developing States (SIDS). It is time for our Pacific nations to seize them.

In September 2014, Samoa invited the world to their beautiful country to discuss the future of SIDS. It had become well recognized by the international community that SIDS face unprecedented challenges from globalization, climate change, and ocean degradation. At the Third International Conference on SIDS in Samoa, we were able to chart a way forward.

The resulting SAMOA Pathway, a 30-page document representing the consensus of all 193 members of the United Nations, provides a framework for addressing the Pacific region’s most urgent problems. As stated in its Preamble, “We recognize SIDS’s ownership and leadership in overcoming some of these challenges but stress that in the absence of international cooperation, success will remain difficult.”

This achievement was the first milestone during 18 months that will be remembered as one of the most productive periods of multilateralism in history. 2015 saw the adoption of new agreements on development finance (the Addis Ababa Action Agenda), disaster risk reduction (the Sendai Framework), and climate change (the Paris Agreement). However, the crowning achievement is perhaps the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which declares the intention of the global community to achieve 17 sustainable development goals to put us and our children on a path to a better future.

Together, these agreements are transforming the way the United Nations and its specialized agencies work. They are also a primary influence on the funding priorities of our funding partners and multilateral development banks. And over the course of many long and contentious negotiations, negotiators from our Pacific nations made sure that our interests were protected throughout. The challenge now is implementation. In other words, we must make sure that these words on paper translate into concrete resources and action on the ground in our countries. This work has already begun.

The next big international opportunity to accelerate progress will be at the upcoming UN Ocean Conference in June. One of our biggest achievements in the aforementioned negotiations was winning a dedicated ocean goal to “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources” – SDG14. The UN Ocean Conference will be a veritable “Who’s Who” of international stakeholders engaged in oceans governance, conservation, business, and investment – all ready to work together to achieve SDG14. It is expected that many new partnerships will be launched.

Pacific SIDS are leaders in this area. Often referred to as “Large Ocean States,” we are stewards of one of the greatest natural treasures in the world – the Pacific Ocean – and we take that responsibility seriously. We have all made significant contributions nationally and regionally to the cause of improving global ocean health.