Getting SIDS on the agenda of the global community
The Small Island Developing States, known by the moniker SIDS, were the economies most seriously affected by the global economic crisis which began in late 2008.
This adverse impact followed the loss of preferential trade arrangements and the annual ravages of natural disasters. Added to those setbacks were the structural disadvantages of being too small to achieve economies of scale, undiversified exports and vulnerability to external shocks such as spikes in oil prices.
To make matters worse, the circumstances of SIDS are being intensified by the encroachment of climate change.
There is indisputable empirical evidence that substantiates the problems faced by SIDS, yet the international community has not addressed the SIDS issue in any holistic, coherent and consistent way.
All, however, is not lost. Indeed, 2014 has been designated the Year of SIDS. In an attempt capitalise on this opportunity, the SIDS and supporting international and regional organisations are working towards a major international conference in Samoa later this year.
The third meeting of the Caribbean Round Table was convened in Kingston last week in an attempt to contribute to formulating an agenda and a strategy to concentrate the collective minds of the international community to shift from empathetic talk to tangible actions backed by adequate funding.
The meeting was hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Kudos must be given to Jamaican Ms Diane Quarless for pulling it together.
During the two days, a lot of ideas were mooted but insufficient attention was given to identifying how to implement an efficacious strategy of how to engage the attention of the international community. The presentation of Mr Camilo Gonsalves, the foreign affairs minister of St Vincent provided a sound template, but it was lost in the overload agenda. It was a lost opportunity to accelerate the glacial pace of action to address the plight of SIDS.
If SIDS are going to get on the agenda of the international community they will have to develop a new strategy of engagement. The meeting in Samoa may not be the best opportunity, but it may be the last opportunity. If we fail to grasp that chance, then SIDS could continue to be overlooked because they are not the only environmentally vulnerable places, they are not the only small countries, and they are not the only countries in economic difficulty.