UN leaders call on international community to support SIDS recovery
L-R: Rebecca Fabrizi, SIDS envoy from the United Kingdom; Abdulla Shahid, president of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly; EP Chet Greene, minister of foreign affairs, immigration and trade of Antigua and Barbuda; Dr Hyginus "Gene" Leon, president of the Caribbean Development Bank; Tomas Anker Christensen, Denmark prime minister's climate and ocean envoy; and Conrod Hunte, AOSIS deputy chair and lead climate change negotiator

ST JOHN'S, Antigua — ABDULLA Shahid, president of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, on Wednesday called on the international community to strengthen its commitment to the sustainable development of small island developing states (SIDS).

Shahid opened the Wadadli Action Platform, which took place on August 8 and 9, 2022 at St John's, Antigua, hosted by Antigua and Barbuda in its capacity as chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) in partnership with the governments of Denmark and the United Kingdom.

With the 4th International Conference for SIDS on the horizon, the Wadadli Action Platform brought together over 100 participants, including high-level SIDS leaders, international partners, and institutional officials to take stock of SIDS critical issues, identify developmental gaps, and raise consensus on initiatives aimed to advance recovery and meet Sustainable Development Goals.

"SIDS must remain a priority for the international community, including partner governments and the UN system," said Shahid. "SIDS are at the front line of multiple global crises – from climate change to food security, from challenges to our marine environment to exorbitant debt. Compounding crises have heightened our debt burden. The need for a long-term solution to the debt crisis we face is critical. The debt obligations faced by SIDS globally are unsustainable and immoral."

Shahid emphasised the importance of a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI), which is being developed by an UN expert panel co-chaired by Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne. The MVI will better capture the vulnerabilities of countries beyond their gross domestic product (GDP) and will include environmental and social considerations. This would make it a vital tool to enable SIDS to access the financing needed to adapt to climate change and strengthen long-term resilience. He called for the support of the international community, including international financial institutions, and public and private creditors in its implementation.

Dr Hyginus Leon, president of the Caribbean Development Bank, reiterated the need for use of the MVI.

"Access to finance is existential for SIDS. There is need for an integration of the debt sustainability framework of the International Monetary Fund, the investment-growth nexus of the World Bank and the SDG [sustainable development goals]-resilience building framework of the United Nations," he said. "A key element of that integration is the need for a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index. It has the scope to provide an effective and equitable mechanism for determining access to adequate and affordable finance to achieve the SDGs."

Sessions also focused on loss and damage, climate change, promoting gender parity and inclusion for people with disabilities, data challenges, and leveraging indigenous intellectual capacity to build solutions, among other topics.

"With just over seven years remaining for the conclusion of the SDGs and one and half for the SAMOA Pathway, we are still facing startling challenges," said E P Chet Greene, minister of foreign affairs for Antigua and Barbuda. "If we fail to act, if the international community continues to fail us, we will soon see unprecedented scales of movements of people forced to flee their homes because of climate change because of poverty and economic hardship."

"In Pacific atoll nations, typhoons have already unearthed sacred ancestral burial grounds, with young men having to relocate remains of their forefathers on higher land. The science reinforces our demands that the UNFCCC must address loss and damage now. This is the political priority for AOSIS and vulnerable nations across the world at COP27 in November. The lack of adequate funding arrangements to address loss and damage is a destabilizing force in the world."

"We take away invaluable exchanges which will be critical for the 4th SIDS Conference," noted Conrod Hunte, AOSIS deputy chair, at the close of the sessions. "The progress we have made here is a step in the right direction to achieve the sustainable development our SIDS deserve."

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