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UN meeting in Jamaica examines risks facing small island developing countries

UN meeting in Jamaica examines risks facing small island developing countries

Representatives of small island nations convened today in Jamaica for a United Nations-sponsored meeting to examine how to mitigate a range of social, economic and environmental risks over which they have little or no control.

Participants at the “Partners Roundtable,” co-hosted by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Jamaica, are slated to address the affects of such developments as globalization and climate change on Small Island Developing States, also known as SIDS.

Attending the meeting are more than 50 representatives from the Member States of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), donor countries, UN organizations, the private sector and civil society. The results of the meeting will be passed on to the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, at the end of August.

In his opening address, UNDP Associate Administrator Zéphirin Diabré called for more to be done for these countries "because the reality that small islands are faced with today is entirely different to that of the early 1990s."

"Globalization and the IT [information technology] revolution have enormously changed our world and our communities and we need to make sure that the most vulnerable of countries are well prepared to mitigate the adverse impacts of those phenomena," he stressed.

As an illustration of the problems facing many small island nations, UNDP said that their size made their economies highly dependent on larger external markets and that the prices of key imports, such as energy and food, fluctuated greatly.

Among the challenges facing SIDS is the fact that their economic activities are dominated by specialized agriculture, including sugar, but these countries have negligible control over pricing, UNDP stressed. While the other key industry, tourism, generates precious foreign exchange and jobs, it places additional strain on scarce natural resources, such as fresh water.

The special circumstances of SIDS have been gaining increasing global attention. At the 2000 UN Millennium Summit, world leaders resolved to "address the vulnerabilities faced by SIDS rapidly and in full by 2015."