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At UN, leaders of small nations voice concerns over climate change and development

President Ikililou Dhoinine of the Comoros addresses the General Assembly.
UN Photo/J Carrier
President Ikililou Dhoinine of the Comoros addresses the General Assembly.

At UN, leaders of small nations voice concerns over climate change and development

The leader of the Indian Ocean archipelago of Comoros, President Ikililou Dhoinine, took the podium at the United Nations General Assembly today to appeal for international help to help small countries like his confront the potentially devastating impact of climate change.

“The time has come to re-launch with greater resolve several international projects that have been suspended, notably those that favour mitigation and adaptation measure in the face of climate change,” President Dhoinine told the 67th Assembly on the third day of its annual General Debate, at UN Headquarters in New York.

“We must react effectively to this phenomenon that affects the whole planet, but especially small island states like Comoros,” he said, noting that two weeks of unusually torrential rains in April had delivered a disastrous blow to his country’s economy.

Turning to the general world situation, President Dhoinine called for rapid action to put an end to the “terrible suffering” of the people of Syria, where over 18,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands of others driven from their homes since an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad erupted 18 months ago.

He called for full UN membership for a Palestinian state based on a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side within secure and recognized borders, and condemned attacks against civilians and the destruction of sacred sites in northern Mali, where Islamic militants seized control earlier this year.

As other African leaders have done at the General Debate, he also called for reform and expansion of the 15-member Security Council to give Africa the representation it deserves.

President Jorge Carlos Fonseca of Cape Verde.

Addressing the same gathering, the leader of another small island nation on the other side of the continent, Cape Verde, also appealed for measures to boost development, calling for strengthened ties between the United Nations and the African Union for a “true partnership” to achieve this goal.

“We appeal, for decisions on concrete measures that will result in the decision taken within the framework of this Organization, in terms of development such as, those related to the cancelling of the external debt of developing countries, particularly Small Island Developing States, because we are certain that such decision would represent a stimulus for all these countries, Cape Verde’s President Jorge Carlos Fonseca said.

He also called for global negotiations to be based on “fair and equal rules and with ethics” to deal with global trade and climate change.

Vice President Danny Faure of the Seychelles.

Vice President Danny Faure of the Seychelles, another Indian Ocean archipelago, also spoke at the General Debate. He said that the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) could be at the forefront of groundbreaking solutions for climate change.

“With regards to the high volatility of international fuel; prices, SIDS can strengthen their resilience through investment in renewable energy,” he said, also noting that the Global Island Partnership – co-chaired by Seychelles, Palau and Grenada – has called for debt cancellation for SIDS.

Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda.

Prime Minister Winston Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean also stressed, in his speech to the Assembly, the need for need for “bold and ambitious actions” on climate change. “We cannot wait for our lands to disappear before we act, he said. “We must act now to respond to the climate crisis, and ensure that not a single country is sacrificed, no matter how small.

“The threat is real, our sea-levels are rising, there is coral bleaching beyond the depths of our shores, and hurricanes are becoming more recurrent and severe. The UNFCCC needs to take concrete steps in order to protect Small Island Developing States and other exposed countries from the threats of climate change,” he added, referring to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which seeks to curb global warming emissions.

Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo of the Solomon Islands.

Prime Minister Spencer’s concerns were echoed by the leader of another island nation, Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo of the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific, who called climate change “an urgent and irreversible threat to humanity” that demanded greater investment from the rich nations.

“Solomon Islands is deeply troubled by the current low ambition level pledged by developed countries. There is discrepancy between what has been pledged and what is necessary to stabilize temperature increase,” he said. “This means mitigation must be prioritized.”

Prime Minister Motsoahae Thomas Thabane of Lesotho.

In his statement to the General Debate, Prime Minister Motsoahae Thomas Thabane of Lesotho, a small landlocked kingdom surrounded by South Africa, voiced disappointment at the outcome of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), held in Brazil in June, when countries renewed their political commitment to sustainable development, including the development of a strategy for sustainable development financing.

“Lack of a concrete commitment by the developed countries to provide the developing countries with finance and technology is a source of concern,” he said. “Nevertheless, there is still hope that a sustainable future is within reach.”

The leaders are among scores of world leaders and other high-level officials presenting their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends on 1 October.