Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister calls on UN to grant special status to developing small-island states

Apisai Ielemia, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu.
UN Photo/Devra Berkowitz
Apisai Ielemia, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Tuvalu.

Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister calls on UN to grant special status to developing small-island states

In a call for greater international focus on the problems of developing small-island states, Tuvalu’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Apisai Ielemia, today told the United Nations General Assembly that the time had come for special recognition of countries such as his.

Using the acronym for the designation Small Island Developing States, Mr. Ielemia said: “This implies that a number of needed special international measures for SIDS be identified and, naturally, also that some order be put in the definition of SIDS, a necessary condition for making SIDS a genuine, internationally accepted special category of countries.”

In his address to the 67th Assembly’s General Debate, at UN Headquarters in New York, Mr. Ielemia stated that much work remained to be done in devising an international response to the challenges faced by SIDS and that, despite a focus on the problems over the last two decades, making substantive progress depended on “SIDS status and SIDS-specific treatment.”

Climate change’s related rise in sea levels poses the greatest threat to small island states, he noted, adding that his country’s elevation of only four metres “pronounces us as extremely vulnerable” to this and other “natural shocks.”

“As is well known, sea-level rise and flooding threaten Tuvalu’s limited agricultural production, undermining food security and increasing our vulnerability to supply disruptions,” said Mr. Ielemia, whose portfolio also sees him serve as Minister of Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labor for his Pacific island country.

He added, “We therefore support advances and urge perseverance with the UNFCCC (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) and the Kyoto Protocol as the primary international, intergovernmental fora for negotiating the global response to climate change in order to gain substance to international agreements.”

Because of its limited resources and geographical remoteness, Tuvalu has faced sufficient development challenges for the UN to designate it as a Least Developed Country (LDC) – a category whose members are eligible to receive trade preferences and financing for development.

Since Tuvalu could now be “graduated” out of the LDC classification, because indicators show it exceeds two of the three criteria for inclusion, Mr. Ielemia called on the UN to “revisit” the benchmarks.

The minister told delegates that Tuvalu is actively pursuing energy efficiencies and development strategies that were environmentally conscious and economically sustainable.

Among other matters mentioned in his speech, Mr. Ielemia also called on donor countries to realize their pledges for enabling the establishment of tsunami and tropical cyclone early warning systems, and concluded by calling on the UN to seek efficiency through “timely actions and achievements.”

Tuvalu’s Foreign Affairs Minister is among scores of heads of state and government, and other high-level officials, who are presenting their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance at the Assembly’s General Debate, which ends on 1 October.