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Issues Facing Small Island Developing States ‘Global Challenges’ Demanding Collective Responsibility, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

Transnational crime, illicit exploitation of resources, climate change, natural disasters and other factors that threatened small island developing States must be addressed globally and in the context of international stability, speakers stressed in an all-day open debate in the Security Council.

“The issues facing small island developing States are global challenges.  They are our collective responsibility,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as he opened a meeting that heard briefings from the Prime Ministers of Samoa and Jamaica and the Finance Minister of the Seychelles, and was chaired by New Zealand’s Foreign Minister.

According to a concept note (document S/2015/543) prepared by the delegation of New Zealand, which holds the July presidency of the Council and proposed today’s debate, the United Nations classifies 52 territories as small island developing States, including 37 Member States, with a combined population of over 50 million people.  Today’s meeting would give those countries, representing a fifth of United Nations Member States, the chance to have their voices heard in the Council, the Foreign Minister of New Zealand said at the debate.

On the “front lines of climate change”, the islands were faced with rising sea levels, dying coral reefs and the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters that exacerbated the conditions leading to community displacement and migration, Mr. Ban said in his presentation.  Criminal threats included drug and human trafficking, piracy and wildlife exploitation.

Outlining United Nations programmes for assistance in those areas as well as upcoming meetings on climate change and sustainability, the Secretary-General stressed:  “Small island developing States do not have the resources to combat such threats by themselves.  Only through global partnership can we secure their sustainable and peaceful future.”

Following Mr. Ban’s statement, Samoa’s Prime Minister emphasized the need of small, isolated countries to have a say in the Security Council.  “Their concerns matter, their voices deserve to be heard, their views need to be understood and their challenges considered and addressed.”  He outlined the Samoa Pathway, the outcome of the 2014 conference on small island developing States, which he said was a blueprint of their needs and aspirations together with opportunities and means to implement them.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister stressed that traditional notions of peace and security could no longer be applicable in a world that faced interconnected challenges, highlighting the challenges of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, as well as climate change, and noting Caribbean contributions in peacekeeping and other areas.

The Seychelles Minister for Finance said that weak governance of oceans, which surrounded small island developing States and made up 75 per cent of the planet, undermined global security.  He called on the Council to reinforce the capacity of those States to enhance awareness and legal regimes for the vast maritime domains.

Following those briefings, more than 70 speakers took the floor to address particular vulnerabilities of small island developing States and the relationship to international peace and security.  Many stressed that those States provided the first alarm on global problems, with the representative of the United Kingdom calling them a “bellwether” in that regard.  All agreed that greater international cooperation was needed given the limited resources of those States.


Please read the complete meeting coverage here.