Saturday, September 28, 2013

Threatened by rising seas, small island nations appeal for more aid at UN

25 September 2013 – On the front line of damage wrought by climate change, threatened with extinction from rising seas, leaders of some of the world’s small island States took to the podium at the United Nations General Assembly today to call urgently for greater international support to mitigate the perils.

Winston Baldwin Spencer, Prime Minister /
Minister for Foreign Affairs
Antigua and Barbuda

“Disastrously off course,” “profound disappointment” and “moral failure” were some of the terms used by heads of Small Island Developing States, known as SIDS, to depict their situation as the 68th General Assembly prepares to draw up long-term development plans for the decades after the end in 2015 of the current cycle of the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“The corresponding actions to address the unique and special circumstances of SIDS by the international community has been lacking,” the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Winston Baldwin Spencer, told the Assembly’s annual General Debate, summing up the almost two decades since the Barbados Programme of Action was adopted by at a UN conference on the sustainable development of SIDS in 1994.

“It is a recognized fact, but it is worth repeating that small island States contribute the least to the causes of climate change, yet we suffer the most from its effects. Small island States have expressed our profound disappointment at the lack of tangible action,” he said referring to efforts in UN climate change talks to protect SIDS and other vulnerable countries.

“Developed countries should shoulder their moral, ethical and historical responsibilities for emitting the levels of anthropogenic greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It is those actions which have now put the planet in jeopardy and compromised the well-being of present and future generations,” the Caribbean leader stressed.

Noting uneven progress in achieving the MDGs, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago, who is also chairperson of Conference of Heady of State and Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), warned that current approaches will not advance the MDG agenda by 2015 or ensure sustainable development in the post-2015 context.

Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar
of Trinidad and Tobago,

“SIDS have made significantly less progress in the area of development, than other vulnerable groups of countries. In some cases SIDS are on the frontlines of experiencing a reversal of many of the gains that have been achieved,” she said.

“Indeed in the preparations for our participation in that upcoming discourse (on the Post-2015 Development Agenda), the recognition of the vulnerabilities of small island developing States is one of the guidelines that CARICOM will apply when considering its commitments to the overall Agenda.”

From the other side of the planet, Kiribati President Anote Tong, stressing the “real and existential threat” his low-lying Pacific nation faces from rising seas, called for immediate international action to mitigate climate change and rising sea levels.

“We are disastrously off course. The scientists tell us that calamity awaits – and not just for those of us on low-lying islands,” he said. “What we are experiencing now on these low-lying atolls is an early warning of what will happen further down the line. No one will be spared. We cannot continue to abuse our planet in this way. For the future we want for our children and grandchildren, we need leadership.

“We need commitment. And we need action,” he declared, noting that while Kiribati is taking adaptation measures to remain habitable for as long as possible, it is also looking to improve its people’s skills to a level where they can compete for jobs in the international labour market with dignity if the rising ocean forces them to migrate.

“All those countries with the ability to do so must contribute to the prevention of this calamity, or be forever judged by history.” More