Statement by His Excellency, President Bharrat Jagdeo at the UN Conference on Small Island Developing States, United Nations, New York , September 27, 1999

(The President spoke on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, of which Guyana is the current Chair)

Posted October 6th.1999

On behalf of the Group of 77 and China, I am pleased to address this Special Session of the General Assembly which has been convened to review the implementation of the Barbados Program of Action on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.

These discussions can serve to highlight the special needs of small island developing States and to indicate the challenges facing the international community to assist effectively in their sustainable development. We wish to thank the Chairman of the Commission on Sustainable Development, Mr. Simon Upton for his tireless efforts in steering the work of the Commission in order to prepare for this meeting.

The Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States challenged the conscience of the international community. The Barbados Declaration generated great hope for the peoples who live in states it described as "particularly vulnerable to natural as well as environmental disasters and have a limited capacity to respond to and recover from such disasters."

Five years later their vulnerability to natural phenomena and external economic shocks remains stark. A recent draft report by the World Bank has gone as far as to posit that small States are no different from large states. Mr. President, he who lives it, knows it. But that is the environment in which we assemble to assess and evaluate our performance in implementing the SIDS programme of action.

Small island and low lying coastal developing States are not only vulnerable in relation to natural disasters; they are also vulnerable to the increasing pressures posed by the process of globalisation which widens the gap between developed and developing countries. Globalisation and liberalisation have combined to increase markedly the volatility of incomes of these countries.

It is critical that the international community address the limitations and vulnerabilities of SIDS and facilitate their integration into the world economy. They should be assisted in improving their competitiveness, market access, diversification of their economies and their capacity for effective participation in multilateral trade through specific provisions and measures.

The SIDS have generally tried to fulfil their responsibilities to the best of their abilities. We need to recognise the unique programs being carried out by local people and local communities in small island States. Great achievements have been made in the areas of climate change, campaigns against nuclear testing, sustainable tourism and the expansion of protected areas. The increasingly significant leadership role that the small island States can assume is being evidenced in bold initiatives to pursue campaigns of protection and preservation, of the natural environment both at the national level and in international fora.

The role of non-governmental and regional organisations must also be recognised, especially in their efforts to tap into overseas resources and transfer specialised technical assistance and build capacity. Such actions must be fully supported by the international community.

The Group of 77 and China attaches great importance to the concept whereby the Caribbean Sea is recognised as a special area in the context of sustainable development. We believe that in asking the international community to recognise the validity of this concept, developing countries have again taken a leadership role in defining the sustainable development agenda. The heavy reliance of island and coastal States on their coastal and marine resources have led them to identify the need for a co-ordinated and sustainable ocean management.

I will not deny that the Group of 77 and China is very disappointed at the adverse reaction which this proposal has received. We remain firmly convinced however, that a more substantive exchange will lead to broad support for this concept.

The small island developing States have always acknowledged that implementation of the Barbados Plan of Action is their prime responsibility. Likewise, the international community must acknowledge that they too are stakeholders in a stable and secure world environment.

The commitment of Small Island Developing States has not, largely, been met with the same level of commitment in resources from industrialised countries to live up to their side of the partnership.

Unless specific cross-sectoral issues, including most prominently, finance, trade and transfer of technology, are resolved, the proposals for action cannot be translated into reality. Those proposals are directed at specific actions and we must make it our prime responsibility to ensure that our efforts so far do not result in statements of good intentions that are starved, once again, of resources.

This Special Session must vigorously reaffirm the priorities of the international community and the Barbados Plan of Action as the blueprint for the sustainable development of SIDS. A renewed pledge must be made to provide sufficient resources to enable SIDS to fully implement sustainable development strategies.

We hope that the positive indications made at the SIDS donors conference in March would be realised in order to reverse the decline and to fulfil the commitment made at Rio to provide "effective means, including adequate, predictable new and additional financial resources."

We therefore like to take this opportunity to renew the commitment of the Group of 77 to an expedient and effective implementation of the Barbados Plan of Action.

I thank you, Mr President.

Return to Speeches