Magdy Martínez-Solimán: Closing Remarks at Small Island Developing States responding to climate impacts and planning for sustainable futures

Sep 18, 2017

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

We all agree that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are on the frontline of sea-level rise and the consequences of a warming climate.  Climate change adaptation is an existential issue for many of these countries and critical to the achievement of resilient development. 

We have seen recently that when Hurricane Irma hit the Caribbean Islands before making landfall in Florida, it sustained winds of up to 185mph (or 300 km/h) – the average speed of a formula one car. In its trajectory, it battered an estimated 1.2 million people. Bloomberg estimates that the economic costs associated with Irma could reach USD 80 billion dollars. It is hard for countries and communities to recover from the socio-economic losses when disaster becomes a seasonal problem.

SIDS face unique challenges. They have often been characterized by their constraints – smallness and dispersion (in land area), distance from markets, fragile ecosystems, narrow economies and vulnerability to natural disasters. That is a deficit-based model.

But SIDS also provide unique opportunities. They are custodians of 15 of the 50 largest Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Tuvalu’s EEZ is 27,000 times larger than its land area.  SIDS are also hotspots for terrestrial and marine biodiversity.

If we aim to leave no one behind, we need to think innovatively on development solutions tailored to the smallest countries. From listening to our speakers today – the message is clear: we cannot achieve the 2030 Agenda without the engagement of SIDS. We also cannot achieve the goals set out in the Paris Agreement and protect the most vulnerable without the support of all.

UNDP’s partnership with Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) aims to do just that – we are working alongside SIDS to support their efforts to increase global action on climate change.  AOSIS, which was established 27 years ago, has made a vital contribution by helping Small Island states pool their resources and amplify their voice in climate talks.

Our partnership with AOSIS came at a critical time in the years leading up to the Paris climate agreement. This has enabled AOSIS to have a stronger voice in the negotiations, supported the development of robust policy positions for SIDS, and raised the visibility of the impact of climate change on SIDS.  I also want to thank the European Commission for being an anchor funder and supporter of this initiative. My thanks also goes to Norway, Australia and Finland for their support.

I also want to thank all partners for this event today, including the Permanent Mission of Fiji.

Last, but not least, I want to thank all the AOSIS Fellows for joining us today. I strongly encourage you to read their inspirational stories. The fellowship has allowed the emergence of the next generation of skilled climate change negotiators for small island states. 

Finally, I would like to thank you all for your interest, partnership and continued engagement in the issue.  

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