Helen Clark: Speech at the 2016 Small States Forum High-level Closing Panel, “The Forward Look”

Oct 6, 2016

UNDP stands ready to work with small states to identify the key drivers of each country’s potential sustainable growth. Photo credit: UNDP

I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the Governments of Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and Bahamas, and other countries severely affected by Hurricane Matthew this week. This tragic disaster is yet another reminder, if one was needed, of why strong commitment to supporting and collaborating with small states is so important.

On behalf of UNDP, my thanks go to World Bank Vice-President Mr. Hartwig Schafer for the invitation to join this closing session of the Small States Forum.

UNDP appreciates the World Bank’s continued political and financial commitment to small states, and its hosting of this important annual event. These efforts help to ensure that the needs and priorities of small states are discussed at the highest levels by development partners.

I also thank Minister Jean-Paul Adam of the Republic of Seychelles for his able stewardship of the Small States Forum over the last two years. Jean-Paul’s chairmanship coincided with the launch of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, and the Paris Climate Change Conference. These are all critically important agendas, and the particular vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States were well recognized.

UNDP also warmly welcomes the incoming Chair of the Small States Forum, Hon. Oliver Joseph, Minister of Economic Development of Grenada. UNDP looks forward to working with Grenada on the small states agenda.

The World Bank’s two new reports on engagement with and financing for small states released at this meeting canvases a number of the challenges and opportunities before small states. They follow the call of last year’s Small States Forum in Lima to development partners to:

• improve small states’ access to finance, and in particular concessional finance;

• develop innovative financing mechanisms; and

• support small states to leverage private investment in their economies.

UNDP has been working to respond to these priorities, and to support small states to implement their national sustainable development strategies, the 2030 Agenda, and their Nationally Determined Contributions pursuant to the Paris Agreement on climate change.

For example: 

• through UNDP’s Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN) – UNDP is supporting Belize, Cuba, Fiji, and Seychelles to identify new and innovative sources of financing for investments in forest and species conservation, protected areas, and sustainable coastal management. BIOFIN is also supporting implementation of the recent debt-for-climate-adaptation swap in the Seychelles;

• last month, UNDP launched its Human Development Report for the Caribbean in Barbados. The hashtag #MorethanIncome used at the launch captures the report’s central message: that income levels reveal little about levels of vulnerability and resilience. Definitions of progress and well-being must also include decent work, quality education, gender equality, social protection and care systems, levels of vulnerability and resilience, and environmentally sustainable growth. The report includes policy recommendations for national authorities and international partners on how to reduce vulnerability and boost resilience.

In the Pacific, UNDP and its associated programme, the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), and other international partners collaborate on the Pacific Island Financial Inclusion programme, which helps low-income households access financial services and gain financial literacy. With the support of Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, UNDP is also exploring the relevance for Pacific countries of innovative financing, such as blended finance, strategies to catalyze ocean finance and investments in the blue economy, impact investing, debt-for-nature swaps, and other innovative financial mechanisms. 

UNDP and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat will discuss the work undertaken so far with Pacific Island Ministers tomorrow afternoon, and share the conclusions of the project with this Forum next year.

• UNDP continues to assist SIDS affected by and at risk of disasters. We support the building of resilience to future shocks and disasters, for example by developing early-warning capabilities and sharing best practices across countries.

Many small states have made impressive progress on reducing poverty, improving education and health status, building economic opportunities, protecting natural environments, and driving innovation and investment in their economies. But the 2030 Agenda has set the bar high. It specifically calls for “leaving no one behind” and “reaching those furthest behind first”.

UNDP sees three main priorities for the years ahead in achieving the 2030 Agenda – each of them relevant to small states.

First, strengthening partnerships and fostering innovation. 

UNDP stands ready to work with small states and other development partners, including from the private sector, to identify the key drivers of each country’s potential sustainable growth, build capacities to take growth strategies forward, catalyze investments from public and private sources, and engage citizens and the private sector in this effort. It will also be important to engage South-South Co-operation providers.

Second, scaled-up finance.

The Addis Ababa Action Agenda invites the international community to scale-up innovations in financing, and to ensure that SIDS and other countries in special circumstances are able to access concessional resources. In particular, it asks lenders to use vulnerability criteria to guide eligibility for concessional finance. 

At last year's Small States Forum, proposals to establish a technical working group among the development banks and other development partners on these topics was tabled. Since then, UNDP and the World Bank have held several discussions on how to take this forward. UNDP looks forward to beginning this work soon, in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat, and in close coordination with small states.

Last, capacity building and skills training will be required to enhance economic opportunities in small states, and effectively deploy resources.

Facilitating exchanges of experiences and best practice between various stakeholders – public and private, civil society and academia - will be critical for this. South-South and Triangular Co-operation will also be important. UNDP is ready to assist in identifying these types of opportunities.

These are volatile and unpredictable times. Small states will continue to be affected by forces beyond their control, in particular climate change and disasters. But small states are also proactively taking on these challenges. 

Let me assure you that UNDP is and will continue to be your committed partner, and a strong global advocate for small states now and in the future.


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