Helen Clark: Speech at UNDP-GEF event on “Small Island Developing States – Large Ocean States" at International Small Islands Conference 2014

Sep 2, 2014


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Apia, Samoa

It is my pleasure to welcome you to this side event on “Small Island Developing States – Large Ocean States: Sustainable Development from Ridge to Reef and Beyond”.

·      The objective of the event is to discuss the importance of sustainable development to SIDS, and the specific opportunities and challenges the SIDS they face in pursuing it.

·      Our high level panelists will share with us their national perspectives, experiences, and strategies for sustainable development, including on how their countries are increasingly positioning themselves as “large ocean states”.

·      These are all issues of great relevance to the SIDS, and will also be important in the context of the post-2015 discussions currently taking place at the UN.

·      Before we start the discussion, I would like to make some short introductory remarks.

·    As both ‘Small Island Developing States’ with a limited natural resource base, and as ‘Large Ocean States’ with custodianship of major ocean areas often containing sizeable biodiversity of both commercial and globally environmental significance, these island nations face unique challenges. 

·      They are often naturally disadvantaged compared to continental countries due to their small size, remoteness, vulnerability to external shocks such as oil prices, and significant exposure to global environmental challenges, particularly those due to climate change.

·      Indeed, perhaps nowhere else on Earth are people’s lives, livelihoods, and economies more reliant on a healthy environment than they are in the SIDS.  A very high economic, social, and cultural dependence on functioning ecosystems is one of the main characteristics of SIDS.

·      In the face of more severe and frequent weather events, such as cyclones, storm surges, landslides, droughts, and floods, SIDS’ coping capacity is constantly being challenged. In response, a many SIDS are adopting green growth and low carbon development strategies, to build stronger foundations for the sustainable development of their countries.

Ridge to reef approaches and large ocean states

·      As mentioned, a number of Small Island Developing States are now referring to themselves as “Large Ocean States”, reflecting the enormous scale of the ocean area within their jurisdiction relative to their land area.

·      This new paradigm presents exciting opportunities for adopting ‘blue economy’ approaches to stimulate development and job creation across existing and emerging areas of the ocean-based economy, such as fisheries, seabed mining, and ocean energy. 

·      In parallel, SIDS are also recognizing to a greater extent the close linkages between how they manage their land, water, and biodiversity, and the downstream coastal ecosystems which are so vital to many SIDS livelihoods. 

·      More and more, these linkages are being operationalized through so-called ‘Ridge to Reef’ approaches. The aim is to apply integrated, multi-sectoral, and multi-stakeholder approaches to the management of SIDS watersheds and the coastal areas to which they drain, or, in the case of low lying atolls, to the management of entire islands across the land-water-ocean continuum.

·      In essence, this Ridge to Reef approach seeks to optimize the use of SIDS land, water, and biodiversity in ways which can sustain the ecosystem services they provide, and support decent and sustainable livelihoods for stakeholders.

UNDP-GEF support to SIDS

·      Over the last twenty years, UNDP, with significant financial support from the Global Environment Facility, has actively supported SIDS in their sustainable development efforts. 

·      UNDP’s total GEF portfolio in 38 eligible SIDS over this period has amounted to 240 projects, $555 million in GEF grants, and $1.4 billion in co-financing.

·      Some examples of our work include:

o   UNDP-GEF’s support to improving ecosystem-based management of the Pacific tuna fishery. This work has been done in partnership with the Forum Fisheries Agency (FFA), the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the West and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, and others. It has helped to transform the Pacific tuna fishery towards greater sustainability but the aspiration must be to move to greater national benefit being derived from it than has been the case to date.

o   Working with the Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC) of SPC, UNDP has helped to bring improved sanitation to communities in Tuvalu, Nauru, Vanuatu, and the Cook Islands. Building on this and other successes in the Pacific, in 2013, UNDP, in partnership with FAO, UNEP, SOPAC and others, secured GEF financing totalling nearly $90 million in support of a comprehensive five year Ridge to Reef programme, providing support to fourteen Pacific Island nations. 

UNDP Around the world