Small island nations are “not sitting idly by” but are emerging as “frontrunners” in the fight against climate change according to Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, the United Nations (UN) High Representative for Small Island Developing States.
They were on center stage during the General Assembly’s big opening week, when countries discussed progress made since the landmark SAMOA Pathway agreement was reached, five years ago.
The 38 countries designated by the United Nations as Small Island Developing States, or SIDS, are among the most vulnerable countries in the world. Situated in the Caribbean, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans as well as the Indian Ocean and South China Sea, they are bearing the brunt of an increasingly extreme and unpredictable global climate. As well as the environmental challenges, SIDS face a unique set of issues relating to their small size, remoteness, and exposure to external economic shocks.
Most island nations tend to confront similar constraints in their efforts to develop sustainably, such as a narrow resource base, small domestic markets and heavy dependence on a few external and sometimes remote markets. They also generally face high costs for food, which often has to be imported, as well as energy, infrastructure, transportation and communication. Those challenges are further complicated by the difficulties they face mobilizing development finance on affordable and appropriate terms
‘Utoikamanu has been speaking to UN News about the challenges faced by SIDS.
Island communities are on the frontlines of the climate emergency and often have little resilience to disasters. Earlier this month, the Bahamas, one of the wealthier SIDS, was devastated when Hurricane “Dorian” swept across parts of the Caribbean archipelago. On a visit there, the UN Secretary General António Guterres said it was “impossible not to be horrified with the destruction” he saw, dubbing the Category 5 hurricane, “Category Hell.” He added that the extreme weather had been “powered by climate change.”