ST. JOHN’S, Antigua — Amid accelerating climate change and other challenges, a major international conference in the South Pacific island nation of Samoa next month represents a key chance for Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Caribbean to turn the tide.
“This is an opportune moment where you will have all of the donor agencies and the funding partners [and] we have prepared a draft which looks at agriculture, health, youth, women and many other areas to present to the conference highlighting the needs in the SIDS,” Pamela Thomas, Caribbean civil society ambassador on agriculture for the United Nations, told IPS.
“My primary area is agriculture and in agriculture we are targeting climate change because climate change is affecting our sector adversely,” she said.
“One of the projects we are putting forward to the SIDS conference is the development of climate smart farms throughout the SIDS. That is our major focus. The other area of focus has to do with food security, that is also a top priority for us as well but our major target at this conference is climate change,” added Thomas, who also heads the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN).
SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (S.A.M.O.A) Pathway, a 30-page document developed ahead of the conference, outlines the particular challenges that SIDS face.
These include addressing debt sustainability, sustainable tourism, climate change, biodiversity conservation and building resilience to natural systems, sustainable energy, disaster risk reduction, threats to fisheries, food security and nutrition, water and sanitation, to name a few.
Ruleta Camacho, project coordinator on sustainable island resource management mechanism within Antigua and Barbuda’s Ministry of the Environment, said the challenges faced by Caribbean SIDS are related to sustainable development issues.
She pointed out that there are still significant gaps with respect to sustainable development in SIDS and developing countries generally.
“With respect to SIDS we face particular vulnerabilities and our development progress is impacted more than other developing countries by climate change and other natural phenomenon,” she told IPS. “So because of our isolation and other physical impacts of these phenomenons we are sometimes held back.
“You take the case of Grenada where its GDP went to zero overnight because of a hurricane. So we have these sorts of factors that hinder us and so we are trying our best”
Despite these circumstances, Camacho said Caribbean SIDS have done very well, but still require a lot of international assistance.
“The reason for these conferences, this being the third, is to highlight what our needs are, what our priorities are and set the stage for addressing these priorities in the next 10 years,” she explained.
In September 2004, Ivan, the most powerful hurricane to hit the Caribbean region in a decade, laid waste to Grenada. The havoc created by the 125 mph winds cut communication lines and damaged or destroyed 90 percent of all buildings on the island.
Thomas’ group, CaFAN, represents farmers in all 15 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries. Initiated by farmer organisations across the Caribbean in 2002, it is mandated to speak on behalf of its membership and to develop programmes and projects aimed at improving livelihoods; and to collaborate with all stakeholders in the agriculture sector to the strategic advantage of its farmers.
Camacho said the Sep. 1-4 conference provides opportunities not only for farmers but the Caribbean as a whole.
“Because we are small we are a little bit more adaptable and we tend to be more resilient as a people and as a country,” she said. “So with respect to all our challenges what we need to do is to communicate to our funders that the one size fits all does not work for small island developing states.
“We have socio-cultural peculiarities that allow us to work a little differently and one of the major themes that we emphasise when we go to these conferences is that we don’t want to be painted with the broad brush as being Latin America and the Caribbean. We want our needs as small island Caribbean developing state and the particular opportunities and our positioning to be recognised,” Camacho said.
And she remains optimistic that the international funding agencies will respond in the affirmative in spite of a recurring theme in terms of the Caribbean requesting special consideration.
“Like any business model, you can’t just try one time. You try 10 times and if one is successful then it was worth it. Yes there have been disappointments where we have done this before, we have outlined priorities before,” she explained.
“To be quite frank, this document (S.A.M.O.A) seems very general when you compare it to the documents that were used in Mauritius or Barbados, however, we have found, I think Antigua and Barbuda has been recognised as one of the countries, certainly in the environmental management sector to be able to access funding.
“We have a higher draw down rate than any of the other OECS countries and that is because of our approach to donor agencies. We negotiate very hard, we don’t give up and we try to use adaptive management in terms of fitting our priorities to what is on offer,” Camacho added.
The overarching theme of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States is “The sustainable development of Small Island developing States through genuine and durable partnerships”.
The conference will include six multi-stakeholder partnership dialogues, held in parallel with the plenary meetings.
It will seek to achieve the following objectives: assess the progress to date and the remaining gaps in the implementation; seek a renewed political commitment by focusing on practical and pragmatic actions for further implementation; identify new and emerging challenges and opportunities for the sustainable development of SIDS and means of addressing them; and identify priorities for the sustainable development of SIDS to be considered in the elaboration of the post-2015 U.N. development agenda.
This article originally appeared on the International Press Service, with credit to author Desmond Brown and Editor, Kitty Stapp