Kanayathu Koshy discusses Pacific preparations for the 10-Year Review of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.
The author is director of the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji.
In resolution 57/262, the United Nations General Assembly called for an international meeting to undertake a comprehensive review of the implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). The Barbados Programme was adopted at the 1994 Global Conference for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. The 58th session of the General Assembly decided that the international meeting, referred to as BPOA+10, will be held in Port Louis, Mauritius. It will include a segment for high-level politicians.
The Barbados Programme is the first-ever intergovernmental policy prescription to integrate the small islands into the world economy. It sets forth specific actions and measures, in fifteen chapters, prioritizing areas at the national, regional and international levels.
After a decade of effort, the Barbados Programme remains largely unimplemented. It has not been able to capture the required political will to bring about real actions. Small Islands States have limited capacity to respond to the never-ending challenges faced by them and to recover from recurring disasters. Despite extensive national level actions undertaken by these countries, requisite external support has been persistently evading them.
A mid-term review and appraisal of the implementation of the Barbados Programme was undertaken by the General Assembly at its 22nd Special Session in 1999. The five-year review stated that progress in implementing the Programme had been mixed. Limited resources had proved a major problem. Key emerging challenges to the sustainable development of Small Island States were many. The challenges included those related to the implementation of effective strategies for poverty eradication and the pursuit of people-centred development, coping with the effects and the cost of international security threats on travel and tourism, the development of cultural industries, and addressing urgently the growing problem of HIV/AIDS.
It was decided that the ten-year review of the Barbados Programme should seek a renewed political commitment by all countries, including their development partners, for the further implementation of the Barbados Programme through practical and pragmatic actions. The UN resolution also decided to convene regional preparatory meetings, an inter-regional preparatory meeting as well as a three-day PrepCom in New York in 2004 before the Mauritius International Meeting.
Mauritius, then, would examine, among other things, why there had been serious shortfalls in the Programme’s implementation over the past ten years, and why matters had not advanced following the Assembly’s five-year review in 1999. It would also be necessary to incorporate concrete actions regarding new and emerging issues, such as HIV/AIDS, new information and communications technologies, security and market access. South-South cooperation should also feature prominently in the efforts to promote sustainable development for Small Island Developing States.
Anwarul K. Chowdhury, Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and Secretary-General of the Mauritius International Meeting
Like the 1994 International Meeting in Barbados, the Mauritius meeting would also be an all- inclusive meeting. The meeting is aimed mainly at heads of states and government, national delegates and leaders from nongovernmental organizations, business, industry and other major groups as well as the scientific and technological community and a whole spectrum of other stakeholders.
The Barbados Programme Review and the Pacific
The Sustainable Development Working Group of the Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific (CROP) has been coordinating regional preparations and assisting countries in the international preparatory process for BPOA+10. There have been several regional meetings of the CROP group and other stakeholders for a regional submission to the PrepCom and Pacific island countries have made substantial contributions to the discussions and documentation in preparation for the Mauritius meeting.
A Regional Preparatory Meeting for BPOA+10 held at Apia, Samoa, for the Pacific SIDS in August 2003 discussed the major sustainable development issues for the region. These issues included those identified at the BPOA+5 Review in 1999 as well as at the 4th AOSIS Summit held during the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002 and in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPoI) of the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
The following listing is not intended to be exhaustive; however, the following are the main issues that Pacific SIDS would like addressed during and beyond Mauritius:
SIDS Special Case. While the world community has acknowledged time and again the special case of SIDS, the full application of that principle remains as pertinent today for the social, economic and environmental development of SIDS. In an ever-globalizing world, the situation of SIDS continues to be one of exposure and growing vulnerability with an increasing inability to respond to social and environmental stress.
There are many disadvantages that derive from their small size, which are magnified by the fact that many Island States are not only small but are themselves made up of a number of small islands. Those disadvantages include:
Moreover, small islands tend to have high degrees of endemism and levels of biodiversity, but the relatively small numbers of the various species impose high risks of extinction creating an urgent need for protection.
The protection and promotion of traditional knowledge in the Pacific will be important for the building of resilience to these vulnerabilities.
Real challenges. It is widely recognized among Pacific SIDS that there are causes beyond their direct control that impeded the full and effective implementation of the Barbados Programme. These include:
Expectation of the Barbados Programme outputs. In the review of the Barbados Programme, there is general agreement among Pacific SIDS that "achieving measurable sustainable development in the Pacific region towards improving the quality of life for all" to ensure a people, ocean and islands focus for sustainable development in the Pacific region must be the focus. This was the stand the Pacific SIDS took at the World Summit on Sustainable Development.
They have further articulated that the BPOA+10 process should:
Multilateral Environment Agreement Reporting. Noting the burden of reporting for SIDS on a variety of multilateral environment agreements, the region calls for simplified reporting procedures and harmonization of reporting requirements.
Pacific Type 2 Partnerships. The Pacific Umbrella Type II World Summit on Sustainable Development Initiatives align with the Chapters of the Barbados Programme. These will continue to be used as platforms to secure new resources to assist with the implementation of the Barbados Programme. In terms of reporting on activities under the Type II Initiatives, this could serve as an important additional source of information on sustainable development activities in the region.
In order to optimize access to non-traditional donors delegates expressed strong support for the Pacific Islands Forum Missions Road Map In pursuit of Implementation of the JPOI for Sustainable Development in the Pacific.
The delegates in the 2003 Apia Regional Preparatory Meeting placed priorities on the following areas for the sustainable development of their countries.
In addition, there are the following recognized new and emerging issues as recognized by the JPOI and by the region.
Along with the Apia meeting, two other Regional Preparatory Meetings were held, covering the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Sea SIDS (held September 2003, in Praia, Cape Verde) and the Caribbean SIDS (held October 2003, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago).
The regional meetings held in-depth discussions on SIDS vulnerability and raised issues such as climate change, trade dependence, small-scale economies, lack of freshwater resources, biodiversity, energy dependence, waste management, limited institutional capacity and access to technology. The potential for the development of renewable energy, ecotourism and partnerships were noted as opportunities for all regions.
The meetings also underscored the importance of civil society participation and identified new and emerging issues such as security, health, trade and poverty, as discussed above.
Each of these meetings produced a Regional Position Paper for BPOA+10, highlighting the achievements, key issues, challenges and opportunities for the implementation of the the Barbados Programme in each region. The meetings reaffirmed the validity of the Barbados Programme as a guideline for the sustainable development of SIDS.
The long and arduous road - from the breakthrough at Rio in 1992 to concrete commitments made at Barbados in 1994 - that had finally led to the recognition of the special challenges those States faced, had yielded some success. But, looking back over the ten years since Barbados, it was clear that those successes could largely be attributed to the efforts made at the domestic level and through national measures handled with meagre resources. As the struggle to implement the Barbados Programme continued, it was important to recognize that changing external and internal circumstances were creating greater challenges for the small island developing States. The current environment, therefore, called for greater understanding and cooperation from the wider international community in reaffirming their commitments from both Rio and Barbados.
Jagdish Koonjul, Chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States
Following these regional meetings, over 300 participants, including 13 ambassadors, 22 ministers and deputy ministers, as well as representatives of UN agencies and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations attended the Nassau Inter-regional Preparatory Meeting, held 26-30th January 2004.
The main objective of this meeting was to synthesize the regional position papers into an AOSIS Strategy Paper and to produce a Nassau Declaration highlighting SIDS achievements and challenges in the implementation of the Barbados Programme.
The AOSIS Strategy Paper is structured to highlight the importance of the issues discussed in the Barbados Programme and the new issues such as trade globalization and liberalization, sustainable capacity development and education for sustainable development, sustainable consumption and production, national enabling environments, health, particularly HIV/AIDS, knowledge management and information and communication technology, culture, access to financial resources, and the most important issue of implementation.
The outcome of this meeting was the basis for consultation at the New York PrepCom, which took place at the UN headquarters in New York 14-16th April 2004. The meeting commenced with the official opening of the 12th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-12), tasked to undertake the PrepCom for BPOA+10.
The PrepCom was entrusted with carrying out an in-depth assessment and appraisal of the AOSIS Strategy Paper for final consideration at BPOA+10, including its agenda and other organizational matters. In this context, the Commission on Sustainable Development bureau functioned as the bureau of the preparatory meeting.
The AOSIS Strategy Paper from the Nassau Inter-regional Meeting was accepted as the negotiating text for Mauritius. Despite comments that the document was too long, needed structural adjustments and that it lacked focus, there was general agreement that the document addressed the range of issues confronting SIDS in a holistic manner and that a 'full and frank' discussion and commitment are the best way forward.
Considering the constraint of time available for negotiating the BPOA+10 outcome document at the New York preparatory meeting, additional informal consultations took place in the following months.
Goals of the Barbados Programme and links with other multilateral commitments
There is much common ground between the goals of the Barbados Programme of Action and related multilateral agreements.
The Barbados Programme of Action covered the following issues: climate change, tourism, natural disasters, wastes, freshwater, land resources, energy, biodiversity and transport. The International Meeting in Mauritius is also expected to address emerging issues that affect small islands: trade, HIV/AIDS, information technology, new security concerns, and the economic potential of island cultures.
If we look at Millennium Development Goals, we see that the goals include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, universal primary education, gender equality and empowerment of women, reduction in child mortality, improvement in maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.
The goals of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable Development cover: poverty alleviation, changing unsustainable pattern of consumption and production, protecting and managing the natural resource base of economic and social development, sustainable development in a globalising world, health, sustainable development of SIDS, institutional framework and means of implementation.
The AOSIS Strategy Paper from Nassau highlighted the following areas of priority:
It is becoming increasingly evident that one can hardly escape the commonalties of themes among all these major multilateral agreements, as summarized below:
Partnership. In developing sustainable development strategies in the Pacific, every effort must be made to promote partnership. Such an effort should involve a collaborative approach that includes the SIDS, the regional organizations such as CROP, the development partners, the donor community, and the United Nations system. Progress in partnership may be reviewed within the new framework and the established programme of work of the Commission on Sustainable Development.
Information and knowledge management. There is a need for strengthened regional mechanisms for cooperation to share information and lessons learned, to promote regional and interregional exchange and to undertake joint projects and research activities, thus enhancing the generation and dissemination of information to support the implementation of sustainable development in island States. Knowledge generation and management are important factors here. A critical requirement in implementing national sustainable development strategies is a supporting infrastructure for the effective exchange and movement of information. With international backing, the Small Island Developing States Information Network, SIDSNET, should be restructured to assist the SIDS more effectively.
Donor financing. The establishment of effective sustainable development financing mechanisms is needed, including through regional development banks. This should encompass innovative financing, such as social investment funds to help alleviate poverty. There is also a need to develop a small grants programme for capacity development for sustainable development, using the United Nations Development Programme for seed funding. The Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme is now being extended and will provide opportunities in this regard. Additional sources of seed funding should be identified.
Capacity building. In the area of capacity-building, international and regional support and assistance would be welcome for the proposed establishment of a consortium of tertiary institutions for capacity development and education, and for standard-setting for sustainable development in SIDS. There is a need to ensure that sustainable development education and training provides linkages between sectors such as water, energy, land and coastal zones. There should be a national-level commitment to ensure that education maintains a strong relevance to local conditions, notably by reviewing curricula so that they meet the needs of communities. Practical applications of education in management and participatory skills are needed, as well as information and communications technology and vocational training. Applications of science and technology and targeted and internationally important research are vital to improved understanding and decision making leading to sustainable development. The success of SIDS in implementing the Programme of Action at the national level will depend on effective human, institutional and technical capacity related to policy development and monitoring of implementation and coordination, especially through the support of national and regional organizations. In promoting science and technology and creating knowledge-based societies, the international community too has a great responsibility. The International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) and its subsidiary programmes, and global change research networks such as START, the Asia Pacific Network for Global Change Research and the InterAmerican Institute for Global Change Research and United Nations system bodies such as UNESCO and UNEP have been highlighting the need for science and technology for sustainable development. Finally, there is need to strengthen observational capacity relating to all aspects of the climate system, improve weather and climate forecasting, support the modelling community to improve climate scenario generation and carry out assessments and synthesis work of the type carried out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There is an obvious need to boost science and technology education at all levels.
The challenge for BPOA+10
The overriding objective of the ten-year review in Mauritius will be to generate renewed political commitment by all stakeholders on practical actions to further the sustainable development of SIDS. The outcome must be focused, practical, cost-effective and, above all, implementable. It should be agreed with the wholehearted support of the SIDS and their development partners so that the follow-up and implementation gather momentum subsequently.
The spirit of partnership remains the most important ingredient that would make the outcome of the International Meeting in Mauritius worthwhile and its realization possible. The role of civil society and the private sector, as well as the potential for South-South cooperation, needs to be identified clearly.
As the Secretary-General of the Mauritius meeting underscored recently: "The international community, equipped with the lessons of the last the years, needs to come together to support, in real terms, the genuine aspirations of the SIDS and their determined efforts for a new resurgence in Mauritius to bring true benefit and progress for the women, men and children of this most vulnerable segment of the humanity."
The catchphrase for the Mauritius conference, "Small Islands, Big Stakes," perhaps sums it all up. The current environment in Small Island Developing States calls for greater understanding and cooperation from the wider international community in reaffirming their commitments from both Rio and Barbados.
Kanayathu Koshy, Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, University of the South Pacific, PO Box 1168, Suva, Fiji. Fax: +679-3-309176. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.sidsnet.org/pacific/usp/pace/.
On the Web
Further information concerning the review of progress in implementing the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States can be found at the conference website. The Tiempo Climate Cyberlibrary presents a listing of theme sites and articles on Small Island Developing States.
In preparing this article, the following documents, among others, have been widely used: CSD Press release ENV/DEV/763, report by Professors Spike Boydell and Randy Thaman from the Apia Regional Meeting for BPOA+10, daily reports from IISD from the Nassau and New York PrepComs and the author's notes from Johannesburg and the BPOA+10 preparatory meetings attended in the Pacific region, the Bahamas and New York.