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Small Island States and the UN come together at the Wadali Action Platform

Antigua and Barbuda in partnership with Denmark and the United Kingdom hosted the Wadali Action Platform (Our Own Action plan) on 8th and 9th August, 2022, at St John’s bringing together above a hundred participants, which included Small Island Developing States (SIDS) leaders, global leaders and institutions to evaluate the problems of the SIDS, current and future issues including Sustainable Development Goals which is necessary to counter climate change.

Antigua and Barbuda is currently the chair of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the intensive session was organized to prepare the SIDS for the 4th International Conference for SIDS which is scheduled in 2024. It will decide the next plan of action as the 2014 SAMOA Pathway which set up some credible sustainable development goals as priority areas will expire.

The opening address at the Wadali Action Platform was given by the United Nations General Assembly President, Mr. Abdulla Shahid who also hails from the small island state of Maldives. Highlighting the issue of climate-induced change in sea-level, the President said, “At present, one-third of the 65 million population in Small-island Developing States live on land less than 5 meters above sea level, making them extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels. In my own country, the Maldives, a nation comprised of 1,192 low-lying islands, this threat is an everyday reality.”

Shahid explained that small island countries have low population and are often middle-income countries which lead to difficulties in attracting concessional financing internationally. He added, “The debt-obligations faced by SIDS globally are unsustainable and immoral. To remedy this, global financial systems should be streamlined so that future debt-servicing considers the vulnerabilities faced by countries in special situations, and the impact of onerous debts on their efforts to recover better. We know there is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

Hoping for the quick adoption of the Multi-Vulnerability Index, Shahid said that it will be “a vital tool to enable SIDS to access the financing needed to adapt to climate change and strengthen long-term resilience. As the waters rise, this may be the last hope for SIDS.”
Another speaker at the event was the President of the Caribbean Development Bank Dr Hyginus Leon who also emphasized the role of MVI and said, “Access to finance is existential for SIDS. There is a need for an integration of the debt sustainability framework of the International Monetary Fund, the investment-growth nexus of the World Bank and the SDG [sustainable development goals]-resilience building framework of the United Nations.”

E P Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Antigua and Barbuda said that only seven years remain for the achievement of sustainable development goals and less than two years remain for SAMOA Pathway. He warned, “If we fail to act, if the international community continues to fail us, we will soon see unprecedented scales of movements of people forced to flee their homes because of climate change because of poverty and economic hardship.” The Minister minced no words when he gave the example of Pacific atoll nations where he said, “Typhoons have already unearthed sacred ancestral burial grounds, with young men having to relocate remains of their forefathers on higher land.

Setting the agenda of the Small Island Developing States at the COP27 scheduled to be held in November, Greene added, “The science reinforces our demands that the UNFCCC must address loss and damage now. This is the political priority for AOSIS and vulnerable nations across the world at COP27 in November. The lack of adequate funding arrangements to address loss and damage is a destabilizing force in the world.”

The severity of the words used by the speakers in the event was reflective of the mood of the people in the SIDS which have become the greatest victims of anthropogenic emissions. The pandemic’s devastating effect and the inequitable recovery have created further concerns in these states. The upcoming year will be used by the SIDS to chart the future pathway and demand further steps to enhance finance in these countries including pushing the United Nations for strict measures on industrialised countries.

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