Secretary General Meg Taylor’s remarks on Pacific Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) at the United Nations High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Session 18: Ensuring that No One is Left Behind, Countries in Special Situations

New York, USA

18 July 2016

Mr President,
Fellow Panelists
Distinguished delegates,
I have the honor of making these interventions on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, and the 10 million islanders that call the Pacific home.

  1. The Pacific is proud of its active participation in shaping the 2030 Agenda and the SAMOA Pathway. We may be a region of small island countries, but we continue to take a leading role in championing action around climate change, oceans management and building effective institutions to deliver the promises of sustainable development for our people.
  2. 2015 was a landmark year for international commitments, and this year we in the Pacific have been quick to take ownership and leadership by integrating these commitments into national and regional policy responses appropriate to our specific challenges and vulnerabilities.
  3. Five of our countries have already integrated the SDGs into their national plans and four more are in the process of doing the same. The fact that Samoa is the first SIDS to voluntarily report to this High Level Political Forum demonstrates the global leadership they continue to take on the SAMOA Pathway and SDG implementation. The peer learning from this process is already being shared across our region.
  4. At the regional level, we have mobilsed ourselves to develop a Pacific SDGs Roadmap that will guide implementation. An inclusive Pacific SDGs Taskforce has been established to support this process seeking ways to: address trans boundary issues such as climate change, oceans, fisheries and trade; secondly identifying common national priorities such as poverty alleviation, gender empowerment and Non Communicable Diseases that can be effectively addressed through collective delivery, monitoring and reporting; thirdly identifying global experience that can be adapted for our benefit; and finally identifying national success that can be shared for possible adaptation.
  5. Natural disasters such as droughts, floods and cyclones and the impacts of climate change are becoming more frequent and intense. Cyclones Pam, Winston and Evan resulted in estimated loss of 64% of GDP in Vanuatu, 11% of GDP in Fiji and 30% of GDP in Samoa.
  6. Our sea levels are rising, our water sources are being compromised and our coral reefs are dying. As we grapple with what is our new normal, we will require increased investment in climate proofing infrastructure and improved disaster risk insurance that is part of our national development planning and budgeting.
  7. We cannot move our countries to overcome the tyranny of distance and geographic isolation, but we are investing in ICT to offset the high costs of transportation and better connect us to the global economy. We are also embracing the advances in renewable technology to make energy more affordable and accessible. Continuing to unlock science, innovation and technology will be essential to deliver services to our people, and make our region accessible and attractive for investment.
  8. Leaving no one behind demands inclusivity. For us, it has meant engaging the most vulnerable members of our communities: women, young people and people with disabilities. We are engaging with civil society and private sector groups to inform the discussions of our political leaders.
  9. We in the Pacific recognize the responsibility for charting our own development pathways. Small as we are, we can and are able to help ourselves. The Pacific SIDS are proud innovators and providers of development cooperation through our ongoing peer to peer learning or Island to Island cooperation. We encourage our development partners to recognize this evolution and to support such exchanges to build our capacities in a way that is appropriate and effective.
  10. Whilst charting our own pathways, we cannot set sail in isolation. The SAMOA Pathway reinforced the global commitment to supporting the special circumstances of SIDS. Pacific SIDS are party to 74 of the 300 partnerships launched at the SIDS conference in Samoa. Although there was an incredible display of support, partnerships need to be genuine and durable and ensure coherence in both delivery and reporting. Therefore we are integrating the reporting on the SAMOA Pathway partnerships as part of our regional and national reporting.
  11. Leaving no one behind means that we will continue to mobilize more of our own domestic resources, but recognize our vulnerability and fragility in that one disaster can undo decades of development progress. This means that we will continue to require increasing levels of ODA, disaster risk and response, and climate change financing that is coherent, accessible, and delivered through strengthened national systems at lower transaction costs. This is especially critical in our most fragile and vulnerable countries with limited domestic resources.
  12. We also need the international community to understand and support the unique fragility and vulnerability of SIDS and to widen the definition of ‘fragile and vulnerable’ internationally to include exposure to climate and disaster impacts.
  13. At present the number of Pacific states defined as fragile differs across different indices of three international agencies. Rather than seeking to expand or re-define the different indicators of fragility, we should embrace self-assessment, where Pacific states define our own fragility and vulnerability.
  14. This in turn will need to be tied to the accessibility of concessional development finance from International Financial Institutions to ensure our small island economies are not overly burdened with increasing public debt.
  15. Moving forward, the Pacific will focus attention in the next three years on assessing and strengthening the capacities of our countries to plan for, resource, implement and monitor the SDGs, the SAMOA Pathway and Framework for Pacific Regionalism. This needs to be in an integrated manner that will bring coherence and reduce transaction costs at national and regional levels.

I thank you.

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