NEW YORK, USA — On the front line of damage wrought by climate change, threatened with extinction from rising seas, leaders of some of the world’s small island states took to the podium at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday to call urgently for greater international support to mitigate the perils.
“Disastrously off course,” “profound disappointment” and “moral failure” were some of the terms used by heads of small island developing states, known as SIDS, to depict their situation as the 68th General Assembly prepares to draw up long-term development plans for the decades after the end in 2015 of the current cycle of the anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
“The corresponding actions to address the unique and special circumstances of SIDS by the international community has been lacking,” the prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer, told the Assembly’s annual General Debate, summing up the almost two decades since the Barbados Programme of Action was adopted by at a UN conference on the sustainable development of SIDS in 1994.
“It is a recognized fact, but it is worth repeating that small island states contribute the least to the causes of climate change, yet we suffer the most from its effects. Small island states have expressed our profound disappointment at the lack of tangible action,” he said referring to efforts in UN climate change talks to protect SIDS and other vulnerable countries.
“Developed countries should shoulder their moral, ethical and historical responsibilities for emitting the levels of anthropogenic greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. It is those actions which have now put the planet in jeopardy and compromised the well-being of present and future generations,” the Caribbean leader stressed.
Noting uneven progress in achieving the MDGs, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago, who is also chairperson of Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), warned that current approaches will not advance the MDG agenda by 2015 or ensure sustainable development in the post-2015 context.
“SIDS have made significantly less progress in the area of development, than other vulnerable groups of countries. In some cases SIDS are on the frontlines of experiencing a reversal of many of the gains that have been achieved,” she said.
“Indeed in the preparations for our participation in that upcoming discourse (on the Post-2015 Development Agenda), the recognition of the vulnerabilities of small island developing States is one of the guidelines that CARICOM will apply when considering its commitments to the overall Agenda.”
The officials from small island development countries are among a host of leaders set to speak at the annual General Assembly session at which heads of state and government and other high-level officials will present their views and comments on issues of individual national and international relevance. The debate opened on Wednesday and concludes on 1 October.