ECOSOC Special Session Urges Building Vulnerable States’ Resilience
UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
story highlights

The session discussed including vulnerability as a criterion for ensuring concessional financing for SIDS.

During a panel discussion on commitments and results to date, many speakers described the impacts of natural disasters and climate change on their countries and regions.

A dialogue on financing a forward-looking resilience building agenda in SIDS reflected on climate finance options, including debt relief, ECLAC’s ‘Debt for Climate Adaptation Swap Initiative,’ fulfilling ODA commitments and replenishing the GCF in 2019.

13 November 2018: The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) discussed innovative solutions to help vulnerable small island developing States (SIDS) build climate resilience during a special session of the Council. The session featured two interactive panel discussions on commitments and results to date and financing a forward-looking resilience-building agenda in SIDS.

ECOSOC President Inga Rhonda King (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) opened the session by inviting participants to make the case for including vulnerability as a criterion for ensuring concessional financing for SIDS. UN Development Programme (UNDP) Director for the Regional Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), Luis Felipe Lopez-Calva, said UNDP supports recognizing SIDS’ vulnerability as a criterion in country classification, including for climate-vulnerable island nations to access concessional financing. The Secretary‑General’s Special Envoy for the 2019 Climate Summit, Luis Alfonso De Alba, said building resilience is an urgent matter for SIDS but recognized that they have difficulty in accessing resources because they are considered middle-income countries (MICs) and sometimes have high debt levels. Colin Granderson, Assistant Secretary‑General, Foreign and Community Relations, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, said middle-income categorization and graduation deny Caribbean SIDS access to concessional financing and low-cost development, leaving them limited fiscal space to build climate-resilient infrastructure. He suggested exploring innovative financial instruments and considering “more open-minded policy approaches,” such as using vulnerability as an additional criterion for accessing concessional financing, creating fiscal space through debt relief and converting bilateral and multilateral debt into special funds to address natural hazards and economic shocks, among other proposals.

Many participants, including King, underscored the continued importance of official development assistance (ODA) alongside other innovative types of financing. The UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Executive Secretary, Alicia Bárcena, said SIDS will not achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development without finding an effective way to adapt to climate change, urging the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to include SIDS’ resilience on its 2019 agenda. She highlighted ECLAC’s ‘Debt for Climate Adaptation Swap Initiative,’ a proposal for the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to acquire Caribbean debt at a discount to give “fiscal breathing space” for countries to focus on building resilience. Lopez-Calva underscored the importance of building strong partnerships to support States to build resilience, as emphasized at the inter-regional preparatory meeting for the SIDS’ Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway mid-term review. He also welcomed SIDS’ embracing the blue economy approach to improve economic diversification.

A holistic notion of resilience encompasses environmental and economic elements as well as economic diversification.

On resilience, King supported a “holistic notion of resilience” that encompasses environmental and economic elements as well as economic diversification. Granderson said the Caribbean is working to become the world’s first climate-resilient region. He emphasized investing in preparedness for climate change and natural hazards as key to establishing resilience and reducing economic and human costs.

On the UN Secretary-General’s 2019 Climate Summit, De Alba said the UN Secretary-General is focusing on adaptation, emission reduction and increasing the resiliency capacity of the most vulnerable countries, among other issues.

The panel themed, ‘Taking Stock: Commitments and Results to Date,’ featured a number of presentations followed by an interactive discussion. Many speakers described the impacts of natural disasters and climate change on their countries and regions, including the psychological and social costs of rebuilding countries. Dominica said her country has established the Climate Resilient Execution Agency to rebuild it following Hurricane Maria, with a central focus on climate resilience. Egypt, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China (G77/China), said the G77/China appreciates the unique needs of SIDS, and identified the SAMOA Pathway review as a platform for action to move forward. Barbados, on behalf of the CARICOM, called for a vulnerability index and new financing mechanisms as well as assistance for MICs. Canada said her country prioritizes ensuring that vulnerable SIDS have access to concessional financing, and supported strengthening the global risk insurance framework. Cuba said the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and the SAMOA Pathway must be implemented as one package.

The dialogue on ‘Next Steps: Financing a Forward-looking Resilience Building Agenda in SIDS’ reflected on climate finance options, including debt relief, the ECLAC debt and the ‘Debt for Climate Adaptation Swap Initiative,’ fulfilling ODA commitments and replenishing the GCF in 2019. Chamberlain Emmanuel, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), described the Caribbean Nationally Determined Contributions Finance Initiative (NDC FI), emphasizing the advantages of a public-private partnership (PPP) approach to improve the quantity and quality of bankable projects. Denis Jordy, Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), World Bank, said the Bank believes partnerships are fundamental for action on climate change and DRR. Participants also shared options to build resilience, such as through reforestation of degraded land and energy efficiency, and recognized the potential for climate change to act as a catalyst for a transition to a green and blue economy.

Maldives, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), said climate change is the biggest challenge for AOSIS, and stressed the importance of also addressing adaptation in SIDS. Nauru expressed concern on the pace of the GCF replenishment, and urged the Fund’s board to promptly agree to a reliable, predictable replenishment process that makes adequate levels of climate finance available to meet the urgent needs of developing States. Nauru further observed that “establishment of an international mechanism on loss and damage” has “waned” as a political priority, and called for speeding up the process to enable vulnerable countries to rebuild from cyclones, droughts and floods. [UN Meeting Coverage] [UN News Story] [ECLAC News Story]

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