27 September 2019: The high-level meeting to review progress on the priorities of small island developing States (SIDS) through the implementation of the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway adopted a High-level Political Declaration, which will be submitted to the plenary of the UNGA for its formal adoption. The Declaration expresses concern about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C.

Opening the meeting, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President, said that despite contributing less than 1% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, SIDS are often hit the hardest by the climate crisis. UN Secretary-General António Guterres said SIDS are on the frontline of protecting and conserving the ocean. He underscored that helping SIDS to achieve the 2030 Agenda will yield tools, lessons and examples for the entire world.

Prime Minister of Fiji Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama called for countries to be classified on the basis of their vulnerability, instead of classifications such as middle-income countries (MICs) or least developed countries (LDCs). Vinzealhar Ainjo Kwangin Nen, a youth representative from Papua New Guinea, said the Political Declaration, and efforts to implement the SAMOA Pathway, do not go far enough to address issues facing youth in SIDS.

A roundtable discussion on progress, gaps and challenges discussed a range of topics, including climate finance, integration of the SAMOA Pathway into business and strategic plans, graduation and disaster risk reduction (DRR). Participants recognized unique challenges faced by SIDS, including small populations and landmasses, and vulnerability to external shocks. Mami Mizutori, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for DRR, said the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) is scaling up the use of “Joint National Adaptation Plans” (JNAPs) that link DRR and adaptation strategies in SIDS, to ease the implementation of two frameworks. She also reported that indicators are being developed for the SAMOA Pathway, and UNISDR will provide training for reporting on the indicators.

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, Saint Lucia, for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the lack of accelerated, meaningful actions to implement agreed goals and fulfill agreed commitments and obligations threatens the very existence of SIDS. Prime Minister Charlot Sawai, Vanuatu, for the Pacific Islands Forum, called on Member States, the UN system and development partners to meet the commitments in their Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement on climate change. He called on the Group of 20 (G-20) and G-7 countries to phase out fossil fuel subsidies and increase investment in SIDS. President of Micronesia David Manuel remarked on the time spent on reporting on the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway and 2030 Agenda, and called for a SIDS-specific reporting template. He requested that the UN make data and statistics for small populations available in a user-friendly way.

The UN system must provide continuous assistance to SIDS, not only when disaster hits.

The roundtable on priorities, solutions and the way forward highlighted the importance of partnerships and helping SIDS “build back better” after disasters, and identified the blue and digital economies as “accelerators” that can be used to help SIDS to advance. In a keynote address, Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), called for concessional funding and special trade treatment for MICs in the Caribbean. Noting that Caribbean countries have debts of USD 52.6 billion, she proposed a “debt for climate adaptation swap” initiative to finance a resilience fund. Moderator Achim Steiner, UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, said the UN system must provide continuous assistance to SIDS, not only when disaster hits.

Participants adopted the High-level Political Declaration of the Mid-Term Review of the SAMOA Pathway by acclamation. The Declaration outlines progress, gaps, and challenges in implementing the SAMOA Pathway, before turning to calls for action. In the preamble, the Declaration notes with concern the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C. The Declaration urges a number of actions, including:

  • targeted measures to eradicate poverty, and the implementation of nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures;
  • peer learning, to better manage transitions and graduation;
  • support for strengthening national institutional capacities to access finance in SIDS and fostering enabling environments to overcome obstacles in accessing remittances, and to facilitate and attract foreign direct investment;
  • strengthening of SIDS’ capacity to participate in the multilateral trading system;
  • examining the disaster-related funding environment with a view to the possible development of a targeted voluntary disaster fund, mechanism or financial instrument to assist SIDS in managing disaster risk and recovery; and
  • support to SIDS to mitigate and adapt to climate change through diverse approaches, including by exploring debt swap initiatives.

The Declaration calls upon relevant entities to take corresponding actions, including:

  • the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to continue to support SIDS to enhance capacity for trade expansion and competitiveness;
  • the UN Committee for Development Policy to duly consider the vulnerability of SIDS in monitoring the progress of SIDS that have graduated from LDC status;
  • relevant institutions, funds and facilities to review their financing instruments to maximize accessibility, effectiveness, transparency, quality and impact; and
  • the UN Secretary-General to identify the SAMOA Pathway priority areas not covered by the SDGs or the Sendai Framework for DRR and, if any are identified, to develop targets and indicators for those areas.

The high-level meeting took place at UN Headquarters, New York, on 27 September 2019, the half-way point of the decade 2014-2024 covered by the SAMOA Pathway. [IISD RS Coverage of High-level Meeting] [IISD RS Summary of High-level Meeting] [UN News Story] [UN Webpage on Samoa Review] [President of UNGA Statement] [UN Secretary-General Statement]