Press Conference on PREPARATION FOR MAURITIUS
international meeting on SMALL ISLANDS (30 aug.-3 sept.)
Press Conference on PREPARATION FOR MAURITIUS
international meeting ON SMALL ISLANDS (30 aUG. - 3 sEPT.)
UN Headquarters, New York, 29 April 2004
Please note: A Webcast of this press event is
The official Website of the Mauritius conference is on
The international community had a moral responsibility
to protect and help its most vulnerable members, including small island
developing States, Julian Hunte (Saint Lucia), President of the fifty-eighth
session of the General Assembly, said at a UN Headquarters press conference
Briefing correspondents on the upcoming International Meeting to Review the
Implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable
Development of Small Island Developing States, he said that the August
Meeting, to be held in Mauritius, would address the many problems that were
unique to such countries. They included rising sea levels, dependence on
preferential trade agreements, and climate change, which, although not caused
by small island developing States, hurt them dramatically.
His remarks were followed by brief statements by Nandcoomar Bodha, Minister of
Agriculture of Mauritius; Nabuti Mwemwenikarawa, Minister of Finance and
Economic Development of Kiribati; John Briceño, Vice-Prime Minister of Belize;
and Jagdish Koonjul, Permanent Representative of Mauritius to the UN and
Chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).
Speaking first, Mr. Briceño said the 1994 Barbados Programme of Action offered
a blueprint for sustainable development that factored in social, economic, and
environmental concerns. Specific problems faced by the small island developing
States included the recent increase in the frequency and intensity of
hurricanes, as well as rising rates of HIV/AIDS infection, and the high
financial costs associated with combating international terrorism, which
threatened his country's citizens and its many tourist visitors.
Turning to trade issues, he expressed concern over the traditional dependence
of small island developing States on one or two crops. For example, the manner
in which Belize and Saint Lucia relied on sugar and bananas, respectively,
made them extremely vulnerable economically.
Mr. Mwemwenikarawa highlighted the case of the Pacific islands, which were
mainly concerned about climate change. Such weather transformations not only
led to agricultural difficulties and food insecurity, but also to rising sea
levels and ultimate inundation.
Mr. Bodha said he expected the conference to address the issue of how to make
small island economies viable, while accounting for their diversity. Despite
their vulnerabilities, small island States had potential, he added.
Asked how implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action was progressing,
Mr. Koonjul said that small island States had not received all the resources
that had been promised by the international community. They had limited
capacity to act on their own and lacked access to modern technology, including
waste disposal techniques that were needed, in part, because of tourists. Also,
globalization and trade liberalization were not benefiting them, and they were
pressure to eliminate tariffs, which brought in crucial revenue. Finally,
small island developing States were not doingtheir part to produce national
strategies to promote development.
Responding to a question about the allocation of resources, Mr. Briceño said
that, although economic assistance had decreased, morethan 42 per cent of
Belize was still designated a protected area.
Additionally, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) had maximized the few
resources available to establish its Climate Change Centre in Belize, which
was something to be proud of. Asked how countries like Kiribati could benefit
from the Kyoto Protocol, Mr. Mwemwenikarawa said he would have to keep
exerting pressure on the international community to accede to international
instruments. In the case of the Kyoto Protocol, it was regrettable that the
United States and the Russian Federation had not done their part to help small
island States by ratifying the agreement.
In response to a question about how the experiences of small island States
could caution other countries about their own potential environmental problems,
Mr. Bodha said that everyone should realize that it was in their interest to
preserve and protect the environment. In Mauritius, which benefited from
tourism, building hotels could create environmental and socio-economic crises.
That was why his Government had instituted social funds for people residing in
areas where new hotels were being constructed. It was also important to
maintain the pristine quality of the lagoons, which drew tourists in the first
place. It would be foolish to start something that one could not sustain and
control, he concluded.
Mr. Briceño added that whatever a country did to the environment, it did to
itself. For example, the United States' climate-changing emissions would
affect small island States in the short term, but, in the future, American
farmers would be affected by shifting seasons.
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