Representatives from small island developing states around the world met in Cape Verde from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2. (Photo: PROVIDED)

The Virgin Islands is working with other island-state governments to prepare a new programme of action to be adopted at the United Nations Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Antigua and Barbuda from May 27-30, according to Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley.

“There are 49 SIDS around the world, located in the Caribbean, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Sea,” Dr. Wheatley said on Sept. 7 in the House of Assembly. “We are working together, along with our international partners, to create a more enabling international environment for the sustainable development of [small island developing states, known as SIDS,] and to build up our climate resilience.”

2014 conference

At the UN Third International Conference on SIDS in Samoa in 2014, participants agreed that the SIDS are “a special case for support from the international community due to their small size and high vulnerability to external shocks and climate change,” the premier explained.

As a result, the islands adopted the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action Pathway — known as the SAMOA Pathway — which set out a programme of action for support and partnerships for SIDS over the course of 10 years.

“Now, a new international framework for SIDS is being developed to succeed it,” Dr. Wheatley said. “The Virgin Islands has been actively engaged in this process.”

As part of that effort, he added, the VI attended a preparatory meeting last month in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

“We reminded our Caribbeancolleagues that we are not eligiblefor official development assistance,concessional financing or other international support due to our percapita income and political status, which was even more acute after hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated our islands,” he said of the Aug. 8-10 meeting.

“Our neighbours agree with our position that this is unjust, especially as it concerns recovery from a hurricane, building up climate resilience and sustainable development. Text to reflect this was included in the outcome document of the Caribbean meeting.”

Cape Verde meeting

The territory promoted a similar message at a subsequent meeting of SIDS from every region in Cape Verde from Aug. 31 to Sept. 2, according to the premier.

“The Virgin Islands again led the way in making the case that the combined 20 associate members of both the UN regional commissions in the Caribbean and the Pacific should receive international support because they have the same challenges as other SIDS in terms of size and high vulnerability to external shocks,” he said.

All the SIDS, he added, agreed to include a clause in the final outcome document calling for international support to associate members.

“[United Nations] agencies such as [the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean] and the UN system will now be able to leverage this provision to argue that they should be permitted to use their budgeted funds on the associate members, which has been a limitation in their ability to support us,” he said.

“It is also timely as we seek additional UN assistance to support our implementation of our National Sustainable Development Plan.”