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Small islands conference set for the pacific

Bevan Springer | 5/23/2013, 3:56 p.m.
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UNITED NATIONS (April 4) - The first was held in Barbados almost 20 years ago, the second in Mauritius about 10 years later, and it's now official: the third global conference on small island developing states is set for the Pacific island of Samoa.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Wu Hongbo is leading a UN planning mission to Samoa to prepare for the 2014 Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States.

Countries agreed at last year's Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development that greater efforts were needed to assist small island developing states and called for convening a conference in 2014.

Wu, who will serve as the Secretary-General of the Conference, was slated to meet with Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi this week and tour the proposed conference site, which will attract delegations from the Caribbean as well as Indian and Atlantic Oceans representing government and civil society.

The Samoa Conference will follow up on the outcomes of the two previous international conferences on small island developing states held in Barbados in 1994 and Mauritius in 2005.

"Small island developing states are on the front lines of sustainable development and despite their unique vulnerabilities, they never shy away from tackling head-on the social, economic and environmental challenges facing their communities," says Wu. "The world should take notice [of] how these countries are dealing with a range of economic, social and environmental issues, including the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels and extreme weather events. The Samoa Conference will help guide us all toward a sustainable future."

"The decision to hold a small island developing states review meeting in 2014 is important and timely," Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa told the General Assembly in September.

"Coincidentally, 2014 holds special significance for Samoa. Barring any natural catastrophes, we will graduate from the category of Least Developed Countries on Jan. 1 that year. We want to underscore that through genuine partnerships with development partners our small island developing state, also a least developed country, is able to markedly lift the socioeconomic situation of our country and the standard of living for our people."

He added that the success of meetings "should be measured on the quality of the decisions and commitments agreed to, not just on costs and number of participants considerations only."

At Rio+20, countries agreed that small island developing states remain a special case for sustainable development because of their small size, remoteness, small natural resource base and vulnerability to extreme weather events and the impacts of climate change.

The dates for the Samoa conference have not yet been set by the General Assembly, although it is likely that it will take place in September 2014.