Small Island Developing States lunch roundtable, 15 July 2016, United Nations Headquarters, New York
The SIDS lunch roundtable, co-organized by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations and UN-DESA, was held on 15 July during the High-level Political Forum for Sustainable Development. This Roundtable was attended by 45 participants of government officials of SIDS and their partners, and UN agencies. It provided the opportunity for government experts from SIDS and non-SIDS, as well as relevant experts from the UN system and civil society organizations, to discuss areas for collaboration in the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway, in the context of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. This dialogue focused on the role of partners in the implementation of the SAMOA Pathway and the realisation of sustainable development in SIDS.
The meeting was moderated by Ms. Mariyam Midhfa Naeem, Counsellor, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations, on behalf of Ambassador Ahmed Sareer, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations.

Ms. Louise Stoddard, Chief, Advocacy Unit, OHRLLS, presented the work of OHRLLS in advocacy and communications, reiterating the importance of amplifying SIDS voices in order to raise awareness of their priorities and spur action. Ms. Stoddard discussed UN resources, including the UN Communications Group overseen by the Department of Public Information, UN social media networks, and the Inter-Agency Consultative Group on SIDS, that can help in SIDS advocacy. Ms. Stoddard shared information on some OHRLLS activities including the “SIDS in Numbers” book on SIDS statistics, a recent public-private partnership meeting in Aruba, an iTunes initiative during the Samoa Conference, a partnership with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, and the OHRLLS SIDS Global Business Network. Plans for the future include a “massive open online course” (MOOC) to promote SIDS issues. In addition, Ms. Stoddard shared initiatives that have worked in the LDC context that could be useful for SIDS as well, including an ongoing social media campaign—#LeastNotLast—and a forum for LDC journalists held in Anatalya in the margins of the LDC mid-term review meeting.

Ms. Irena Zubcevic, Chief, SIDS, Oceans, Climate Branch, Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs then provided an overview of the progress made by Member States and UN system entities toward implementation of the SAMOA Pathway. The presentation focused on the synergies between the SAMOA Pathway and the 2030 Agenda, and on identifying the priority areas in the SAMOA Pathway that are receiving early attention from SIDS and their partners, including climate change adaptation, oceans, and disaster risk reduction. Ms. Zubcevic also presented areas where the SDG Progress Report makes particular mention of SIDS: vulnerability to climate change (SDG13), importance of sustainable use and preservation of marine and coastal ecosystems (SDG 14), reversing extinction risks for vertebrate species in 5 SIDS, low volume of air passenger and air freight, and the ongoing need for partnerships. Emphasizing the importance of the science-policy interface in SIDS, Ms. Zubcevic also shared some key takeaways from the Global Sustainable Development Report sub-chapter on SIDS, which included the need for capacity building in data and statistics and the need to increase research and development investment in SIDS, but also the wealth of SIDS-specific expertise and knowledge—in the natural and social sciences as well as local and traditional knowledge—located in the SIDS regions.

After the OHRLLS and DESA presentations, other UN organizations shared examples of their institutional commitment to SIDS. A resolution on SAMOA Pathway follow up was submitted to UNEA, which ensures that UNEP will address SIDS priority areas in their work program, including on building resilience, building capacity including for monitoring SAMOA and 2030 progress, technology, DRR, climate, biodiversity, SCP and links to sustainable tourism, and supporting an enabling environment for implementation of the SAMOA Pathway. UNEA will report directly to HLPF, including on SIDS issues.

UNISDR noted that the Sendai Framework and the 2030 Agenda will use aligned indicators when tracking progress in the area of DRR, and this approach to monitoring was offered as a useful way to decrease the reporting burden, especially for SIDS.

FAO is also exploring ways to use 2030 Agenda and SAMOA Pathway as a framework for their cross-cutting work on SIDS. They are looking for opportunities for synergy also between their work on fisheries and the upcoming Oceans Conference in Fiji. In addition, the draft action program on food and nutrition challenges in SIDS will be available for consideration in the next few months, and FAO will also support efforts to build data and statistics capacity in SIDS.

Member States then reflected on progress and challenges.

  • SIDS discussed the need to raise the profile and awareness of the SAMOA Pathway in their capitals, especially as so much attention and resources are being dedicated to the 2030 Agenda. National and sub-national governments, as well as communities and individuals, need education and information on how the SAMOA Pathway is relevant and important to them. There is the risk that the SDGs—which are currently “new and exciting”—could overshadow the SIDS-specific agenda contained in the SAMOA Pathway. But countries can use the momentum generated by the 2030 Agenda instead to advance SAMOA implementation at the same time. SIDS and their partners must ensure that the limited resources available to SIDS can advance SAMOA implementation as well as SDG follow up.
  • SIDS and non-SIDS Member States agreed that better communication with UN system organizations—in New York and country-based—is needed to increase awareness of progress and ongoing challenges in SAMOA Pathway implementation. The capital-based SIDS focal points list should be updated and used as a communication channel. The UN and regional organizations should work together to advance implementation in a coordinated way, and the challenges posed by the structures of the regional commissions (i.e. headquarters away from SIDS) should be addressed through improved communication. Improved communication would also ensure that concrete examples like those provided by UN entities at the current roundtable made their way to capitals, as countries make funding and policy decisions.
  • Participants agreed that the UN system needs to proactively pursue their mandated activities, and that Inter-Agency Consultative Group on SIDS could be a platform for ensuring coherence and a strategic approach. The UN should work to ensure coherence also among reporting mechanisms like the SDG Progress report and the SG report on BPOA/MSI/SAMOA.
  • SIDS participants also noted the key links between their New York Missions and capital-based decision makers. Effective communication between Missions and Capital will help to bolster coherence and support national and local implementation, which is the heart of the SAMOA Pathway and the 2030 Agenda. Capital-based colleagues can in turn communicate priorities to New York, on indicators, data capacity needs, and the long-term positioning of the ECOSOC. The New York Missions also create and strengthen valuable SIDS networks across all three regions. The National Voluntary Reviews taking place in the HLPF in New York give countries the opportunity to bring country experiences to the global dialogue and foster peer learning.
  • AIMS SIDS reiterated the need for improved coordination among AIMS countries, since there is currently no dedicated regional coordination mechanism.
  • Member States noted also the importance of representation in the governing bodies of UN organizations since they set the agendas for the organizations. These governing bodies are mandating the mainstreaming of the 2030 Agenda, as reflected in the recent CEB position.

Ms. Naeem closed the meeting by thanking participants for the open, frank discussion and looked forward to continuing to work on improved communication and strategic approaches to implementation of SAMOA Pathway and the 2030 Agenda.
Copyright 2016 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs