Sustainable development of Small Island Developing States a global litmus test

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"We want more than just survival. We strive for sustainable development." - FAO Director General at SIDS Summit in Samoa

Photo: ©FAO/Prakash Singh
Transporting seedlings to the Maldive Islands. SIDS are highly dependent on agricultural imports.

3 September 2014, Apia, Samoa/Rome - Coping with climate change should be seen as more than just a question of survival for small island countries - the international community should view it as a challenge to take unified action and notch up efforts to shift to a sustainable model of development, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.

"Climate change is happening before our eyes. Rising sea levels, higher air and sea surface temperatures, and changing rainfall patterns are affecting countries worldwide. But there is no doubt that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are more vulnerable," the FAO chief said during remarks delivered at the 3rd International UN Conference on SIDS in Apia, Samoa (1-4 September).

Climate change has particularly profound implications for the development of SIDS, affecting their food security, livelihoods, and economies, he noted.

Long-term thinking and a more holistic approach are necessary, said Graziano da Silva, explaining: "To ensure food security you cannot simply give a person bread. You need to help him produce food; you need to adapt to climate change; you need to ensure him access, including by social protection; you need to ensure a diversified diet that guarantees adequate nutrition."

SIDS are a group of island countries, mostly from the Pacific, Caribbean, Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions that, while diverse, face similar development challenges. These include small populations, limited resources, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks and a high level of dependence on international trade.

The growth and development of SIDS is often further hampered by high transportation and communications costs, expensive public administration and infrastructure, and limited opportunities to create economies of scale. (Learn more)

SIDS also struggle with a spectrum of malnutrition-related challenges, ranging from undernourishment to obesity, Graziano da Silva added, noting that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), nine out of the 10 countries with the highest female obesity rates are Small Island Developing States.

Tackling nutrition issues in the developing world will feature front and center during discussions this coming November at the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), being convened by FAO and WHO in Rome (19th-21st).

Areas for action

Graziano da Silva highlighted three key fronts where action is needed to promote greater resilience and sustainable development in SIDS:

  • Helping them improve their management and use of natural resources:
  • Strengthening local food production and building local and regional consumption circuits
  • Strengthening the resilience of communities in the face of natural disasters and emerging climate-related challenges
FAO's contribution

FAO is working with governments and other partners to promote resilience and sustainable development in SIDS on a number of fronts.

Over the past two years, the Organization has invested over US$ 40 million to support SIDS in their efforts to tackle issues related to food and nutrition security, agriculture, fisheries, forestry and natural resources management.

In the Caribbean, the Organization is supporting the development and implementation of resilience-building and disaster risk reduction plans.

In the Pacific, FAO is actively support the Food Security and Sustainable Livelihoods Program being developed by countries of the region.

And through its new Blue Growth Initiative, FAO is helping Small Island Developing States around the planet sustainably use their aquatic resources to advance food security, better nutrition, and poverty reduction.
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