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Small Island Developing States

Commonwealth Secretary-General Calls for Concrete Finance Commitments for Small Island Developing States

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, says Small Island Developing States need concrete commitments for climate finance. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS

Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, says Small Island Developing States need concrete commitments for climate finance. Credit: Alison Kentish/IPS

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA, Jun 3 2024 (IPS) - Commonwealth Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland is calling for concrete commitments to climate finance that will acknowledge the multi-dimensional vulnerability faced by the world’s small island developing states (SIDS).

There are 33 small states in the Commonwealth family, 25 of which are SIDS.

Speaking to IPS news on the sidelines of the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) in Antigua and Barbuda, Baroness Scotland said these nations are struggling with the devastating impacts of climate disasters and economic crises.

“This meeting (SIDS4) is pivotal, especially as we approach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals deadline. The small states have been disproportionately affected year after year. The aspirations and hopes for the small island developing states meeting were exceptionally high,” stated the Secretary-General.

SIDS4 was held from May 27 to 30 and small island developing states leaders used the platform to address their shared challenges and propose joint solutions. The four-day conference, held every decade, featured main and side events by United Nations organizations, the private and public sector, non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, youth leaders, and academia—all working towards a sustainable future for SIDS.

Baroness Scotland says the sense of urgency for action underscores the reality of life on many small island developing states, which are at the forefront of climate disasters and facing unprecedented challenges despite contributing the least to the climate crisis.

“We have witnessed a surge in climate disasters, occurring with alarming frequency. The impact is profound and the need for climate finance is urgent,” she told IPS.

A Confluence of Crises: Climate Change,  COVID-19 and Economic Shocks

The Commonwealth Secretary General says SIDS were already battling with the impacts of climate change when the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated their challenges, dealing devastating blows to their tourism-reliant economies. She says climate change has introduced new diseases, straining health systems and the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia has triggered a global economic crisis, heightening food insecurity.

She says international financial institutions must factor in these realities and recognize the multi-dimensional vulnerabilities faced by SIDS.

“When a hurricane comes and takes everything that you have worked hard for, it does not take the debt with it and dump it in the ocean. It leaves you with more debt at a higher rate.”

“We are not just asking for sympathy or charity. We are asking for concrete actions and commitments to help us adapt to the changing climate and build resilience in the face of disasters.”

SIDS Leaders: An Urgent, Joint Message

The Secretary-General cited the sense of urgency felt and articulated by SIDS leaders such as Prime Ministers Mia Mottley of Barbados and Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda.

“Our leaders are stepping up,” she said. “All of our leaders of the small island developing states are saying, ‘we have to move.”

As the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting approaches, the Secretary-General is hoping to see a continuation of the momentum gained at the SIDS meeting. She stressed the importance of SIDS4 commitments being part of concrete actions at upcoming regional and international meetings, including the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting, the Pacific Islands Forum and the United Nations General Assembly.

The Path Forward

The theme of hope echoed throughout the conference and Baroness Scotland says she too, is hopeful for a resilient future for SIDS, but she says some of that optimism rests on the equitable distribution of climate finance. She says SIDS receive only 1.5% of the UN’s climate funding, despite being disproportionately affected by climate change.

“We are asking for a fair share of the resources that are available to address the climate crisis,” she said. “We are asking for a recognition of our vulnerability and a commitment to help us build a more sustainable future.

There has been a push for specific, actionable plans that can be implemented across various regional meetings and global forums.

The Commonwealth is doing its part. She points to the Climate Finance Access Hub, located in Mauritius, as a source of pride. Through this initiative, member states receive assistance in applying for climate funds, but using data from a number of the world’s leading scientific bodies, including the British Space Agency.  A number of small islands, including Fiji, have benefited from the Hub.

“We managed to get USD 5.7 million for Fiji to create a nature-based seawall,” she said. “And USD 21.8 million for Antigua, Dominica, and Grenada. This is real money, but our countries need to do more to implement the changes.”

At SIDS4 there has been a concerted effort to ensure that while the vulnerabilities of small island developing states are recognized, their strength and resolve are brought to the fore. The conference showcased their struggles, but also their resilience and the fact that with concrete action from the international community, SIDS can have a bright future.

“We are not just talking about the next meeting or the next conference,” Baroness Scotland says. “We are talking about the future of our nations and the future of our people. We are talking about the need for urgent action to address the climate crisis and build a more sustainable world for all.”

IPS UN Bureau Report



IPS UN Bureau, IPS UN Bureau Report, Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4), Antigua, Barbuda, Climate Change Justice, Climate Justice

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