The problems affecting Small Island Developing States (S.I.D.S.) are as far removed from the idyllic tropical holiday as the picture perfect postcard that is sent home by the tourist.
But how does one capture in a photo for a postcard the rising seawaters that are affecting our aquifers, the increasing intensity of extreme weather events such as cyclones or the land based pollution destroying the lively hoods of people in small fishing villages?
Even if the beach is a beautiful strip of sand being lapped at by crystal clear water, what of the untreated human waste, the plastic garbage that is often left out of the picture frame?
According to the United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Gyan Chandra Acharya , if this S.I.D.S. reality is not addressed now, it could very quickly become a reality for countries across the globe.
Speaking to the Samoa Observer, Acharya said the islands are on the frontline for the many issues affecting the world.
He said this is why problems such as rising sea levels, climate change and human waste must be addressed now.
“Not only (is it) important for the small islands it is important for the international community,” he said.
“Because you can already see what is going to happen to everybody else if you do not deal with that right now.
“Because they (S.I.D.S.) are on the front line, like the canary in the mines…if there is a lack of oxygen in the mines the canaries would be the ones who would facing it. So it is just like that.”
He said this is the message that needs to get across to the global community.
“This is not a distance issue of some countries around the world which are placed in different places,” he said.
“This is something that is going to come to everyone, so it is much better that you look at it now so that you can prevent those from happening elsewhere and also to help them (small islands) get out of it.”
Acharya said while it was true S.I.D.S. faced similar challenges to the larger countries, some were uniquely their own.
“What we have found is that there are common challenges with the small island countries faced together with others (larger nations),” he said.
“Employment - the youth employment in particular, the health the issues to women’s participation (and) economic growth – these are common challenges that you see from everywhere.
“But there are also challenges which are peculiar to the small islands.
“The oceans because all of them have the ocean as their reference, they would like to say that they are the custodian of the ocean.
“Which is a very important expression of their commitment to the ocean and how dependent they are on the ocean. That is very clear and also climate change and its impact.
“And also we have seen energy as a major issue we went around everywhere in the islands.
“The cost of producing energy is very high the cost of transportation is very high partly reflected in that.
“So these are some of the core issues which have a reflection on a their economic growth to sustainability of that.”
He said while the upcoming 2014 Third S.I.D.S. conference will form dialogues with the potential of multi-stakeholder partnerships to deal with these issues – a global perspective must be taken in these discussions.
“We are looking at the importance of the issues not only for the small islands. sometimes we say this is a conference about small islands,” Acharya said.
“But when we look at that we are looking at it from the global perspective learning at how it is being done there or unlearning some of the things that we have been doing that is also very, very important.
“And then also creating a kind of multi-stakeholder partnership, that is the theme of this conference to develop genuine partnerships.
“They are looking towards the collaboration, corporation and the partnership and this has to be part of the dialogue and part of the action as well.
“I think that is a very important perspective and we are hoping by way of that we are taking lessons from the small islands because this is how we should be looking at globally all the issues.
“We are looking at the islands now because that is interconnected even if you look at the other depletion of natural resources now even the land base resources.
“We can learn a lot from all of that so that is our aim.”
The Under-Secretary-General said that by hosting the conference in Samoa the United Nations hopes a further step will be taken towards mobilising the international community, mobilising international support and mobilise multi-stakeholders.
“Everybody at the global level are now realising that,” he said.
The reason these issues must be discussed globally is because of what he called “anthropocene”.
According to anthropocene.org, anthropocene means every living thing affects its surroundings, but humanity is now influencing every aspect of the earth on a scale akin to the great forces of nature.
“There are now so many of us, using so many resources, that we’re disrupting the grand cycles of biology, chemistry and geology by which elements like carbon and nitrogen circulate between land, sea and atmosphere,” the website reads.
“We’re changing the way water moves around the globe as never before.
“Almost all the planet’s ecosystems bear the marks of our presence.”
Acharya said at one point, humans were at the receiving end of the evolution of the world.
“But now we are creating defining the future of the world for the first time in the history,” he said.
“It was always something else that defined the earth, but now our activities by doing something or by not doing it we are the most defining features of the evolutionary process…by way of all the activities we are doing.”
He said this is why multi stakeholder processes are critical the private sector plays a very important role the civil society plays a very important role academia, the government obviously because of the rules and regulations and the media for example the youth media, women all of that.
“All have to work together because it is about changing our thinking, then the way of life and then ultimately binging on long term change,” he said.
“That won’t happen tomorrow…you really need a long term commitment.”
Source: Samoa Observer