The UN's Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), in Apia, Samoa, on 1-4 September, will aim to identify the unique needs and vulnerabilities of island nations and opportunities for international support.
"The challenges facing SIDS are interlinked and cannot be tackled in silo or by one country alone," says conference secretary-general Wu Hongbo. "This calls for collaboration and partnerships, with active engagement by all stakeholders, governmental and non-governmental."
The conference will focus on critical areas where new global partnerships are needed, including climate change, oceans, waste, sustainable tourism and disaster risk reduction.
Various voluntary commitments have already been announced. These include the creation of a Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency, which is intended to tackle the challenges of access to affordable energy, energy security and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Once fully operational, which is due to happen by 2018, the centre will fall under the remit of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
"The centre will assist energy industries in developing countries in taking advantage of growing sustainable energy market opportunities and provide a platform to promote South-South and North-South knowledge and technology transfer," says UNIDO renewable energy expert, Martin Lugmayr.
Other new collaborative projects include the University Consortium of Small Island States, which, with the Spanish government and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, announced plans to develop a degree in sustainable development delivered internationally through an online portal.
In addition, six countries and various organisations have announced support for the Coral Triangle Initiative that will protect the region, which is home to the highest coral diversity in the world.
Maintaining ocean health will be a centrepiece of the conference, according to Milan Meetarbhan, Mauritius' ambassador to the UN, who says this should lead to the development of a global strategy for a healthy ocean economy.
"Given [the ocean's] crucial importance to the international community and to SIDS in particular, the Samoa summit should consider making a clear recommendation in favour of a stand-alone Sustainable Development Goal on the oceans," Meetarbhan says.
The conference will echo and reinforce targets likely to be outlined in the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals (a draft of which was released this week), as many of the topics addressed have global significance, says Wu. It will also contribute to an elaboration of the post-2015 UN development agenda, he adds.
"In particular, [this will be] through discussions on climate change, where SIDS' experiences are providing both an example of the devastating impacts and the outcomes of efforts to fight the phenomenon," he says.
This will be the first SIDS conference in the Pacific. The inaugural conference was held in Barbados in 1994 and resulted in the Declaration of Barbados. This officially recognised the sustainable development needs of SIDS and called for regional and international support to deliver these. The second conference, held in Mauritius in 2005, concluded with the Mauritius Strategy, a further implementation of the Barbados plan with emphasis on the vulnerability of island nations.
Wu said the outcome document for this year's conference will outline priorities for all SIDS and provide a road map for future action to address sustainability priorities.