29 August 2014

Africa: Commissioner Piebalgs Calls for a Stronger Partnership With Small Islands Developing States

press release

Brussels — EU Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, will represent the EU at the UN Third International Conference on Small Islands Developing States (SIDS), organised in Samoa from 1 to 4 September. The event, which takes place every 10 years, will aim to put in the spotlight the significant challenges that these small islands face. The Commissioner will confirm EU's renewed commitment to address the special needs and vulnerabilities of SIDS.

Due to their small size, the lack of domestic markets and economies of scale, the SIDS face geographic isolation and have limited institutional capacities. They are all greatly affected by climate change and confronted with rising sea levels, great dependence on highly costly imported fossil fuels, and face frequent natural and man-made disasters.

Ahead of the visit to Samoa (from August 31 to September 2), Commissioner Piebalgs said: "Although thousands of miles may separate the EU and SIDS, we are united by the will to tackle common challenges like climate change, access to sustainable energy, oceans and biodiversity protection, food and nutrition security. Small islands can count on EU's support to face these challenges on the way forward, as we have been, and will remain, a leading donor and a key trading partner for them".

At a stakeholders' dialogue on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management, the Commissioner will highlight ongoing EU cooperation with SIDS in these important areas.

Commissioner Piebalgs will also participate at the Private Sector Partnership Forum, which will be a key opportunity to highlight the role of the private sector in the EU's cooperation with the SIDS, for example through sustainable energy and tourism, or support to Small and Medim Enterprises.

UN high-level officials, including Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, will be present at the conference, and joined by representatives of more than 100 countries, business CEOs, non-governmental organizations, and academics.

Other highlights of the visit

During the visit, Commissioner Piebalgs also visit an EU-funded Water Treatment Plant, which provides drinking water to more than 1,300 families in the Samoan community of Aleisa. Reliable, clean, and affordable water and basic sanitation remain a big challenge for people in the region to sustain health improvements and alleviate poverty. He will also take part in the opening of a Solar Farm, the largest source of renewable energy generation in the Pacific, funded by New Zealand.

Commissioner Piebalgs will as well meet with leaders of the small islands present, including the Prime Minister of Samoa, Mr Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, and with representatives of international agencies, like the Vice-President of the Asian Development Bank, Mr Stephen Groff.

Background

Commissioner Piebalgs' speech at the opening session of the SIDS conference, on Monday 1 September, will be available upon delivery.

The SIDS are a heterogeneous group of 39 countries in the African, Asian and American regions. In spite of their differences and variations, they share common features and needs, face common challenges and experience specific vulnerabilities across the economic, social and environmental dimensions.

The EU's support to SIDS countries under development cooperation and humanitarian aid reached almost €3.5 billion during the period 2007-2012. Moreover, 16 SIDS countries participate actively with projects in the 7th Research Framework Programme, benefiting from an amount of around €9 million.

The EU also provides support to SIDS through the Sustainable Fisheries Agreements, which are agreements with non-EU countries to allow EU vessels to fish in that country's exclusive economic zone, in a legally regulated environment. In return, the EU pays the partner countries a financial contribution, which amounted to €7 million in 2013.

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