Addis Ababa — At the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Apia, Samoa, Mr. Carlos Lopes, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) chaired a side event themed, 'The Paradox of the 'small' securing development opportunities in the face of climate change in Africa Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
In his remarks, Mr. Lopes elaborated on the challenges faced by African SIDS, including geographical disparities, lack of common institutional structures and limited visibility in the international arena.
He however, emphasized that despite the difficulties, African SIDs have the opportunity to exploit their oceans resources, including their sea bed mineral wealth.
"African SIDS are endowed with unique biodiversity, natural resources and ocean resources which they can use to turn challenges into opportunities for a development that create jobs and shared prosperity for their people," he said.
These ocean resources, stated Lopes, represent opportunities for what he described as "new pathways of development." These pathways entail aligning economies towards blue and green economies and rooting them in renewable resources and low-carbon development.
Mr. Lopes recalled the African Union declaration of Heads of State, which calls for 'improved mechanisms towards building resilience of all Small Island Developing States at a global level, and actions that will support Small Island Developing States towards this ambition'. To this end, he said, the need for a paradigm shift which takes into account the benefits of a blue economy for African SIDS was recognised and given due consideration in the AU development agenda 2063.
Opening the side event was the Prime Minister of Cape Verde, who gave examples of how his country is dealing with issues of development under a changing climate. He elaborated on efforts to manage and use limited water resources, enhance and exploit maritime development, and utilise effectively, the full menu of renewable energy sources. The Prime Minister also articulated Cape Verde's aspiration of reaching energy sufficiency with renewable energy sources constituting the entirety of its energy potential to the tune of 100% by 2020. He further reinforced the importance of regional cooperation to address the challenges the country faces as a result of insularity.
The panelists agreed that the Blue economy presents unique opportunities for the African SIDS to exploit their ocean resources, and deal with challenges related to their extreme exposure to climate change impacts.
However, they also recognized other structural problems related to illegal fishing and over-exploitation of fish stocks especially related to limited surveillance capacity in African SIDS and reduced capacity in monitoring and policing their marine borders. The panellists emphasized the need to put in place key measures that boost productivity, facilitate the service industry such as tourism, control illegal fishing and enhance competitiveness, and participation in key global value chains.
However, participants noted that the scale of the challenges facing SIDS are enormous for any single Small Island Development State to deal with on its own and called for cooperation among SIDS, regional cooperation in trade, ocean security, investments and support from the international community vis a vis technology transfer as a key element for transforming economies and societies.
Mr. Lopes concluded by reiterating his earlier statement on the need to strengthen African SIDS visibility in the international arena, provide a strong foundation for the development of blue and green economy pathways and to do this within the context of partnership and international solidarity.
Participating in the panel session were: Minister Jean Paul Adam of Seychelles, Ahmed Abdllah, Deputy Ambassador of Comoros to the United Nations Permanent Representatives, Ms. Natalia Umbelina, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Communities, Secretary of State of Environment - Sao Tome and Principe, Mass Axi Gai, Minister of Fisheries, The Gambia, Devanand Virahsawmy, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, Mauritius, Henri Djombo, Minister of Sustainable Development and Forestry, Republic of Congo, Ambassador Joao Soares da Gama, Republic of Guinea Bissau.