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H.E. Mr. TUILOMA NERONI SLADE Permanent Representative of Samoa to the United Nations Chairman of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)

New York, 26 April 2000


Agenda Item 7: Land and Agriculture

Mr. Chairman,

I am privileged to be speaking on behalf of the 43 member countries of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), 37 of which are member States of the United Nations.

First, may I say that we are honored to be working under your presidency of this 8th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

Mr. Chairman,

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have in common a number of structural problems: smallness; remoteness; narrow resource base; ecological fragility; low resilience to natural disasters; and economic vulnerability. There are, of course, exceptions, but on the whole their potential for revenue generation and for attracting investments is limited.

Agriculture continues to be the backbone of the economy in many SIDS, providing the main source of livelihood for their inhabitants, as well as being a major export earner. It remains the single largest sector in some SIDS regions accounting, as in the Pacific, for over 85 per cent of foreign exchange, and contributing substantially to total employment and gross domestic product. As well, the sector accounts for about 40 to 80 per cent of the labor force. In almost all regions, the agricultural sector is dominated by small-scale semi-subsistence farm households with few large commercial plantations.

Yet, SIDS face major problems with respect to their agriculture and production:

in the past two years or so, in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and in the Pacific, significant production declines have occurred because of serious hurricanes, flooding or droughts associated with the El Nino phenomenon;

notwithstanding its prominence in the national economy, the importance of agriculture is not always supported by the policies of many SIDS; and

agricultural products from SIDS are severely disadvantaged by extreme protectionism in trade practices and affected by fluctuating world market prices.

We note that some of these aspects, including the serious impact of natural disasters on food production, are canvassed in the reports from the Secretary-General. Through you, Mr. Chairman, we would of course wish to register our appreciation for the quality of these reports.

Mr. Chairman,

Sustainable agricultural and forestry practices in small island States are under increasing pressure from the need to provide for growing populations, from industrial development and the effects of tourism. All these activities have significant demands on limited land and natural resources, especially water.

The smallness of our island States means that the effects of the expansion of settlements and infrastructure, the increasing trend of ‘urban drift’, the intensification of agriculture, and the expansion of agriculture into marginal areas or fragile ecosystems, all contribute to the increasing rate with which degradation of resources is occurring, as well as to the increasing threats to the stability and resilience of ecosystems and environment as a whole.

Associated issues, including poverty and the need to ensure food security, remain high priorities for SIDS, requiring the integration of economic, environmental and social components of action to achieve sustainable development.

I should also say that for several SIDS, especially the low-lying atoll countries without land for viable agricultural production, their only real long-term option for food and livelihood lies in the oceans and its resources.

Mr. Chairman,

It would be clear from all this that it is essential for SIDS to have in place sensible and sustainable plans and management schemes. The prospect of integrated planning and management of land-based resources in reality gives way to a more holistic and geographic notion of Island Systems Management (ISM).

Island Systems Management recognizes the need for the management of terrestrial and marine resources within a framework that will take into account the linkages between biological systems. The surrounding marine environment, for instance, exerts strong influence on islands, and the use of the land itself impacts the seas around them in a time frame much shorter than that for larger landmasses. Therefore, it is essential that any management framework be multi-sectoral and takes into consideration the intricate interactions and linkages of biological systems of islands States. In the time ahead, SIDS will be refining and further developing strategies based on such a systems management approach.

Mr. Chairman,


It would be of vital importance, as noted in the reports before the Commission, to ensure effective co-ordination in policy and programme efforts, at both national and international levels.


We note in this respect that Geographic Information Systems (GIS) are becoming an invaluable tool for integrated planning, management and protection of land resources. Small island States in the Pacific region, for example, have established a GIS-User Groups system in order to share and exchange accurate and up-to-date information on the current status and trends of land resources, including their use, tenure and degradation.

The remoteness of island States, makes access and information gathering, storage and dissemination both difficult and expensive. The national capacities and capabilities of individual island States cannot facilitate ongoing site data collection, and the compilation and analysis of historical data such as maps, air photographs and weather information. All these tend to generate large databases. The maintenance of these databases, and the ability to be able to share them between small island states are therefore best carried out through regional data centers. As on other issues, this is an area where regional arrangements and co-operation would be most profitable.

Mr. Chairman,

In preparations for the General Assembly special session last year on the Barbados Programme of Action, the Commission on Sustainable Development at its seventh session identified the following areas of priorities, which are closely related to sustainable agriculture issues, which require priority action, including the means for their implementation: climate change; natural disasters; freshwater resources; coastal and marine resources; energy; and tourism. Member States of AOSIS have not failed to recognize the goodwill and a renewed willingness of the international community to help our countries address these priorities. These are just some of the critical challenges that require attention. We are nevertheless determined to turn these challenges into opportunities, and with the continued support of the international community, we believe that there is every prospect for achievement.

Thank you.

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