Samoa PM Assumes Presidency Of Third SIDS Conference

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Tuilaepa: International action on climate change ‘grossly inadequate’

By Mata’afa Keni Lesa

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, Sept. 2, 2014) – Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, was yesterday voted as the President of the 2014 United Nations Third Small Island Developing States (S.I.D.S) Conference.

In handing over the Chair, the United Nations Secretary-General, Tupua Ban Ki Moon, praised Tuilaepa’s "leadership" and "vision" for rallying Samoa to come together to host the world in Apia.

Decked out in a blue elei-print shirt with a red ulafala, President Tuilaepa wasted little time.

"Our conference is being held on the threshold of some very important events, not only for S.I.D.s but for all the human family," he said during his maiden speech as the President of the conference.

Referring to the upcoming Climate Summit in New York in three weeks time to be hosted by Tupua Ban, Tuilaepa said leaders should take the lead, to support an ambitious climate change treaty in 2015.

"We should announce bold commitments of what we can do, not what others should do," said Tuilaepa.

The Prime Minister said the outcome of the New York summit should send a clear signal to the Lima conference "to negotiate in earnest and in good faith so that Paris becomes the conference of hope for S.I.D.S in 2015."

Tuilaepa reminded that 20 years ago at the Earth Summit in Rio, the Alliance of Small Islands States insisted on placing climate change on the international agenda. This has remained a priority item since then.

But President Tuilaepa is not happy.

"Our message is the same today as it was in Rio in 1992 and that is climate change is a global problem and yet international action to address it remains grossly inadequate," he said. "Small island states contribute the least to the causes of climate change yet suffer the most from its effects."

The conference’s President said "sympathy and pity will not provide solace nor halt the disastrous impact of climate change." This is why S.I.D.S are calling on "our global partners to step forward and commit to address once and for all the root causes of climate change.

"And in the implementation of your national commitments, S.I.D.S’ vulnerability should not be advanced or used as the reason for doing so. What individual countries do is first and foremost for the benefit of your people and their own economies by necessity and survival."

As for S.I.D.S, Tuilaepa said they have no choice but to mitigate and adapt to the changing environment no matter what.

"It is the future of our people that is at stake, hence why we have to act now, not tomorrow, with or without the support of others."

Tuilaepa also urged organisers to take concrete steps to stem rising sea levels, noting that critical problems do not recognise borders and hold no respect for sovereignty.

"The big problems of our small islands will sooner rather than later impact every country irrespective of level of development of prosperity," he said.

"There are always great opportunities to deliver moralistic statements and declarations of intent. But grandstanding won't achieve our cause."

Sharing the podium with Tuilaepa was Tupua Ban who urged the international community to support sustainable development in S.I.D.S through multi-stakeholder partnerships.

"By addressing the issues facing S.I.D.S we are developing the tools we need to promote sustainable development across the entire world," Tupua said.

Speaking about the climate Summit on 23 September at UN Headquarters in New York, Tupua said the conference is meant to catalyse action and build momentum for a climate agreement to be discussed next year in Paris.

"S.I.D.S will have an important role to play. You can tell the largest emitters what action you expect from them. And you can show how you are working to build resilience and create the green economies of the future.

"You can set an example for the world."

According to the UN New Centre, S.I.D.S is being held in the Pacific to demonstrate first-hand the challenges and opportunities facing countries in the "small island developing states" group.

These include high costs for energy and transportation, susceptibility to natural disasters, and vulnerability to external shocks.

The island nations are also prime destinations for tourism, naturally endowed with 'green energy' resources like sun and wind, and driving so-called 'blue growth' economy linked to marine and maritime sectors.

The overall goal, particularly since the four-day conference's final document has already been hammered out, is to form genuine and durable partnerships among the various participants, with the aim of strengthening island initiatives that can help address global issues.

"Lasting progress can ultimately only be achieved within a propitious international environment that supports national efforts," John Ashe, President of the current General Assembly session said in his opening remarks.

At the time of the opening, at least 287 partnerships were already registered on the official website.

A common theme throughout the pre-conference events and yesterday’s opening is climate change, and efforts to stem its impacts.

In addition to the plenary session, six so-called 'partnership dialogues' have been organized on the themes of sustainable economic development; climate change and disaster risk management; social development in SIDS, health and non-communicable diseases, youth and women; sustainable energy; oceans, seas and biodiversity; water and sanitation, food security and waste management.

The topics are related to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which the international community is working to reach by next year's deadline, as well as the sustainable development goals that will follow post-2015.

According to the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, small islands had made less progress on the MDGs than other countries, with some even regressing. One in four Pacific islanders live below the poverty line, according to a

UN Development Programme's (UNDP) 'State of Human Development in the Pacific' released Saturday.

Promotion of adequate health services and basic education, as well as prioritizing social protections in national budgets are some of its recommendations.

The conference continues. Meantime, Tupua Ban left Samoa last night.

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