The international UN conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) recently convened to discuss the sustainable development of SIDS with government leaders, businesses, scientists and civil society. Climate change has particularly profound implications for the development of SIDS, affecting their food security, livelihoods, and economies noted FAO’s Director-General José Graziano da Silva. Graziano da Silva also said that coping with climate change should be seen as more than just a question of survival for small island countries – the international community should view it as a challenge to take unified action and notch up efforts to shift to a sustainable model of development.
“Climate change is happening before our eyes. Rising sea levels, higher air and sea surface temperatures, and changing rainfall patterns are affecting countries worldwide. But there is no doubt that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are more vulnerable,” the FAO chief said during remarks delivered at the 3rd International UN Conference on SIDS in Apia, Samoa (1-4 September).
Long-term thinking and a more holistic approach are necessary, said Graziano da Silva, explaining: “To ensure food security you cannot simply give a person bread. You need to help him produce food; you need to adapt to climate change; you need to ensure him access, including by social protection; you need to ensure a diversified diet that guarantees adequate nutrition.”
SIDS are a group of island countries, mostly from the Pacific, Caribbean, Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions that, while diverse, face similar development challenges. These include small populations, limited resources, susceptibility to natural disasters, vulnerability to external shocks and a high level of dependence on international trade.
The growth and development of SIDS is often further hampered by high transportation and communications costs, expensive public administration and infrastructure, and limited opportunities to create economies of scale.
Graziano da Silva highlighted three key fronts where action is needed to promote greater resilience and sustainable development in SIDS:
- Helping them improve their management and use of natural resources;
- Strengthening local food production and building local and regional consumption circuits;
- Strengthening the resilience of communities in the face of natural disasters and emerging climate-related challenges.