Statement to the 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States

Delivered at the 3rd International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Apia, Somoa

Distinguished Delegates

Thank you for the opportunity to share the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific’s (ESCAP) perspectives on and support for the implementation of the future sustainable development path as reflected in the SAMOA Pathway.

ESCAP, the regional development arm of the United Nations, by virtue of its mandate, is an intergovernmental platform where leaders and top policy makers, along with civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders, deliberate and agree on a common vision and mission for the region.

The SAMOA Pathway provides us with a unique opportunity to build on our work and to help further implement past international and regional agreements on our SIDS. The SAMOA pathway not only builds on these agreements, but also augments the agenda by bringing in newer dimensions of integrated approaches to sustainable development. This offers a unique opportunity to the regional commission, to accelerate, align, sharpen and deepen our engagement for Pacific SIDS.

The SAMOA Pathway, as product of collective thinking, requires that we launch collective efforts with our Asia-Pacific member States to promote policy coherence, cooperation and coordination – an area where regional commissions are well-placed to offer leadership, given their edge and mandate.

Recognising this, the SAMOA Pathway and its action plan reinforce the role of regional commissions in supporting implementation and monitoring sustainable development across the SIDS economies.

Delivery on the central theme of the SAMOA pathway – durable and genuine partnerships – must be outcomes-driven and results-oriented. ESCAP’s work will also be more outcomes-driven and results-oriented in the Pacific.

In strategizing the approach of the ESCAP secretariat, we will:

  1. Respect the new pathways of Pacific regionalism, as articulated by the Prime Minister of Samoa;
  2. Support the Pacific’s call for regional solidarity among States;
  3. Recognize the need for nurturing and supporting the Pacific’s sub-regional cooperation and integration; and
  4. Recognize the need to develop regional policy as well as legal and institutional architecture, based on best practice and harmonized standards, that facilitates our Pacific SIDS efforts to navigate and implement the complex futuristic sustainable development agenda, recognising the context and specificities of vulnerabilities faced by their ocean-based economies.

So, how are we planning to achieve these broad objectives?

Enhancing the Pacific’s ownership and voice: ESCAP now offers multiple new subregional stakeholder platforms, within the wider Asia-Pacific platform, which will help to reinforce the Pacific’s voice in defining priorities, and in ensuring that forward-looking implementation of the SAMOA Pathway is very much a SIDS product. To illustrate my point, in recent months, we have made use of existing and newly-introduced sub-regional platforms to effectively feed our regional development dialogue, convening special sessions to hear the priorities of the Pacific within the Asia-Pacific Forum for Sustainable Development (APFSD), at the outreach meeting on Asia-Pacific Sustainable Financing for Development, and the Asia-Pacific Monitoring, Accountability and Evaluation dialogue.

Drawing on the voice of the sub-region, we are reorienting and shaping ESCAP’s sub-regional strategy for the Pacific: This strategy recognises the need for effectively mainstreaming sustainable development across all sectors and seeking support from our intergovernmental platform to help with finance, technology and other means of implementation for the effective execution of the SAMOA Pathway.

Promoting green transformation: At the centre of our policy-making advice and support has been the need to equip and institutionalize the Pacific’s inclusive, sustainable, and green growth path. This has called for policy-makers to adopt suitable models and effective approaches and tools for holistic planning and policy coordination. Some countries and groups in the Pacific have already started to draw on the technical expertise and knowledge platform of ESCAP on green growth, and others are beginning to adopt these approaches.

Capacity development for national sustainable development strategies: To encourage effective national sustainable development strategies, their assessment and operationalization, ESCAP is working with Pacific regional bodies to develop capacities of our Pacific SIDS in this area.

Promoting regional connectivity: Economic and trade diversification, key to sustainable, inclusive and higher growth in the subregion, cannot occur without regional and subregional connectivity. This has led to reflection on how we can contribute to an enabling environment for sustainable regional development of the maritime sector with supportive, conducive, and renewable energy policies. ESCAP will also be supportive of Pacific ICT, and will explore the subregion’s connectivity with the rest of Asia through the Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway.

Response to shared vulnerabilities: The Pacific SIDS face a range of vulnerabilities induced by climate change, which aggravate social and economic disparities. Enhancing climate change adaptation frameworks, we are examining the impact of climate change on migration. In this area, regional cooperation supported by proper policy and legal frameworks will have high payoffs and lay the preconditions for engagement in seasonal jobs, that would help augment remittances for the economy and livelihoods of people. To deal with social vulnerabilities we also have in place a broad-based social inclusion strategy for the Pacific which, among others, will involve supporting the Pacific Disability Forum, which has been instrumental in raising the political profile of disability issues, and using the Beijing+20 gender platform to promote further work on Pacific disparities.

Sustainable development of Pacific’s natural resource management: Nurturing integrated policy and management approaches, ESCAP and its secretariat will support the implementation of Pacific regional initiatives such as the Palau Declaration on Oceans, which recognizes the Pacific’s Oceans as a regional and global commons.

Natural disaster risk reduction (DRR) programme: ESCAP, through its DRR programme, offers remote sensing information generated by satellites of our member States. Capacity development of disaster management authorities, and installation of geo-portals, will facilitate early warning signals of weather disruptions to the SIDS.

Regional statistical and data development: Getting statistics and data right will help craft the Pacific region’s sustainable development goals and targets, as well as to facilitate their implementation. In this area, the ESCAP Statistics Committee has already mandated the secretariat to launch a broad-based approach to statistics development and capacity building of the national statistical offices and systems. Durable, genuine and holistic partnerships will help in this context. ESCAP’s Statistics Division, in partnership with ESCAP’s Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific (SIAP) in Japan, and in close collaboration with the regional statistical bodies of the Pacific, will contribute to enhancing capacities and innovations to generate new data, such as for the system of environmental and economics accounting, and will explore ways to exploit and use big data to enhance statistics. Effective coordination in statistics is critical, as evidenced by the fact that today we only have reliable data for twenty one per cent of the proposed 169 targets for the SDGs in the Pacific.

To conclude, the SAMOA Pathway has further defined the role and responsibilities of the regional commission in the implementation of the SIDS sustainable development agenda and associated areas. Regional advocacy, policy coherence, cooperation and coordination are critical to catalyse effective and harmonised national strategies and implementation, as well as to promote durable results, policies and partnerships.

I thank you.