- More than 2,000 participants from the world's 51 small island developing states (SIDS), their traditional partners from other countries, including some 25 heads of State and government, are participating in the Mauritius summit. The summit follows up on a Global Conference organised in Barbados ten years ago.
A minute of silence to remember the victims of the recent Indian Ocean tsunami opened the inaugural session of the International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States in Mauritius this morning.
- Our heart goes out to all those who have suffered and continue to suffer and we wish to reiterate here our heartfelt sympathy and solidarity with all the countries and peoples hit by the tsunami, said Paul Bérenger, Prime Minister of Mauritius, in his opening speech.
The Mauritius meeting is being organised by the UN in collaboration with its various agencies. Over the next four days the 2,000 participants will review the implementation of the SIDS programme of action agreed upon ten years ago at a Global Conference in Barbados.
- The task for the International Meeting is a critical one for SIDS, said Anwarul Chowdhury, Secretary-General of the meeting. "Despite the efforts made by small island developing states, the expectations for international support and cooperation for the implementation of the Barbados Programme have not materialised," he continued.
Emerging issues such as HIV/AIDS, trade and security had further compounded the problems facing these small island nations made vulnerable by their size and isolation, Mr Chowdhury said. In order to make "meaningful headway" he added, "the priorities that are set here in Mauritius must not only be realistic and achievable, but should command the full and genuine support of the international community."
Mr Chowdhury indicated that many small island developing states had introduced domestic reforms in macroeconomic policies to facilitate their integration into the global economy. "The smallness and remoteness of the SIDS continue to pose serious problems in providing international aid and enhancing foreign investments," he said. He urged the small islands to increase their efforts to hasten the pace of regional economic integration.
Earlier Mr Chowdhury had met with the President of Mauritius, Sir Anerood Jugnauth and complimented him on the progress made by Mauritius towards social and economic development, primarily in the areas of tourism, clothing, textiles and information technology. Earlier Mr Chowdhury had separate meetings with the Mauritian Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaya Krishna Cuttaree and the Minister of Environment Rajesh Bhagwan.
Mr Chowdhury underscored the importance of tourism for the development of SIDS. "Tourism can stimulate other sectors like ecotourism, water management, coastal zone management and the development of parks and protected areas. Tourism has a distinct multiplier effect on the lives of its inhabitants, particularly in small island nations," he said.
Another key issue on the agenda is the role of culture in the sustainable development of SIDS. A further important event on the agenda will be a session on "Reducing vulnerability and building resilience of SIDS," to be held on Tuesday. It has been convened by the World Meteorological Organisation and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami.
The Mauritius Meeting is expected to adopt a proactive strategy to further implement the Barbados Programme of Action, which includes priority areas like natural disasters, climate change, wastes, marine resources, freshwater, energy, biodiversity, transport and tourism. The strategy is also to address emerging problems such as market access and new security concerns.
Of the 51 countries grouped as small island developing states (SIDS), the largest number is from the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean. African nations belonging to the group, in addition to the host nation, include Cape Verde, Comoros, Madagascar, Săo Tomé and Príncipe, Seychelles and Zanzibar - a total of seven states.
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