Small Island Developing States (SIDS)
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are maritime countries that tend to share similar sustainable development challenges. These countries are across the globe in the Caribbean, the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean and South China Sea. An estimated 60 million people live in Small Island Developing States. These are broken down into three geographic regions, with each region having its own regional cooperation body. These are:
Regions Regional cooperation body
Caribbean The Caribbean Community
Pacific The Pacific Islands Forum
Africa, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean The Indian Ocean Commission
and South China Sea (AIMS)
The SIDS was first recognized as a distinct group of developing countries at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in 1992.
Subsequently following key documents have been produced to assist the SIDS in their sustainable development efforts –
Barbados Programme of Action (BPOA) of 1994,
Mauritius Strategy of Implementation (MSI) of 2005 and
SAMOA Pathway of 2014.
They face various challenges like Small but growing populations, Limited resources, Remoteness, Susceptibility to natural disasters, Vulnerability to external shocks, Excessive dependence on international trade and Fragile environments. But the most burning challenges at present faced by them is that of climate change.
Potential impact of climate change
On Human settlement (displacement): In most SIDS, narrow coastal plains provide attractive locations for human settlements. In some countries, particularly low islands and microatolls, resettlement outside the national boundary may have to be considered. Implementing this could become extremely complicated, however, especially for densely populated coastal lowlands.
On Water resources: Climate change and sea-level rise are likely to threaten freshwater resources through saltwater intrusion within freshwater aquifers.
On Food security:
Subsistence agriculture is under stress due to shortage of freshwater, heat stress, changes in extreme weather events, such as tropical cyclones, Floods and droughts.
The availability of fish can be affected by changes in water temperatures
Global warming can threaten the diversity of marine ecosystems such as coral reefs (due to coral bleaching), the habitats of endangered species and the breeding sites of sea birds.
Coastal erosion (The loss of land along coastlines due to sea-level rise) will have profound adverse impacts on the tourism industry and on infrastructure.
For most SIDS, tourism is an important contributor to national economies.For example, tourism accounts for 95 per cent of the gross national product in the Maldives.Tourism could be disrupted through the loss of beaches,coastal inundation, degradation of coastal ecosystems, saline intrusion,damage to critical infrastructures, and the bleaching of coral reefs.
Many SIDS lie in the tropical zone, where the climate is favourable for the transmission of tropical diseases. With a warming climate there could be even more of an increase in the incidence of these diseases.
On Socio-cultural resources:
Sea-level rise and climate change, coupled with other environmental changes,have already damaged some coastal protected areas and traditional heritage sites in several Pacific islands.
Need of an integrated approach: SIDS require integration of appropriate risk
reduction strategies with other sectoral policy initiatives in areas such as sustainable development planning, disaster prevention and management,
integrated coastal management, and health care planning.
Recognize it as a global problem: It is not just island people who are at risk from climate change: 60% of humanity live in coastal areas and therefore share vulnerability to climate change and sea level rise. Low lying coastal areas in all countries are threatened, including agriculturally productive river deltas.
Reduction in GHG emissions: GHG emissions are projected to grow by 50% by 2050. Any amount of decrease in GHG emissions cannot save the islands from sinking, but a significant decrease in emissions could delay the island nations from becoming uninhabitable, thereby postponing the burden of accommodating mass migration.
International assistance: Some of the adaptation options identified by SIDS may be costly and beyond their financial capacity. The governments of these countries will therefore need international assistance
Focus on adaptation & mitigation: Adapting to ongoing and future climate change is critically important for SIDS. At the same time, focus on mitigation also by focusing on activities which reduce fossil fuel dependency and increase electricity services are vital for SIDS to meet their sustainable development objectives, especially on energy security.
Have adequate data for effective adaptation planning: Most SIDS have not yet been able to undertake an in-depth, nationwide climate change impact and vulnerability assessment in an integrated manner. Without such national assessments decisions on adaptation will be problematic.
Facilitate migration: More people are likely to migrate from coastal areas of SIDS. Thus the international community should be ready to share the responsibility of domestic as well as cross-border migration.
Need of a single-purpose forum: For facilitating migration we need a forum to enable negotiations regarding the legal status of migrants and develop adaptive strategies in the destination country to guarantee and to protect dignity and cultural identity of the displaced in the destination country.