Vulnerabilities of Pacific islands need to be better managed amid global crises

The global economic crises and recent natural disasters have compounded the vulnerabilities of Pacific island developing economies still recovering from the food and fuel crises, and efforts are required at both national and international levels to more effectively manage their impacts.
This was one of the key messages emerging from a high-level meeting bringing together the United Nations and 14 Pacific island economies. The meeting, organized by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), closed today in Port Vila, Vanuatu, with an address by the President of Kiribati, Anote Tong.
The two-day meeting focused on a five year review of the Mauritius Strategy for Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States (MSI) – a blueprint adopted by 129 countries in 2005.
“Pacific Island economies are vulnerable for a number of reasons. They are isolated, small in size, lacking in resources, subject to a high frequency of natural disasters and vulnerable to rising sea-levels,” said Noeleen Heyzer, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of ESCAP, in her keynote address.
“In order to move forward, we must first understand the social, economic and environmental impacts these new risks and vulnerabilities have had on the region. With this knowledge we can then develop appropriate strategies for recovery and long-term plans for sustainable development” she said.
The strategies adopted by the meeting for strengthening the implementation of the MSI include a call on the international community to honour their commitments; the adoption of green growth policies; the strengthening of implementation mechanisms; and adequate budget allocation. Dr. Heyzer noted that “external assistance, through development aid, debt relief and foreign investment, is needed to support the Pacific on its path to equitable economic growth”.
The outcomes of the meeting will be discussed at a three-day Pacific Conference on the Human Face of the Global Economic Crisis starting on Wednesday, 10 February, also in Port Vila. Dr. Heyzer will be joined by Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and chairperson of the UN Development Group, at the conference.
The outcomes will be subsequently considered in May 2010 by the ESCAP Commission session in Incheon, Republic of Korea, as well as by the 18th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) also in May this year. The CSD serves as the Preparatory Committee to the high-level MSI review meeting, scheduled to take place during the 65th UN General Assembly later in 2010.
Ministers and senior officials from Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu participated in the meeting.