Small island developing states are especially vulnerable to external economic and environmental shocks. At the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa, 1-4 September, the Commonwealth is partnering with the United Nations, governments and international organisations to help build the resilience of these countries.
Part of the discussion, writes Lyn-Marie Blackman, 27, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Barbados, must focus on how policies and development will affect SIDS citizens.
Development and its relevancy to us as citizens
Development is a word that has been in use from time in memoriam to describe the economic and social landscape of our communities. We are all striving to develop in some way or fashion in our lives.
Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is a group of islands that has been striving for such development. Comprised of 52 countries located in the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and South China Seas , they are faced with social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities. The theme of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, “The sustainable development of Small Island Developing States through genuine and durable partnerships”, seeks to further explore development and the relevancy it has for us as a people; from the economic partnerships we forge with international communities to the common man, woman and child having the benefits of living in a country where their lives are reflective of the dignity that is owed to everyone on this earth.
Challenges faced by SIDS
The challenges start with the high level of indebtedness to lending institutions, coupled with the recession. It places a hamper on social services. We have to keep our tourism product innovative in order to ensure the continuance of visitors and investors to our shores. Natural disasters and their outcomes pose another challenge, as evidenced by Haiti’s earthquake in January 2010 and Hurricane Tomas in the Caribbean in October 2010. Proper management of waste resources is needed. Transport and communication technologies need to be implemented and continually upgraded so as to keep in contact with the outside world.
Renewable energy resources are needed, as well as continual dialogue with health organizations on how to manage epidemics such as sexually transmitted disease, Haiti’s cholera outbreak in October 2010, the Chikungunya virus and the Ebola virus. Those health threats can wreak havoc on our vulnerable people and economic products including tourism. There is also wastage in money and other resources by some SIDS who lack the proper knowledge about how to effectively utilize the resource given.
Some solutions on the table
The high level of indebtedness and the recession caused Barbados to implement austerity measures, among then cutting the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s operating costs by 35 million BBD$. Barbadian students now have to pay their own tuition fees to the University of the West Indies  and approximately 3000 public sector workers were dismissed.
Natural disasters have seen many SIDS forming links with the international community to set up emergency funds, and in Barbados disaster preparedness programmes are conducted to educate the populace on what to do in case of a disaster. The proper management of waste in Barbados has seen the introduction of a municipal solid waste tax which goes towards the financial management of waste.
World Environment Day was celebrated in Barbados on June 5th 2014 under the theme: “Small Island Developing States and Climate Change.” A commitment was made to increase renewable energy resources in the island to 29 per cent of electricity consumption by 2029, which in turn will reduce CO2 emissions by 4.5 million tonnes.
The Citizen perspective
The theme of SIDS 2014 underlines sustainable development for SIDS through genuine and durable partnerships. As a citizen I really like this theme because it exposes the reality that we need development, and at the same time asks the crucial question: at what cost does that development happen? Many organizations bring their investments into many SIDS, but some are genuine while others seek to exploit.
When an economic partnership is forged there is agreement on a formula that “Investors + SIDS = Benefits for Everyone”. However, this is not always the case. Some partnerships result in many SIDS governments having to provide lighter taxes for the investor, or give concessions before investment can take place. This type of partnership can have irreparable harm for its citizens, such as debt burden if everything that was promised does not come to fruition on the investors’ part.
As of 2013, youth unemployment in Barbados stood at 30 per cent and general unemployment at 11.6 percent. For a country of our size this is not good. Will the amount of investment on the way cause a reduction in these figures? Many of our young people during the recession have branched off into entrepreneurship, but securing funding has been proving difficult. This has caused many of our young men to go into crime as a way to access a source of income. As well we have seen many of our young women delving into providing unethical services to succeed in life, an alternative which has spurred the growth in health issues including STDs.
How do we move on from here? Having our representatives engage in dialogue continually at conferences? Do these delegates truly reflect the vulnerable in our society; from that working class mother to the lost young men and women, or our senior citizens whose sweat and tears have helped build up our respective SIDS? Are the needs of the vulnerable the deciding factor at the partnership agreement table? The formula is “Delegates + Citizens Concerns + Genuine Partnerships = Success Despite Challenges”.
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About me: I am a conservative and articulate individual with an innate desire to see love, peace and unity triumph. My interests lie in medical research. I enjoy researching medical news from around the world and reporting it in my monthly newsletter entitled L.I.F.E.
I love biomedical science and believe it holds the key to a healthier society. I aspire to become a medical researcher and writer. My focus now is obtaining more exposure for my newsletters: L.I.F.E. and The Believer.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/
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