Close of meeting of the Atlantic, Indian Ocean, and South China Sea (Aims) sub-regional grouping-‘Custodians of the ocean’ unite



(Top to bottom) Mr Wu, Mr Jeremić, Ms Moses and Minister Adam addressing …


Aims representatives will soon meet with their Caribbean and Pacific island counterparts in Bridgetown, Barbados, to prepare the final position document that reflects the concerns and voices of all the sub-regions in totality to take to the third international Sids conference in Samoa next year.

In his speech at the closing ceremony held on the final day of the meeting last week, under secretary-general of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (Desa), Wu Hongbo, described island nations as the natural ‘custodians of the ocean’, a role that was made clear by the spearheading of the ‘blue economy’ agenda.

“We should be mindful of the fact that your survival depends on healthy, productive and resilient oceans,” said Mr Wu.

“The important issues outlined this week included the urgent need to combat the impact of climate change, the need for renewable energy, the importance of food security and the need to improve access to finance and technology.”

The president of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Vuk Jeremić, said that Seychelles had emerged as a strong proponent of reaching a “fair deal for Sids”, to ensure that what was agreed in principle by the world’s leaders last June in Rio de Janeiro is followed through in practice.

… delegates at the closing of the conference

Mr Jeremić said that the UN’s post-2015 development agenda was being developed in the democratic forum of the General Assembly, the first time the world’s sustainable development was being decided by all 193 member states, each one with an equal voice.

“As a consequence, I believe that in the time to come, Sids will have an unprecedented opportunity to make sure their voice is heard loud and clear—by making full and effective use of their influence as a united voting bloc,” he said.

The UNGA head advocated a greater global sense of responsibility for the world’s oceans, and suggested a stand-alone sustainable development goal on the issue or to work on the creation of an international body to govern the ninety-eight percent of the world’s marine area that remains entirely unregulated.
Mr Jeremić quoted the message of President Michel at his first address to the General Assembly, in September 2008: “Let us help each other to overcome the obstacles in our path. Let us focus on a global vision for the betterment of every nation.”

The UNGA president said that in the five years since those words were spoken, some of the obstacles had been cleared, but that the window of opportunity to prevent the effects of climate change from spiralling out of our control has continued to close.

UN member states have a little over 900 days to agree on a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs), and only about 70 days to draft a clear roadmap for how to effectuate a smooth transition from the MDGs (millennium development goals) to the SDGs. The challenge remains to see how well the needs and concerns of Sids will be represented in the SDGs.

The chairperson of the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis), Marlene Moses, mentioned in her closing speech that the stars seemed to be in alignment like never before for the world to address the sustainable development of island nations, citing the International Year of Sids in 2014, the topical post-2015 development agenda and the key leadership roles taken by several Sids to work towards sustainable development.

“Like the configuration of celestial bodies, it may be decades before a similar opportunity arises to put Sids priorities at the centre of the international system. We have about two and a half years to get the job done,” she stressed.

“We know very well what happens when we come to the table empty-handed,” she said. “Make no mistake, many others will place their priorities and promote their agenda and we cannot allow this.”
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Paul Adam, said the three days of deliberations had been more about bringing opportunities to the fore than talking about challenges.

“In our discussions, we have also highlighted the need for special recognition of the vulnerability of Sids, to move beyond the stale use of GDP per capita as a measure of development. We urge the finalisation of a resilience index that can appropriately be used by the United Nations to better support the development of Sids.”
Mr Adam said that the blue economy would open up a new frontier for the development of Sids.

“If our children are to benefit in future from sustainable fish stocks, it will depend in large part on the empowerment of Sids as guardians and promoters of the blue economy,” he said.
“While many may seek short-term profit from minimal investment, for us islanders the ocean is a way of life and this is the essence of sustainability.”

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