BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The joint embassy of the Eastern Caribbean States representing Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines brought together a cross section of stakeholders from the Caribbean and across the EU in Brussels on 10 July 2014 at the Press Club Brussels to address the future of small island developing states (SIDS)
The ‘Breaking the Myth of Paradise: The Future of SIDS’ symposium comes two months before the third global conference on small island developing states in Apia, Samoa, and in the year which the United Nations has designated as the International Year of Small Island Developing States. The third Global Conference builds on the Barbados Plan of Action adopted in 1994 and later the Mauritius Strategy which ensured that the specificities of Small Island States were a part of the global development discussion. The aim of the symposium was to ensure that the SIDS agenda was fully appreciated in important political capitals such as Brussels, the seat of the European Union, and also to ensure the integration of the SIDS vernacular in the development discourse in configurations such as the ACP and CELAC.
Dr Len Ishmael
Dr Len Ishmael, ambassador and head of mission to the EU, in setting the stage cautioned that the SIDS agenda should not be one that is presented once every five years at summits for the sake of doing so but should be functionally incorporated into all multilateral fora, policy prescriptions and supporting policy frameworks. In debunking the ‘myth of paradise’ panellists covered a range of topics including the geopolitical environment in which SIDS found themselves, international trade, climate change and energy and the need for a new development paradigm for the so called ‘middle incoming highly indebted and highly vulnerable SIDS’ as well as new approaches and fora where SIDS can maximise impact and achieve results.
The highlight of the daylong symposium was the presence of the prime minister of St Lucia, Dr Kenny Anthony, who gave the keynote address. In his speech, Anthony reminded the audience of the genesis of the SIDS agenda and called on international institutions and development partners to “accept that the vulnerability of small island developing states is multidimensional, in much the same way that it is now understood that the measurement of poverty must be multidimensional.” This, he said, is needed because “there continues to be a stubborn singular reliance on simplistic statistical per capita calculations to drive development policy.”
Anthony also used the opportunity to thank the European Union for their longstanding partnership and urged them to continue working with Caribbean SIDS to devise ways to make real the full benefits of the strategic bi-regional partnership. He reminded the EU that the SIDS agenda is also an EU agenda due to the large number of EU associated island territories in the Caribbean region and also of the need for them to remain engaged and to champion their cause. He urged policy and decision makers to make Apia synonymous with action much like Brussels should become synonymous with reliable partnerships in the context of the SIDS agenda.
The joint embassy of the Eastern Caribbean States partnered with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the EU-LAC Foundation and COLE-ACP to organise the ground-breaking event. The symposium was the first in a series of activities which the joint ECS embassy is organising to push the SIDS agenda in Brussels and in Europe in support of the strategic interests of the four Eastern Caribbean states it represents.