Seychelles President James Michel has said that Commonwealth leaders have recognized the inherent vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and their need for specific developmental mechanisms to address core challenges such as food security and climate change. The President attended the Executive Retreat of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting this morning.
“As we approach Rio 2012, it is a simple truth that SIDS are more in debt, more vulnerable, and with less finance than in 1992. Sustainable development is still a dream. If we cannot sustain islands, if we cannot achieve sustainable development in these societies that are simply microcosms of our global society, then we may as well agree that sustainable development is not possible,” said President Michel following the meeting.
President Michel said that islands can be the true laboratories for sustainable development and urged other leaders to consider green economy and blue economy projects to be targeted in SIDS. He also emphasized the need for climate change mitigation to be a priority for future consideration.
“The biggest challenge for all developing countries is the lack of genuine fast start climate change adaptation funds. These funds are critical for Small Island Developing States and their survival. These can be, for example, invested in renewable energy that can boost SIDS economies and less their vulnerability to imported oil prices, as well as create new business ventures where energy can be sold to the national energy grid,” said President Michel.
Mr. Michel also noted that the majority of climate change adaptation funds pledged by individual states are being channeled through existing Overseas Development Channels, which exclude middle income countries which include SIDS, and therefore SIDS are often found in this ‘middle income trap.’ The President urged Commonwealth leaders to treat this matter with urgency.
On the issue of food security, the President said that the Commonwealth efforts to address the global demand for food were admirable, and the small islands in particular would benefit from initiatives to address food insecurity in the African region.
President Michel commended the Australian Government for the commitment of $36 million for the strengthening of food security and bringing about transformative change in agricultural productivity.
Australia will also host in 2012 an international conference for food security in Africa and has also announced that it will create the Australian International Centre for Food Security.