Ministers and representatives of the group of Small Developing Island States (SIDS) today held a meeting with the Director-General of UNESCO to examine issues of particular concern to the group, headed by Peter Doyle, Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Ambassador Doyle welcomed the longstanding commitment and support of UNESCO and its Director-General as he opened the event, which brought together 39 SIDS that hold UNESCO Membership and representatives of eight SIDS that are Associate Member States.
He noted growing awareness worldwide of the dangers facing the SIDS because of the devastating effect of climate change on coastlines, the loss of biodiversity, and the remoteness of many SIDS communities which makes it difficult to prepare the young generations to build their own future and protect their specific cultures and indigenous knowledge. Ambassador Doyle called on UNESCO to take the lead in helping SIDS face these challenges.
Several States spoke of the important role UNESCO can play as a facilitator to strengthen networks amongst SIDS, reinforce SIDS-SIDS cooperation and promote the exchange of good practices, a concept that was embraced by the Director-General.
Ms Bokova pointed to the recognition of the SIDS’ specific concerns in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the UN General Assembly in September and said it marked an important step in raising global awareness of the SIDS’ priorities. She also highlighted the importance of the upcoming United Nations Conference on Climate Change, COP21. The Sustainable Development Agenda and the outcome of COP21 will shape the SIDS Action Plan that UNESCO will present to the Organization’s Executive Board in the spring of 2016.
“It will not be the Action Plan of the secretariat of UNESCO, it will be your Action Plan”, the Director-General said, emphasizing the importance of extensive consultations undertaken between the SIDS and UNESCO’s programme sectors and Field Offices.
Ms Bokova further reassured the SIDS’ representatives that both their vulnerability and specific strengths had been fully recognized throughout UNESCO’s long-term programmes and actions, saying that the SIDS have been given priority as an overarching objective in UNESCO’s Medium term Strategy for 2014-2021.
The Director-General and her team provided an overview of the many actions UNESCO has been undertaking in all fields within its mandate, and promised that these actions and programs will be reinforced in the years to come.
The SIDS will be able to use e-learning tools and ICT platforms developed by UNESCO, which will also help island states preserve their heritage, keep their oceans clean, and promote green and blue economies. UNESCO is also undertaking to help the SIDS build resilience against natural disasters, and, in addition to securing regular budget funds, UNESCO will stand beside them in their efforts to raise extrabudgetary resources to make the Action Plan work.
SIDS and their concerns have been addressed in recent science conferences and events, the Director-General said, highlighting the important role of science in combatting climate change.
On 26 and 27 November, UNESCO and France will organize a conference on indigenous knowledge and its role in tackling climate challenges. “The SIDS will be on our agenda throughout the COP21 Conference”, said Irina Bokova, stressing that UNESCO would continue playing its role as an active advocate for the SIDS.