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Small Island Developing States

Atlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and
South China Sea (AIMS) (8)

  • Cabo Verde
  • Comoros
  • Guinea-Bissau
  • Maldives
  • Mauritius
  • Sao Tom and Principe
  • Seychelles
  • Singapore
  • Caribbean (16)

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Belize
  • Cuba
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Suriname
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Pacific (13)

  • Fiji
  • Kiribati
  • Marshall Islands
  • Micronesia (Federated States)
  • Nauru
  • Palau
  • Papua New Guinea
  • Samoa
  • Solomon Islands
  • Timor-Leste
  • Tonga
  • Tuvalu
  • Vanuatu

  • American Samoa
  • Anguilla
  • Aruba
  • Bermuda
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Commonwealth of Northern Marianas
  • Cook Islands
  • Curacao
  • French Polynesia
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guam
  • Martinique
  • Montserrat
  • New Caledonia
  • Niue
  • Puerto Rico
  • Sint Maarten
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Some remote islands are almost a world unto themselves, thus it is not surprising that they are home to unusual forms of life, with flora and fauna that could not exist anywhere else on Earth. To a casual observer, tropical Pacific islands seem idyllic. Closer scrutiny reveals that their generally small size makes them particularly vulnerable to economic and environmental stresses imposed by rapidly growing populations, increasing economic development, and global climate change.

    On these islands, freshwater is one of the most precious resources. Ground water is the main source of drinking water on many islands, and for quite a few islands, it is the only reliable source of water throughout the year. Faced with a growing demand for this valuable resource, and the potential negative effects on its availability and quality from changes in global climate, increasingly sophisticated management approaches will be needed to ensure a dependable supply of freshwater for the residents of these islands.

    Contained in porous, regionally extensive geologic formations or aquifers, fresh ground water on these islands floats on and is surrounded by more dense saltwater from the ocean. The potential for an aquifer to provide a reliable source of good-quality water depends on the amount of recharge that occurs from rainfall, the physical properties of the aquifer, and how the water is pumped or removed from the ground. Because of their relatively small size and oceanic setting, ground-water resources on tropical Pacific islands are vulnerable to overpumping and saltwater intrusion, especially during droughts caused by climatic variations such as El Nio events. Also, this vulnerability is made worse because the effects of ground-water pumping are initially difficult to perceive.

    As freshwater recharges an island aquifer, saltwater is displaced, and the freshwater forms a lens that floats on underlying, denser saltwater. Under natural conditions, water in the lens flows toward the ocean, such that the amount of recharge is balanced by discharge to nearshore springs or as widespread seepage into the ocean. Frictional resistance to water flow within the aquifer elevates the water table relative to sea level. In general, the water table is the surface where water pressure is equal to atmospheric pressure, but more simply, the water table is the top of the underground body of water. The elevation or level of the water table generally increases with distance from the coast.

    Many islands are especially vulnerable to the risks of climate change because of their small size, low elevation, remote geographical location, and concentration of infrastructure along coastlines. Islands are also home to unique ecosystems, including coral reefs, mangrove forests, and diverse populations of native species found nowhere else in the world. Island ecosystems are already stressed from human development and pollution, making them particularly sensitive to additional stresses from climate change. Islands are experiencing rising air temperatures and sea levels, and warmer, more acidic coastal waters. Temperatures are expected to increase into the future, but will vary in the extent of warming that occurs based on location, elevation, and changes in ocean conditions.

    Although they are afflicted by economic difficulties and confronted by development imperatives similar to those of developing countries generally, small island developing States (SIDS) have their own peculiar vulnerabilities and characteristics. For Small Island Developing States (SIDS), the limitations imposed by their unique geography have in many ways governed access to and the successful completion of sustainable development projects.

    SIDS share problems relating to the scarcity and contamination of freshwater supplies; over-exploitation and poor management of groundwater resources; increasing pressure on agricultural production; and rapidly disappearing biodiversity. To a lesser or greater degree, the countries also face serious difficulties with providing clean drinking water and waste management facilities to their people.

    Even in the early 1990s, it was becoming clear that climate change and the disproportionate impacts it was having on SIDS was not merely an environmental challenge, but a sustainable development one as well. Over time the idea that climate change cant be addressed without sustainable development and sustainable development cant happen unless we address climate change, became something of a mantra for island leaders.

    SIDS leaders stressed at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, what had become a recurring theme - the failure to deliver fully on financial commitments for sustainable development stood out as a primary obstacle. By then, scientists were vociferously raising alarms about the risks SIDS faced from climate change, including increased costs of adaptation. The concerns were underscored in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation (JPOI), the next iteration of the blueprint for achieving sustainable development.

    SIDS unique and particular vulnerabilities are highlighted in The Future We Want, adopted at The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (also known as Rio+20) that took place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in June 2012 - their small size, remoteness, narrow resource and export base, and exposure to global environmental challenges and external economic shocks, including to a large range of impacts from climate change and potentially more frequent and intense natural disasters (para 178). SIDS continue to address those structural and external challenges to achieve their sustainable development.

    The Third International Conference on SIDS was held in Apia, Samoa, in September 2014, with the overarching theme of The sustainable development of small island developing States through genuine and durable partnerships. Nearly 300 partnerships were announced at the conference and monitored through the Partnership Platform. The SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway (Samoa Pathway) adopted at the Conference addresses priority areas for SIDS and calls for urgent actions and support for SIDS efforts to achieve their sustainable development.

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    Page last modified: 04-07-2018 08:58:38 ZULU