United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development


Honourable Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi
Prime Minister of Samoa and
President of the Third International Conference on
Small Island Developing Countries
Upolu Plenary Hall, Faleata Complex
Samoa, 1 September 2014
Honourable Presidents and Prime Ministers,
Honourable Deputy Prime Ministers and Ministers of State,
Your Excellency the President of the United Nations General Assembly,
Your Excellency the Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Your Excellency the Conference Secretary-General of the Third
International Conference on Small Island Developing States,
Your Excellencies the Heads of Delegations,
Heads and Representatives of United Nations Agencies,
Representatives of Non-Governmental organizations, civil societies and
major groups,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
I want to welcome you all to a conference that Samoa, its
government and people have worked hard and long to make a special
event. We are proud to be given this opportunity to show and share
with you our home, our realities and our aspirations. To the UN
membership, I thank you for giving us this honour.
Many of you have traveled a considerable distance to be here.
Thank you for making the journey. From some places on the globe,
Samoa is a long distance away. But so too is New York and Europe,
places we are required to travel to on a regular basis. My hope is that
those who have traveled far will come to appreciate the great distances
that many island representatives have to traverse whenever the world
community convenes global events like today’s conference. But distance
does not need to be a tyranny if we work together to understand our
many differing perspectives.
In an increasingly interrelated world, critical problems do not
recognize borders and hold no respect for sovereignty. The big problems
of our small islands will sooner rather than later impact every country
irrespective of level of development or proserity. Clearly we need to
work together and partner with others to achieve our full potentials in
order to effectively address our expanding challenges.
The overarching theme of our conference is the sustainable
development of SIDS through genuine and durable partnerships. We
thank the international community for accepting our proposal for this to
be the focus of our conference. And the extent to which partnership has
been embraced and woven in the conference’s programme shows the
potential for a similar approach in comparable United Nations meetings
Our partnerships theme allows each and all of us, countries,
regional and international organizations, civil society, the private sector
– all gathered here who support the cause of SIDS – to set out specific
commitments. SIDS priorities and means to implement them have
already been articulated, negotiated and agreed upon and now a matter
of U.N. record. We hope that partnerships will help provide the means to
implement them.
There are always great opportunities to deliver moralistic
statements and declarations of intent. But grandstanding won’t achieve
our goals. Blaming and shaming and apportioning culpability is
uncharacteristic of genuine partnerships. While strong and clear words
are welcome, declared commitments to action are even more warmly
It is crucial that as we work through this conference, as we are
involved in the partnership dialogues, as we attend and listen and learn
from the large array of side events and parallel activities, we keep
clearly in mind that the work starts here. This conference is built on the
Barbados and Mauritius conferences of the past 20 years. We know from
those great events that it is what follows on that makes the real
The 'special case of SIDS’ is a clear recognition by partners of our
vulnerabilities and the unique challenges faced by our small, isolated,
but incredibly beautiful and unique island nations. Our articulation of
that special case over the last 20 years, and its translation into action is
the very underpinning of the partnerships we celebrate and launch this
week. It enables our partners to embark on a journey with us over time
to help build resilient and meaningful futures for our people, and indeed
for the rest of the world who enjoy what SIDS have to offer.
Our conference is being held on the threshold of some very
important events, not only for SIDS but for all the human family. Three
weeks from today, Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon will host the Leaders
Climate Summit in New York. We as Heads of State and Government
should take the lead. To support an ambitious climate change treaty in
2015, we should announce bold commitments of what we can do, not
what others should do. The outcome of our Summit should send a clear
signal to the Lima Conference to negotiate in earnest and in good faith
so that Paris becomes the conference of hope for SIDS in 2015.
In singling out climate change, I want to remind us that 22 years
ago at the Earth Summit in Rio, it was we the islanders, through our
Alliance of Small Island States who insisted on placing climate change
on the international agenda – where it remains a priority item to this
Our message is the same today as it was in Rio in 1992: climate
change is a global problem, yet international action to address it remains
grossly inadequate. Small island states contribute the least to the causes
of climate change – yet suffer most from its effects. As an existential
issue to SIDS low-lying islands, sympathy and pity will not provide
solace nor halt the devastational impacts of climate change – hence why
we want all our partners to step forward and commit to address once
and for all the root causes of climate change.
And in the implementation of your national commitments, SIDS’
vulnerability should not be advanced or used as the reason for doing so.
What individual countries do is first and foremost for the benefit of their
people and their own economies. By necessity and survival, SIDS have
no choice but to mitigate and adapt to the changing environment no
matter what. It’s the future of our people that is at stake – hence why
we have to act now, not tomorrow with or without the support of
Looking back, AOSIS has come of age. Its writ is no longer a
monopoly of climate change. Its advocacy now extends to all three
pillars of sustainable development, and more. Full credit goes to Nauru,
our current chair, for its dedicated and committed leadership of the
group during significant developments in the multilateral arena. The
preceding chairmanship of Grenada from the Caricom region is also
deserving of special mention for advancing the goals of the group. With
the shift of the leadership at the start of 2015 to a member of the
African and Indian Ocean, we are optimistic that AOSIS will continue to
provide the moral voice in the climate change negotiations – as the
proverbial “canary in the coal mine”. We will continue to sound the
alarm bells whether states hear it or heed it. Anything else is not an
As SIDS, we benefit from the different perspectives and support of
our development partners, our regional organizations as well as the UN
system. We call for further effort to ensure that there is clarity between
regional and global mandates to avoid unnecessary tensions and to
ensure that both are given appropriate balance when policies are being
developed that impact SIDS.
One of the realities of SIDS is the pace of change occurring around
them. The 21st century will see more change than all of history before
it. By their very characteristics of remoteness, size, etc SIDS are
vulnerable to missing the opportunities that come with such globalization
and change. The challenge going forward from this conference will be to
ensure that this does not happen at all costs. Never before will we need
strong and focused support from our many partners. Never before has
there been a greater need for the UN system to work in clear and
focused support of SIDS.
I want to acknowledge the partnership between the United
Nations Secretary-General and the UN member states in designating
2014 as the International Year of Small Island Developing States, the
first time a group has been accorded such rare recognition.
We are “sea-locked” nations. The inclusion of oceans as a potential
“stand-alone” sustainable development goal through our persistent
advocacy underscores the importance of oceans to our people. Oceans
are the world’s most important shared resource connecting all people;
they act as vast ecosystems regulating climate and weather and are a
driving force in the global economy. The sea may divide us, but it
actually connects us and brings us together – not simply in terms of the
bad news that is the global rise in sea level, but as an asset whose
sustainable development binds us together and can contribute to our
collective wealth as nations.
One of my pleasant responsibilities as President of the conference
is to facilitate the adoption by consensus of the SIDS Accelerated
Modalities of Action, or the SAMOA Pathway in short, before the
closure of our conference. To this end, I want to recognize the hard
work and the accommodating spirit which characterized the negotiations
of our Outcome Document under New Zealand and Singapore cochairmanship.
The fact that the SAMOA Pathway was approved months
ahead of our conference was a rarity in the UN context, and to take
place at a time of unprecedented action and effort across many areas of
the sustainable development agenda is clearly genuine partnerships at
This week we meet to chart a course to continue and increase
efforts to protect, develop and maintain the contribution that SIDS make
to the global community and to themselves. SIDS viability and
prosperity are interconnected with the actions and development
pathways of your own countries no matter the size and economic status.
In our global village, we must be attentive to ensure there is equilibrium
amongst the three pillars of sustainable development. Because where a
few countries take advantage of economic, environmental or social
scales, it will indeed have dire implications and consequences on the
rest of the world. This sense of balance and support, of give and take,
must be the foundational values upon which genuine and durable
partnerships amongst SIDS and with SIDS and others should be
anchored for now and the long haul.
We have launched a new and evolving framework for partnerships.
We have also brought the private sector and other major stakeholders to
the same table with SIDS and their partners. The pre-conference
Forums of last week, the parallel events, the side events and the Multistakeholder
Partnership Dialogues this week will hopefully serve as the
new template for the UN to do things differently and innovatively. SIDS
deserve nothing less. We hope that the SAMOA Pathway will be a
pathway of concrete commitments from all our partners to lead SIDS to
a future where there is hope for the smallest amongst us, so that no one
is left behind.
That must be our legacy. My fellow SIDS leaders are determined
that it will be. Thank you.