United Nations经济和社会事务部 可持续发展

Multidimensional Vulnerability Index for SIDS

Complex causes of vulnerability will persist without proper characterization: Towards a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index for Small Islands Developing States


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A small island along the Southern coast of Haiti.
A small island along the Southern coast of Haiti. The community living on the island relies mainly on ocean resources, already overexploited, for livelihoods. Access to social services is a challenge. While early warning systems need to be strengthened, a one-km barrier reef located near the island is currently the only natural protection mechanism against wave surge and hurricanes.  Photo Credit - Maximilien Pardo

While COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the entire world, it has particularly amplified the unique vulnerabilities of Small Islands Developing States (SIDS); they are now disproportionately bearing the brunt of the global decline in international travel, in global commodity prices as well as the overall disruptions in worldwide trade and supply chains. On the frontline of multiple world crises - climate, nature, health and economics and finance- SIDS acute structural challenges and multi-dimensional vulnerabilities are more than ever exposed and intensifying over time. Multiple SIDS vulnerabilities interact and drive one another at an alarming rate. Addressing these vulnerabilities is a significant challenge for SIDS, most of whom are middle income countries, and thus  are not necessarily eligible to access concessionary finance based on GDP or other established criteria. Indeed vulnerability is not captured through the measurement of national income.

As complex causes for vulnerability will persist without proper characterization, the need and call for the development of indices that adequately capture the particular vulnerabilities of SIDS to guide programmatic support, viable debt service payment and financing for sustainable development have been around since the adoption of the Agenda 21. The call for exploration of criteria based on vulnerability was repeated in the Barbados Programme of Action, mentioned in the Mauritius Strategy and re-echoed in the SAMOA Pathway.

During the last 3 decades, several UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions carried similar repeated calls. In 2020, with the advent of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and the UN reiterated the need to advance and develop a composite vulnerability index for SIDS. As a follow-up, recommendations on the potential development and coordination of work within the UN system on a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index for SIDS, including on its potential finalization and use, are planning to be presented at the General Assembly in 2021.

In that context, UNDESA and the United Nations Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlock Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS) are-leading the UN Secretariat’s effort to map all the initiatives on the development and use of a MVI for SIDS. Indeed, there are numerous efforts currently being undertaken by various organizations and institutions, from within and outside the UN system, on developing a Multidimensional Vulnerability Index for SIDS.

Through a series of technical webinars and inter-governmental consultations and briefings from February to May 2021, UNDESA and OHRLLS will therefore be soliciting information from all the relevant organizations working on vulnerability indicators and indices. The platform created by UNDESA and OHRLLS allows to exchange views, lessons learned and perspectives in order to provide associated recommendations on the way forward. The work presented by the different organizations will be publicly available online on this website.

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