SURIN PITSUWAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand: Small island developing States (SIDS) present special cases in efforts towardssustainable development. They have fragile ecosystems and are extremely vulnerable. The international community and the small island States must confront all the challenges in partnership, as agreed in the 1994 global conference in Barbados. As climate change and its effects on rising sea levels pose a critical threat to small island States, there is an urgent need for the international community to live up to its commitments to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. Developed countries are obliged to provide small islands with environmentally sound technologies.
For its part, Thailand supports global efforts for greenhouse gas reduction. As a party to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, it implements various programmes in that regard, including energy conservation campaigns. It also assists small island States in dealing with both natural and man-made disasters. It is unfortunate that there has been a steady decline in official development assistance (ODA) from donor countries, for without adequate financial resources the SIDS are hard pressed to face their challenges. What is most needed is access to predictable flows of new and additional financial resources. The donor community is urged to make its best efforts to increase the level of ODA to reach the agreed target of 0.7 per cent of gross national product (GNP).
The drop in external financing is exacerbated by a shortfall in export revenues for island States. Thailand has provided preferential trade treatment to some of those States within the framework of the Generalized System of Trade Preferences (GSTP) among developing countries. It has also decided to offer a voluntary and unilateral tariff reduction for a number of products imported from some small island developing States. Capacity-building remains critical to the long-term efforts of the SIDS to achieve sustainable development. For this reason, Thailand, in collaboration with donor countries and international organizations, grants fellowships to South Pacific island States under its international cooperation programme.
JANET BOSTWICK, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas: This special session comes at a critical time when the concerns articulated in the Barbados Programme of Action are even more pronounced. The very survival of the SIDS is at stake. They are prominent among the countries which have suffered the devastating consequences of climate change. It has been just days since the Bahamas suffered the impact of Hurricane Floyd.
This special session is a time of reckoning. The SIDS have taken the initiative to move the Barbados Programme of Action forward. The Bahamas, for its part, established in 1994 the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology Commission (BEST), which has a leading role in matters relating to sustainable development and protection of the environment.
We will avoid cynicism and charges of abandoned commitments. We prefer to focus and build on examples of results-based partnerships and joint action that have enabled progress to be made in meeting the challenges the SIDS face. But even as we recognize that progress, we are aware that science and technology for sustainable development is one of the areas in which more needs to be done. The Barbados Conference underscored the importance of developing vulnerability indices that reflect the status of the SIDS. We urge the United Nations and other international organizations to produce such an index by the year 2000.
LILA RATSIFANDRIAMANANA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Madagascar: Madagascar is an island in the southwest of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique. Although it is a large island, it experiences daily the problems faced by small island States, including oil spills at sea, the mysterious transport of toxic waste, the plunder of biological resources, and the deterioration of our cultural heritage derived from the aggression of Western cultures. Thus, Madagascar is actively waging a fight for survival, in many international forums.
Turning to recent efforts made by her country at the international level, Madagascar last year ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Regionally, it participates with the Indian Ocean Commission in establishing a regional policy for sustainable development, which includes a waste management project for the small island developing States in the Indian Ocean. In addition, the regional project to combat hydrocarbon spills is now operational. Nationally, my country has established a programme of action, which prioritizes biodiversity and the management of coastal areas.
My country also attaches importance to the issue of trade. Regional integration was a response to globalization, and Madagascar was the first country of the Indian Ocean Commission to notify the Secretary-General of its decision to implement the first stage of an 80 per cent tariff reduction this year for commodities coming from member countries, as a prelude to a free trade zone. Such efforts would be futile without the support of the international community. Implementation of the Action Programme, the goal of these initiatives, is based on a tripartite partnership at the national, regional and international levels. Madagascar reaffirms its commitment to implement the Action Programme and joins others in requesting that the world community provide the effective financial means to do so.