BY ASHTOSH SINGH
Practical actions that advance the economic, social, and environmental well-being will be at the heart of discussions among government and civil society representatives from island states in Barbados from 28-30 August as they prepare for the global UN Conference on Small Island Developing States that will be held in Apia, Samoa, 1-4 September 2014.
Small island developing states adopted regional positions at meetings that took place this July in Jamaica, Fiji, and the Seychelles that have identified a number of practical and pragmatic actions that could be taken by all countries to accelerate implementation of the outcome of the two previous conference on small island developing states, in Barbados in 1994, and Mauritius in 2005.
The Barbados meeting represents the final opportunity for small island developing states to agree among themselves on common negotiating positions for the Conference prior to the start of the formal preparatory process. After January when the global preparatory process is launched, all 193 member states will participate in the preparatory process leading up to the Apia meeting.
?The Barbados meeting will allow small island developing states to chart the way forward,? says Conference Secretary-General Wu Hongbo. ?Barbados provides an opportunity for the small islands to let the rest of the world know how the world can work together, as partners, to promote sustainable development in the unique circumstances that islanders face.?
The regional meetings stressed many common issues facing the small island developing states, including climate change, natural disasters, crime and violence, high rates of unemployment?especially among women and youth?and resulting brain drain, the increase in-communicable diseases and other health concerns, and debt sustainability.
Climate change and ocean related issues figured particularly prominently in the regional meetings, where countries emphasized the concept of the ?ocean economy,? which encompasses the full range of economic and social development that the ocean can drive.