Small island developing states (SIDS) must receive financial and international support if they are to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters, the President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Munir Akram, said on Friday.
“Financial liquidity is available today in the world and it is essential in order to enable the SIDs to build back better”, he told a special high-level meeting, held online.
Caught in ‘a perfect storm’
There are roughly 60 SIDS worldwide, located in three geographical regions: the Caribbean, the Pacific, and the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Sea (AIS).
Although their combined population of 65 million is slightly less than one per cent of the world’s population, the UN recognizes the unique social, economic, and environmental challenges they face.
While the pandemic has inflicted serious hardship and damage globally, Mr. Akram said it has particularly affected SIDS, impacting every aspect of life in these countries.
“For the SIDs, this has been a perfect storm – financial, natural, and social,” he said.
“Their revenues have virtually evaporated with the end of tourism, due to lockdowns, trade impediments, the fall in commodity prices, and supply chain disruptions. High debt overhangs, internally high risk, and short-term maturity debts are creating impossible financial problems for their ability to recover from the crisis.”
At the same time, SIDS have also faced the brunt of the climate crisis. “There has been increasing climate events, hurricanes, and also the recent eruption of the volcano in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines”, he added, referring to the burgeoning crisis in the Caribbean country.
The ECOSOC chief pointed out that SIDS, however, have largely been ineligible for debt suspension during the pandemic. They also have received little in the way of international support for climate adaptation, and for loss and damage. Their sustainable development is at risk, he warned.
Innovative solutions needed
“It is said that we must ‘Build Back Better, but in order for the SIDs to revive the path of development, it is essential that they should receive the financial and international support that is required which is commensurate with the challenges they are facing”, he said.
Mr. Akram called for innovative solutions to enable SIDS to access global financing.
“The SIDS should be assisted to prepare a pipeline of projects which are suitable for financial investment and this must be an essential part of the transformation in the development modules to decrease their vulnerability to such pandemics and events”, he recommended.