St John’s – President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), Abdulla Shahid appealed for a solution to the long-standing debt burden faced by Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
Addressing the two-day SIDS conference that ended on Tuesday in the Antigua & Barbuda capital, Shahid said SIDS were facing several situations not of their own making, ranging from the impact of climate change to that of debt consolidation.
He said the debt situation “leads us to borrowing at high rates which in turn contributes to increasing debt in a vicious cycle” with compounding crisis heightening the debt burden.
“The need for the long-term solution to the debt crisis we face is indeed critical,” he said. “The debt obligations faced by SIDS globally are unsustainable and immoral.
“To remedy this, global financial systems should be streamlined, so that future debt servicing considers the vulnerabilities faced by countries in special situations, and the impact of onerous debt in their efforts to recover better.
“We know there are no one size fits all solution as we endeavour to get back on track of meeting the SDGs (UN Sustainable Development Goals) targets, we should be mindful of the limitations of traditional development measures.”
Shahid said SIDS continue to pay the ultimate cost for problems they did not cause in the first instance, making reference to the impact of climate change on these developing countries.
“I use this opportunity to speak to highlight the need to ensure SIDS remain a priority for the international community, including partner governments in the United Nations,” he said
“We need unity and solidarity to build back and to prioritise the long term recovery of our islands.”
Shahid said at present one-third of the 65 million people in SIDS live on land five metres above sea level making them extremely vulnerable to rising sea levels.
“In my own country, the Maldives, a nation comprising of 1 192 low-lying islands, this threat is an everyday reality,” he said. “SIDS vulnerability to climate crisis extends beyond the impact on our environment.”
Earlier, Antigua & Barbuda foreign affairs minister Chet Greene said with seven more years before the conclusion of the SDGs, there are still several challenges facing SIDS.
The conference in Antigua & Barbuda provides delegates with an opportunity to examine issues hindering their sustainable development.
It is organised by the Alliance of Small Islands States (AOSIS) in partnership with the governments of Denmark and the United Kingdom.
It is being billed as an events-oriented springboard for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in SIDS.