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Intervention of Minister Jean-Paul Adam, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Seychelles on the first report of the Open Ended Ministerial Working Group on Small States to the Commonwealth Foreign Affairs Ministers Meeting, UNHQ, New York, 25th

26.09.2014

would like to warmly thank the Chair of the Commonwealth, Sri Lanka, for having initiated this discussion in Colombo on how the Commonwealth, and development institutions, can best support Small States.

I also thank Jamaica for having suggested the establishment of this group to further drive forward the Commonwealth's advocacy on the subject of small states.

The Commonwealth is an organisation which is made up of small states as a majority.  And by speaking of Our Commonwealth- we are speaking of the shared opportunity of all to create a better life for all our citizens, whether living in the largest and most populous states, or in the smallest and most geographically isolated.

The unity of the Commonwealth is a unity among peoples as well as among states.

We also must recognise that the current status of the world's development institutions is not conducive to small states.

The world continues to use GDP per capita as the main measure of progress. 'One size fits all' policies remain prevalent.

The experience of small states shows that their experience of development on the basis of these criteria is unequal, relatively inefficient and not targeting specific and unique challenges, such as lack of economies of scale, distance from markets, access to development financing and others.

The problem of graduation of middle income countries also creates a 'middle income trap' which particularly affects small states.

The Open ended working group on small states aims to better direct the technical capacities of the Commonwealth towards supporting the specific needs of small states.  The group is chaired by Seychelles and being open ended has benefited from the support of many countries- large and small to support this initiative.  The group has met three times.  The first time in St Lucia in March 2014 at ministerial level, the second time at a technical level in June 2014 in New York, and the third meeting took place yesterday at the Sri Lankan High Commission featuring the participation of Brunei Darussalam, Jamaica, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Namibia, Singapore, Sri Lanka and St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Since the 1st meeting in March 2014, we have focussed our work on five main themes:

  1. Strengthening Resilience as an overarching framework
  2. Development Financing and Trade: Including the use of vulnerability criteria for access to resources; debt; debt swaps; and trade preferences
  3. Ocean Governance Frameworks and the Development of a Blue Economy
  4. Climate Change; including capacity building efforts and energy concerns which might also be addressed in other priority areas in different ways
  5. Outreach in the context of the G20 and with regional organisations, including on strengthening the regional organisations and mechanisms for resilience

Specific initiatives that we need to take for the way forward:

  1. The development of a common voice within the UN discussions and its use as a platform for advocating small states' concerns
  2. The further development of mandates from CHOGM2013 on a small states Centre of Excellence, A Trade Finance Facility and a Climate Finance Skills Hub; and
  3. The provision of technical support by the Commonwealth within the five priority areas, and to Commonwealth small state missions

 

Agreed next steps

 

  1. Tie the work of the Group into wider international processes across a range of international forums.  this includes, through side events and outreach during the Post-2015 development process and preparations for the Third UN Conference on financing for development to be held in Addis Ababa in July 2015.
  2. Organise a Commonwealth Conference on financing for development for small states in the context of the post 2015 development agenda (proposed for March 2015)
  3. Further elaborate Commonwealth proposals for a Small States Centre of Excellence, a Trade Finance facility and a Climate Finance Skills Hub ahead of the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which Malta will host.
  4. Further advance the vulnerability and resilience framework; and focus advocacy efforts around the practical application of the framework.
  5. Work with the Government of Malta to continue to work in support of small states at the next CHOGM

 

I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the delegation from Malta for their support for small states, both in terms of establishing a small states centre of excellence, and in terms of their support as incoming Chair to ensure that we strengthen the voice for small states.

Mr. Chairman,

Better support for small states is about ensuring better development.  More efficient development.  More targeted development.

Development which benefits people, and which is measured by the impact on people.

This is where the main advocacy point that I would wish to underline as Chair of the group, is the importance of supporting the building of resilience of all members. The most efficient way to achieve this is through a vulnerability index, or a resilience index.  This is an area where the Commonwealth can take the lead and make a difference.

But we cannot achieve it unless we also ensure that there is a global vulnerability index.  The Commonwealth is uniquely placed to bring this matter forward- but we need all states to be champions of a more inclusive model of development.  How do we achieve this inclusion- certainly not by measuring GDP per capita.

We achieve it by addressing our vulnerabilities.  Many which are shared- such as climate change.  Many others which are more specific to certain countries- whether it be isolation, desertification, vulnerability to natural disasters and so on.

I would like to warmly thank the Secretary General and the Secretariat for their support for this work, as well as from all states of the Commonwealth.

I thank you.

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