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Remarks by Minister Jean-Paul Adam, Minister of Foreign Affairs, on the occasion of the side event on the Multi-dimensional Poverty Peer Network at the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, 25th September 2014

26.09.2014

Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

 

I would like to warmly thank the Government of Mexico for convening this event.  It is also my pleasure to be here representing my colleague Minister, the Minister for Social Affairs, Community Development and Sports, Vincent Meriton.

It is an honour to speak to you on our thoughts on multi-dimensional poverty measurement from the perspective of an African Small island Developing State.

Small Island Developing States such as Seychelles continuously face a dichotomy in terms of their development.

We face a development paradox.  We are often among the states that have risen the fastest in relation to our human development index.  But having reached upper middle income status- we are stuck in a 'middle income trap'.  Too vulnerable to have the required resilience to face up to global processes- local gains are easily erased by global pains.  The 2008 financial crisis is a concrete example of how dark clouds on the global horizon become very quickly a massive storm for our economy.

We successfully rode through that storm and have restructured our economy.  But we know the next storm is not far away.

Our upper middle income status also means that we lack access to the concessional development financing that would allow us to better build our resilience.

It is an unfortunate reality that GDP per capita remains the main measure of development success in terms of multilateral development institutions.  It determines your status as LDC or middle income. It determines your access to resources.

But it remains a mathematical sum of the total amount of wealth divided by the number of people.

It cannot properly measure development.  Seychelles therefore welcome initiatives to develop more inclusive and transparent ways of measuring poverty as represented by the initiative to develop a multi-dimensional Poverty measurement.

We must ask ourselves all of the elements that contribute to poverty.  We must ask ourselves what are all the elements that are required for people to live in dignity.  This is what we mean in Seychelles when we speak about people centred development.

But we must also ask ourselves what we consider as wealth.  It is not just income.  It is not the ability to buy an i-phone, or the latest fashion statement.  But it is about access to services that allow people to leave a full and meaningful life.  It is about access to resources that allow people to act independently.  It is about access to appropriate technology that allows people to use globalisation as an opportunity rather than a threat.

Seychelles- and all small countries with a narrow human resource base- need support to strengthen the databases which we can use to make policy decisions.  The Multi-dimensional poverty indicators approach can be very helpful to us.

We are very confident that by better defining our measures we can both better measure our development, and better plan strategies to address gaps and shortcomings.  In recent years, the UN Human Development reports have continuously brought in new data streams.  Unfortunately this has not been accompanied by enough engagement with SIDS with regards to how to get this additional data in an efficient way.

I would also like to propose that it is essential that any work that aims to bring a multi-dimensional approach to measuring poverty also looks careful at the issue of vulnerability- especially within SIDS and small states in general.

Seychelles has consistently called for a vulnerability index to be adopted as part of a more inclusive and efficient approach to development.  This was one of the main recommendations from the Third International Conference on Small island Developing States in Samoa earlier this month.

And as we work to better measure poverty and development through the SDGs through a multidimensional approach to poverty, let us also ensure that this is tied in with a framework that also better identifies vulnerability.

This is particularly relevant as we face up to the spectre of climate change.  Climate Change is one of the biggest threats to development and islanders around the world face displacement, loss of homes and livelihoods and vastly diminished quality of life.  It is likely that GDP per capita measurements may not pick up these trends.

Drug addiction also poses challenges for small societies in terms of tackling poverty, and vulnerable groups within our society.

In terms of identifying opportunities- we must also adopt a multi-dimensional approach. In countries such as Seychelles, the Blue Economy, harnessing our oceanic potential, represents real opportunities for inclusive wealth creation and reducing the vulnerability of our people.

We need better measurement to ensure better inclusion.

I thank you for your attention, and for your support or the specific case of Small Island Developing States.

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