STATEMENT BY THE PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE,
HONOURABLE DR. NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
AT THE THIRD SITTING OF THE FIRST SESSION
OF THE FIFTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS,
7TH SEPTEMBER 2023
International Affairs – Small Island Developing States
I wish to update this Honourable House on recent developments in the area of international affairs.
A key pillar of our international relations is cooperation with other small island developing states that are commonly referred to as SIDS.
There are 49 SIDS around the world located in the Caribbean, Pacific, Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Sea.
We are working together, along with our international partners, to create a more enabling international environment for the sustainable development of SIDS and to build up our climate resilience.
It was agreed in 2014 at the United Nations (UN) Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Samoa that the SIDS are a special case for support from the international community due to their small size and high vulnerability to external shocks and climate change.
The SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action Pathway, also called the SAMOA Pathway, was adopted at the conference and also at the UN. It set out a programme of action for support and partnerships for SIDS over the course of 10 years.
As the SAMOA Pathway prepares to expire, a new international framework for SIDS is being developed to succeed it. The Virgin Islands has been actively engaged in this process.
We have attended the SIDS regional and intraregional meetings to prepare a new programme of action for SIDS to be adopted at the UN Fourth International Conference on Small Islands Developing States in Antigua and Barbuda from 27th-30th May 2024.
The Virgin Islands led the way in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines at the Caribbean SIDS Preparatory meeting in early August to ensure that the Virgin Islands and other Territories that are Associate Members of UN ECLAC were included in SIDS call for support from the international community.
We reminded our Caribbean colleagues that we are not eligible for Official Development Assistance (ODA), concessional financing or other international support due to our per capita income and political status, which was even more acute after Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated our islands.
Our neighbours agree with our position that this is unjust, especially as it concerns recovery from a hurricane, building up climate resilience and sustainable development. Text to reflect this was included in the outcome document of the Caribbean meeting.
We followed through on the inclusion of Associate Members for international support at the subsequent meeting of all SIDS from every region that took place in Cape Verde from 31st August to 2nd September.
The Virgin Islands again led the way in making the case that the combined 20 Associate Members of both the UN regional commissions in the Caribbean and the Pacific should receive international support because they have the same challenges as other SIDS in terms of size and high vulnerability to external shocks.
We were successful in persuading all of our SIDS colleagues to include a clause in the final outcome document that calls for international support to be extended to the Associate Members. The outcome document reads”
“We acknowledge the need of the Associate Members of the Regional Commissions for international support to achieve our SIDS sustainable development agenda, and to build resilience against external shocks. We therefore call for international measures and support to be extended to them.”
This is a victory for Virgin Islands diplomacy.
UN agencies such as ECLAC and the UN system will now be able to leverage this provision to argue that they should be permitted to use their budgeted funds on the Associate Members, which has been a limitation in their ability to support us.
It is also timely as we seek additional UN assistance to support our implementation of our National Sustainable Development Plan.
Not only does the Virgin Islands stand to benefit, but also the other Overseas Territories across the Caribbean and the Pacific. The Virgin Islands can be proud of the work we have done on this issue that has required sustained engagement over time.
Finally, Madam Speaker, on a related noted, my Administration is continuing our engagement with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and other partners on the inclusion of the Virgin Islands in the UN’s Multi-Dimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI) that will provide an alternate measure based on vulnerability for determining what assistance or concessional financing SIDS are eligible for.
Madam Speaker, my Administration will continue to follow-up eon the SIDS agenda as further preparations are made for the UN Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States next year, which we will certainly attend.
Thank you Madam Speaker for the opportunity to update the House on our international affairs.