Pacific Islands

When the Planks of the Voyaging Canoe Fit Together Well, Great Feats Are Possible : A BRIEF ANALYSIS OF THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SIDS

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) took place from 1-4 September 2014 in Apia, Samoa, on the theme of ‘The Sustainable Development of SIDS Through Genuine and Durable Partnerships.’ In parallel with plenary discussions, six multi-stakeholder Partnership Dialogues took place on the themes of: sustainable economic development; climate change and disaster risk management (DRM); social development, health and non-communicable diseases (NCDs), youth and women; sustainable energy; oceans, seas and biodiversity; and water and sanitation, food security and waste management. Many countries and organizations announced new pledges and partnerships. Forums organized by youth, Major Groups and other Stakeholders, the renewable energy sector and the private sector took place prior to the conference.

Twenty-one heads of state and government and 3,500 delegates attended the conference, including representatives from government, the private sector and civil society. Alongside the formal proceedings, many side events took place on issues of importance to SIDS, such as graduation from least developed country (LDC) status, concessional financing, scientific monitoring and assessment, and resilience building. The conference was also an occasion to highlight the cultural traditions of the host country, Samoa, and other island nations, with daily displays of traditional dance, textiles, woodcarving and other crafts in the ‘SIDS Village’ located at the conference venue.

The Third International Conference on SIDS produced an outcome document, titled ‘SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway.’ The document was negotiated during the preparatory process at UN Headquarters in New York and was adopted without further discussion during the closing plenary on Thursday, 4 September 2014.

The  Summary of this meeting is now available in PDF format

at and in HTML format at

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 ’Ua fetaui lelei fola o le ’alia.

 – When the Planks of the Voyaging Canoe Fit Together Well, Great Feats Are Possible.

 At the Third UN Conference on Small Island Developing States, diverse actors from SIDS, the developed and the developing world, civil society and the private sector came together, realizing that only in partnership could they hope to guide the world clear of threats and bring it closer to solutions and fulfilled commitments. Hosted by Samoa, the conference allowed SIDS to steer their partners out of a sea of inaction, by focusing on new partnerships to fulfill commitments made to them over the past twenty years.

In the middle a hectic calendar and flurry of UN activities, delegates met in the South Pacific at the largest global meeting ever held in this part of the world. Delegates flew long hours across the Pacific Ocean to reach Samoa, and found themselves simultaneously journeying the distance to a greater understanding of island communities. As participants remarked time and time again, the Samoan people and government put on an impressive and impeccable show; every colorful detail was carried out with care. Samoa and its island neighbors showcased their unique cultures, histories and abilities, from the hopeful melody of the conference theme song and artistic talents of Samoan youth on display, to the arrival of the traditional Hōkūle’a and Hikianalia Polynesian voyaging canoes that sailed all the way from Hawai’i. But alongside their unique cultures, SIDS were also determined that their opinions and calls to action should be heard and experienced.

This brief analysis explores how SIDS seized the opportunities of the Samoa conference to forge new partnerships, and the challenges they face in attempting to navigate their way on the global journey ahead.

 Taliu a e popoʻe.

 – One Who Is Afraid at Sea Bails Out the Canoe

Twenty years ago in Barbados, and eleven years later in Mauritius, SIDS captured attention when the international community recognized that a holistic vision of sustainable development was needed to counter threats to SIDS’ very existence and wellbeing. At both of these conferences, Member States realized that courage and cooperation was needed to build up, rather than bail out, the SIDS canoe of prosperity.

However, SIDS came to Samoa focused on their vital, though different, needs for sustainable development. With dire health issues, especially non-communicable diseases, depleting fish stocks and deteriorating ocean conditions, lack of access to assistance due to graduation from LDC status, and high levels of unemployment and national debt, SIDS face numerous social, environmental and economic roadblocks, in addition to climate change, hindering their efforts to develop.

But many of the calls for immediate action have gone largely unanswered, and SIDS must now tackle the realities that a changing climate poses to their development. Given recent catastrophic weather events, disaster risk reduction and preparedness was, appropriately, a central topic of discussion in Samoa, although some felt the controversial topic of climate-induced migration deserved more attention. While many of these issues have been on the agenda for at least twenty years, the time remaining for islands to prepare or adapt is running out. One group of countries, specifically low-lying atoll nations, is already feeling the devastating impacts of climate change, and cannot afford to wait for the world to take action. As President Anote Tong of Kiribati implored to his fellow delegates, “How many more COPs will it take to see global action on climate change? For us on the front line, it is already too late.”

 ʻO le fogavaʻa e tasi.

 – We are One Family.

Looking for the urgent implementation of past commitments, rather than sweeping new political agreements, SIDS made the decision to focus the Third International Conference on SIDS on building partnerships. Attempting to put “meat on the bones” of the two previous international conferences and on the SAMOA Pathway itself, the emphasis in Samoa was to incentivize governments and stakeholders to bring new initiatives to the table instead of new text. In fact, with no textual negotiations to steal the attention, the multi-stakeholder partnership dialogues became the central focus of the conference, and 297 partnerships were recorded by its close. Wu Hongbo, Secretary-General of the Conference, remarked that never before had this call for concrete actions been so well integrated into a UN conference, stating that “it is the template of the future.”

Although some feared that a lack of high-stake negotiations in Samoa would detract from the importance of or attention given to the conference, island nations seized upon the relaxed atmosphere to present a more positive narrative for their development. Showcasing themselves as models for renewable energy development and energy efficiency, information and communication technologies, and biodiversity conservation, they were able to engage partners on these issues by touting high returns on investment. The need for partnerships between SIDS was highlighted extensively, with work of the Global Island Partnership and SIDS-DOCK driving these efforts forward, as well as initiatives at the local level, such as a new partnership to promote the use of traditional knowledge in resource management in the Pacific islands. The strong presence of civil society, the private sector and the international community across the conference and its multi-sectoral forums illustrated the recognition that partnerships with all stakeholders and actors, including at the local and community levels, is required.

While the announcement of so many commitments and pledges was energizing, whether or not they will be successfully and promptly implemented in the future remains to be seen. As one delegate put it, the process from project gestation to implementation is “tortuously long and laborious.” As the traditional body for following-up on the SIDS conferences, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, held its final meeting in 2013 and the new review process for the SIDS process is yet to be agreed, the accountability of these pledged partnerships and initiatives is murky. However, the SAMOA Pathway document does offer a few options in an UN-housed online platform, a mandated report of the Secretary-General to the 69th Session of the General Assembly on a potential partnership framework, and a call for the High Level Political Forum to devote adequate time to SIDS. But, concrete follow-up on the US$1.9 billion in pledges made in Samoa is still a distant goal given the uncertainty over details of the specific review mechanism.

When asked about prioritizing partnerships as the central theme of the conference, Permanent Representative Aliioaiga Feturi Elisaia of Samoa had a simple answer: “Partnership is not a blame game, but a way to correct mistakes and share in success together,” he said, “We will always say thank you to our partners first.”

 E tuai tuai, ta te maʻona ai.

 – It Is a Very Long Time Coming, but it Will Be Satisfying.

 The Third International SIDS Conference came at an important time for SIDS to assert their needs and priorities on the world stage, and to finally inspire new actions on long-term challenges. In Samoa, SIDS strongly reaffirmed their categorization as a special group in need of special attention, but also showcased new leadership in presenting island partnership opportunities as exciting, valuable opportunities for the global community.

This is important, especially as the world coalesces around multiple processes and negotiations in 2015 that will have dramatic consequences for small islands— the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan, the Third Conference on Financing for Development in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda in New York, US, and the UNFCCC climate change negotiations set to adopt a new agreement in Paris, France. In their statements throughout the week, many island countries expressed hope that they can “seize the moment” to build on the outcome and momentum from Samoa to fight for their priorities on the world stage. If not, some SIDS worried that the outcome of the 2014 Conference risks becoming overshadowed by the multitude of high-profile meetings to come.

The first test will be at the next big gathering of Heads of State and Government, the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit later this month, which will take the Samoan model a step further by focusing solely on the launch of new climate initiatives, partnerships, and national commitments ahead of COP 21 in Paris. SIDS called on their global partners to show up in full force at the Summit, and pledge actions building on the momentum started in Samoa. Some countries have responded to the link between commitments to SIDS and strong climate efforts, because, as the US remarked in plenary, “the best thing that we can do for our island partners is reduce our emissions at home.” Nevertheless, the difficult climate negotiations in the year and a half ahead threaten to drown out any pledges made in Samoa.

The negotiation of the post-2015 development agenda also offers a unique opportunity for SIDS to carry forward the weight of commitments made in Samoa to a larger scale and lay the groundwork for the means of implementation of new development goals, with innovative new partnerships driving forward progress. Or, will the lack of a coherent review mechanism for SIDS partnerships also plague the international development negotiations? There is much to be worked out in the year ahead.

If one thing is certain, it is that the people and the Government of Samoa were able to bring the international community to its shores in a historic fashion. “Only by making the trip over can you appreciate our reality,” said one SIDS delegate. And that reality, while it is one of trepidation and unease for the storms to come, is also one of colorful promise in island communities. The voices of the SIDS rose up in Samoa, making it clear that they would not be underestimated by their “small” or “developing” status. These islands, now connected to the world like never before, may also be its leader in the years to come. As their ships explored the world in ancient times with the stars and waves as guides, so now do the SIDS hope to lead their people and partners in a new direction.

This analysis, taken from the summary issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin © [email protected], is written and edited by Asheline Appleton, Kate Louw, Leila Mead, Kate Offerdahl, and Delia Paul. The Digital Editors are Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI and Kiara Worth. The Editor is Pamela Chasek, Ph.D. <[email protected]>. The Director of IISD Reporting Services is Langston James “Kimo” Goree VI <[email protected]>. The Sustaining Donors of the Bulletin are the European Commission (DG-ENV and DG-CLIMATE) and the Government of Switzerland (the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) and the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation (SDC)). General Support for the Bulletin during 2014 is provided by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, SWAN International, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Japanese Ministry of Environment (through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies – IGES), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Funding for coverage of this conference has been provided by the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UNEP, and the World Bank. Funding for translation of the Bulletin into French has been provided by the Government of France, the Wallonia, Québec, and the International Organization of La Francophonie/Institute for Sustainable Development of La Francophonie (IOF/IFDD). The opinions expressed in the Bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IISD or other donors. Excerpts from the Bulletin may be used in non-commercial publications with appropriate academic citation. For information on the Bulletin, including requests to provide reporting services, contact the Director of IISD Reporting Services at <[email protected]>, +1-646-536-7556 or 300 East 56th St., 11D, New York, NY 10022 USA.

Sailing together : Hōkūle‘a and the Mālama Honua Worldwide Voyage all the Way to The United Nations Conference on Small Island Developing States (UNSIDS) Apia, Samoa, 1 to 4 September 2014

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] love sailing and sailing on traditional boats is a great privilege..

How is the UNSIDS conference so different. You have to know this.

“If we view our Earth as an island it becomes apparent that we must change course to ensure a healthy, sustainable world.” Nainoa Thompson, Master Navigator of the Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia crew, President of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, Member of the Ocean Elders.

In May 2014, as we celebrated the International Day of Island Biodiversity and International Year of Small Island Developing States, the traditional Polynesian voyaging canoe — Hōkūle‘a, and Hikianalia — her sister voyaging canoe,  set sail on a three-year voyage around the world to charter a new course for a resilient and sustainable future for our islands, oceans and the planet.

The voyage, led by Master Navigator Nainoa Thompson and a new generation of navigators, used only the signs of the waves, winds and stars to find their way to the Third International Conference of Small Island Developing States (UNSIDS) in Samoa in September 2014. These courageous navigators will bring the stories of our worlds islands and oceans to inspire leaders to take action for a sustainable and resilient future. The Hōkūle‘a and Hikianalia crew will carry this message to more than 25 countries during its 47,000 nautical-mile voyage crossing 12 Marine World Heritage Sites.

And now the voyage is there… exclusive group of leaders are already sailing together with the United Nations Secretary General on Hōkūle‘a to celebrate both an inspirational island voyage and the efforts of SIDS. You have to be tuned to this ..lets go sailing …

The Whaling Debate and the ICJ ruling on Japanese Whaling

The ICJ Case on Japanese Whaling in the Southern Ocean

On 31st May 2010, Australia filed an application in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) asking the Court to find that the killing, taking and treating of whales under special permits granted for JARPA II is not for purposes of scientific research within the meaning of Article VIII and that Japan thus has violated three paragraphs of the Schedule to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

On 31st March 2014, the ICJ announced a binding decision in the case of Australia v. Japan: New Zealand Intervening to revoke permits issued for scientific purposes under which the Japanese JARPA II Whaling Program continued to hunt for whales in the Southern Ocean. JARPA II Whaling Program was unable to justify and validate research which used lethal methods and killed large numbers of whales in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary.

Japanese whaling did not fit within the meaning of  Article VIII, paragraph 1 of the Convention on scientific research and is subject to paragraph 7 (b) of the Schedule in relation to the killing, taking and treating of fin whales in the ‘Southern Ocean Sanctuary’ in pursuance of JARPA II. Japan whaling practice did not conform to its obligations under paragraph 10 (d) of the Schedule in relation to the killing, taking and treating of fin whales. Japan by granting special permits to kill, take and treat fin, humpback and Antarctic minke whales in pursuance of JARPA II, has also not acted in conformity with its obligations under paragraph 10 (e) of the Schedule.

The ruling declares that Japan shall revoke any extant authorisation, permit or licence granted in relation to JARPA II, and refrain from granting any further permits in pursuance of that programme. The full ICJ Judgement can be read here:

History and Politics

There is significant history associated with whale hunting in the traditions and politics of nations. In 1930s, Japan’s whaling industry expanded into Antarctica. At this time whale meat constituted almost half of the animal proteins consumed in Japan. Whaling was also actively pursued by Brazil, Canada, China, Greenland, Korea, Norway and South Africa. In the next few decades as technology and demand increased, there was justifiable international concern on the status of whale stocks.

In 1986, commercial whaling was banned by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to allow recovery of stocks. The ban on whaling has been the subject of intensive debate among pro-whaling nations and anti-whaling nations and entities. The debate is primarily focussed on whether whale stocks have recovered sufficiently for whaling to re-commence, versus the permanence of the ban on grounds of vulnerability of whales and ethics. Some states like Iceland, Canada and Norway continue to manage their commercial whaling industry (from about 1/year in Canada to 1200/year in Norway) having registered either an objection to the IWC moratorium, or having left IWC. These states do not conduct commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean.

The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling provides exemptions based on scientific research and indigenous harvests for cultural preservation and subsistence using traditional methods of hunting. Indigenous whale hunting have largely remained uncontentious with some states managing traditional whale harvest by small quotas issued to few selected geographical regions.

ICJ Ruling and International Whaling Commission

At the 2010 IWC meeting, there was some discussion on the continuation of 24 year moratorium on whaling. A 10 year compromise on continued whaling by Japan, Norway and Iceland with smaller catches under close supervision was considered by anti-whaling nations. The compromise aimed to reduce the number of whales that continued to be hunted because over 33,000 whales have been killed since the ban.

There was strong support for the Southern Oceans to remain a whale sanctuary at the IWC meeting, and the recent ICJ decision in the case of Australia v. Japan should now result in an effective and complete ban on all whaling in this region with exemptions for ‘genuine’ scientific research under Article VIII, paragraph 1 of the Convention.

Renewable Energy: A Solution For Green, Safe, Reliable and Affordable Pacific Sea Transport?

[Contributor: Amelia Bola]

The Pacific Islands region’s transport issues are unique – tiny economies scattered at the ends of some of the longest transportation routes in the world with the most challenging network to maintain per capita and per sea mile with the available resources to support it. The priority for Pacific shipping lies on the domestic front of around 20 Pacific states which are archipelagoes. There are an estimated 2,100 domestic ships servicing the Pacific.


Providing adequate, efficient, and reliable domestic shipping is one of the most difficult challenges for Pacific Islands. Coastal and inter-island shipping is generally provided by governments or small, independent shipping companies. Many routes are commercially marginal, many are simply unviable. Governments generally subsidize or provide for these, with ever increasing costs.

The ships used are sometimes unsuitable, often old and in poor condition. Finance markets become increasingly cautious of such investments. Many vessels do not meet recognised safety standards, and should be banned from service, but because they provide essential services to remote communities this is rarely done. Shipping disasters directly attributable to substandard ships are regular. Despite crippling effects and being the region’s single largest user of imported fuel, sea transport has not improved.

Fuel comprises approximately 40-60 per cent of domestic fleet operating costs, and this is projected to increase over time. The Pacific is the most dependent on imported fossil fuels in the world with Pacific Islands importing more than 95 per cent.

Sustainable sea transport development barriers

Sea transport is generally considered a private investment issue with public or donor investment restricted exclusively to shore infrastructure (ports), policy and regulation. Financing for shipping assets is notoriously difficult to access. Old ships being replaced with old ships or reliance on donated and often inappropriate vessels is the established norm in most Pacific states.

Cultural barriers exist where larger, faster engines and ships are seen as markers of increasing development, while use of technologies such as sails are viewed as stepping away from progress. There is also popular fallacy that renewable energy technology will be slower and less efficient than fossil fuelled counterparts.

Transport is a priority area for Pacific Forum Leaders under the Pacific Plan and its importance as a facilitator of economic growth is recognized. However, sustainable shipping is not mentioned in any Pacific national, regional or development agency energy, transport, or climate change strategy to date.

Such barriers have also been found to be true at a global level where a lack of policies and incentive schemes promoting wind propulsion, lack of financial resources, insufficient collaboration, and conservative and risk-averse attitudes are prevalent.

Practical demonstrations are either in development or have only been adopted on a very small scale. Current regulations, infrastructure, user practices, and maintenance networks are aligned with the existing technology, which means that new technologies often face a mismatch with the established socio-institutional framework.

Looking back to the last oil crisis, there is nothing new to what is a rational approach to a central issue of high strategic importance to most Pacific Island states. The current situation is largely a rerun of events of more than 30 years ago. Despite the multiplying sustainable development issues since the 1980s, domestic shipping has not been improved. Technological advance, regional and international dialogue on sustainable transportation, and renewable energy conquests make immediate actions to produce tangible improvements in this sector timely.

Renewable Energy Options

Most initiatives into new technology solutions have focused on large-scale shipping. There is little being done on smaller vessels which service most of the developing world and contribute about 26 per cent of all global shipping emissions whilst carrying only about 4 per cent of global cargo load.

Primary attention is on alternative fuels such as biofuels or biogas, wind and solar. In Pacific island states, bio-fuels/gases from local crop production or by-products offer possibilities. Ultimately, economics of production of such fuels versus the cost of import of fossil fuels will determine rate of sustainable development.

Solar energy has the potential as an auxiliary to other fuels but is not sufficiently advanced to provide primary propulsion. Wind energy has strong potential in a variety of deployments. Hybrid vessels, combining more than one type of energy source, offer a ‘best of both worlds’ approach.

Japanese-based non-governmental organizations, Greenheart, offer strong potential for extremely cost effective 220 ton, 100 per cent renewable energy powered freighters conservatively displacing around one and a half ton of fuel per day. A pilot vessel is under construction in Bangladesh. Work has been on-going into the use of small scale (4-10dwt) cargo/passenger catamarans for more than three decades in different Pacific locations.

Renewable energy vessels have strong potential for enabling regional shipping trade. Currently, Pacific state exporters must transship via Sydney or Auckland making many sub-regional trade opportunities uneconomic with increasing dependency on imports from these developed states. Vessels such as the Greenheart design are capable of direct container shipping of small consignments reliably and regularly, with far lower overheads than the current large container ships.

Windward to the Future

The 1st international Sustainable Sea-Transport Talanoa 2012 (held in Suva, Fiji – November 2012) and Fiji-centered research led by the University of the South Pacific’s Sustainable Sea-Transport research programme suggest renewable energy shipping offers benefits across multiple well-beings: economic, environment, social, and cultural. It offers a potential future where fleets of smaller but sustainable new ships can replace current single aged large vessel operations. There is potential to revitalize all aspects of the domestic Pacific industry from ship construction to transport operations to maintenance and end re-cycling – a cradle to cradle approach.

The 2nd International Sustainable Sea Transport in the Pacific Talanoa to be held 14-18 July 2014, in Suva, Fiji Islands will bring together key stakeholders with an interest in heritage, culture, seafaring, science, vessel design, economics, policy, regulation, and industry to celebrate the Pacific seafaring heritage and progress planning towards a sustainable seafaring future. For more information on upcoming conference, visit:

Amelia Bola, Masters student at the University of the South Pacific.

Amelia Bola, Masters student at the University of the South Pacific.

About the contributor: Amelia Bola is a Masters student at the University of the South Pacific (USP). She is based at the ‘Oceania Centre for Sustainable Transport’ which was set up in 2013 by USP in collaboration with IUCN Oceania Regional Office.

Amelia is also a member of the proactive Wantok Moana, a marine students association of USP. The Pacific-based oceans-related activities of Wantok Moana are supported by a wide network of agencies including IUCN and the United Nations – Nippon Foundation (UNNF) Alumni. The Wantok Moana were welcomed by the network at the UNNF Pacific Regional Alumni meeting held in Suva, Fiji Islands from 14-18 October 2013.

Edited by Joytishna Jit