Small States battling climate change

Decent work and sustainability intertwined for small states battling climate change

Comment | 05 September 2014 Samoa, Oceania

Many nations are island states such as Kiribati, Tuvalu, Niue and Nauru, struggling for survival while gradually sink below sea level, are besieged by the inexorable advance of the tidal level, higher and higher, these most countries are affected by terrible natural disasters. In Samoa, Oceania, held the International Conference on Small Island Developing States, unfortunately the findings did not meet the objectives of island countries who expected a more realistic result. However, the final document will play an important role to influence on the major events that will take place next year, including the discussion on Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Summit on Climate Change.

Countries like Kiribati, represented at the International Conference on Small Island Developing States, held 1-4 September in Samoa, are on the frontline of climate change.

Many, including Kiribati and the island nations of Tuvalu, Niue and Nauru, are fighting for survival as they slowly sink below rising sea levels. They are under siege from the ever-advancing tide and are frequently hit by natural disasters.

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Bob Kyloh

The president of the tiny nation of Kiribati is actively seeking a new homeland for its entire population of nearly 101,000, as cause ocean water level rise.

The hosts of this UN conference had hoped for some major new commitments from the rich nations and the private sector, to make sustainable development more than just a slogan. The last two conferences on the issue had produced lofty conclusions and a long list of promises that were never implemented. This time, Samoa and the other islands desperately wanted a more realistic outcome, backed by firm financial commitments and a timetable for implementation.

Unfortunately the conclusions fall short of this objective. Competition from current geopolitical hot spots has captured the attention of global leaders. In addition, the fiscal legacy of recession has restricted the resources available for helping these remote island states.

Nevertheless, the final outcome document will play an important role in influencing other major events taking place in the next year, including the debate over the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN Climate Summit.

From an ILO perspective, the outcome was encouraging. Decent work for all is featured as one of the key commitments, while the full respect for international labour standards and the importance of green jobs are also mentioned. This will help ensure that decent work remains prominent in the upcoming debates over the SDGs.

The international community has just concluded its discussion in Samoa about small island developing states, with decent work for all emerging as a key commitment, writes Bob Kyloh, senior ILO economist, who attended the conference.

UN Conference on Small Island Developing States