2 December 2003, Rome
-"The situation of Small Island Developing States
(SIDS)* continues to be one of exposure and growing
vulnerability due to new challenges and emerging economic,
social and ecological issues," says an FAO report.
The report coincides with a side event on
SIDS hosted by FAO today to provide Agriculture Ministers and
other high-level officials from Member States with the latest
developments regarding the implementation of the Barbados Plan
of Action on Sustainable Development of SIDS, adopted at a
global UN conference in 1994.
conference in Mauritius to be held between 30 August and 3
September 2004 will review the implementation of the Barbados
Plan of Action ten years later, and will reflect on a long-term
In preparation for this summit, FAO
has participated in two sub-regional meetings in 2003, and will
also offer its contribution at an inter-regional meeting in the
Bahamas (26-30 January 2004) and a preparatory meeting in New
York (12-14 April 2004).
Most Small Island
Developing States rely heavily on agriculture, forestry and
fisheries exports, which leaves them vulnerable to fluctuations
in commodity prices and trade regulations.
"In a rapidly changing world, new challenges
are emerging which need a harmonized approach to help SIDS adapt
to the trade environment and seek opportunities to diversify
their agricultural systems," the FAO report says.
Many SIDS are increasingly dependent on
food imports and the rates of nutrition-related health problems
are on the rise. Climate change including a rising sea level and
vulnerability to natural disasters such as hurricanes are of
particular concern, according to the report.
In addition, it is estimated that as a result of
global warming sea level will increase by half a meter by 2100,
thus severely threatening islands and low-lying coastal states.
Global warming is also likely to lead to an
increase in maximum tropical cyclone wind speeds and lower
central pressures, leading to more damaging storm surges, the
report also says. 1 300 FAO
SIDS have been facing a
series of problems such as narrow resource base, vulnerability
to natural hazards, high external debt, difficulties in
conforming to sanitary and phyto-sanitary regulations,
over-exploitation of forest and marine resources, high
population growth and mobility, relative poverty, limited
variety of dietary intakes, scarcity of skilled manpower and
weak institutional capacities.
"FAO is responding to the increased SIDS
vulnerability by making agricultural use of land and water more
efficient in order to address constraints of land fragmentation,
the impact of tourism and urbanization on agriculture, water
over-extraction and salt water intrusion, as well as the
negative effects of imported convenience foods, such as canned
food, on health and agriculture," FAO experts from the
Sustainable Development Department said.
Over the past two decades, SIDS have benefited from
1 300 FAO projects worth US$300 million. One third of this
amount represents funds spent on field projects since 1994, of
which US$90 million was spent on 520 national projects,
US$5 million on 83 regional projects and US$2.8 million on 3
In addition, FAO
has provided invaluable normative assistance for the
implementation of international instruments in the fields of
agriculture, fisheries and forestry, such as the Codex
Alimentarius and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries,
as well as for strengthening capacities on the Uruguay Round
follow-up and multilateral negotiations on agriculture.
FAO Plan of Action
In March 1999, as a follow-up to the 1996
World Food Summit, FAO organized a Special Ministerial
Conference on Agriculture in SIDS to better support the adoption
of appropriate national policies and the provision of technical
and financial assistance.
resulted in a MinisterialDeclaration which led to the adoption,
by the FAO Council, of a Plan of Action on Sustainable
Agriculture in SIDS.
This Plan of Action
includes five priority areas:
- adjusting to changes in the global
- moving towards more
diversified and sustainable
- meeting fisheries
- ensuring sustainable management of
forestry resources, environmental protection and mitigation of
- capacity building, policies
and institutional strengthening.
In 2002, FAO launched an initiative to help SIDS
review and update their national policies and strategies for
food security and agricultural development.
FAO is also working on improving capabilities of
national Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and
Mapping Systems (FIVIMS). "Both initiatives are aimed
at addressing the relative poverty and food insecurity in
SIDS," FAO expert Nadia Scialabba said.
Regarding fisheries, the long-term sustainability of
this sector in SIDS has been threatened by over-exploitation of
living marine resources, pollution and lack of effective
surveillance mechanisms at both national and regional level,
according to the FAO report.
FAO is helping
SIDS to strengthen institutional capacities, improve fisheries
conservation and management, enhance aquaculture development and
improve post-harvest fish management, marketing and processing.
In the forestry sector, FAO's
technical assistance helps SIDS to manage their forest resources
in a sustainable way for the provision of wood and non-wood
products, while simultaneously maintaining their environmental
and economic functions, such as coastal production and
The FAO report suggests
"synergic linkages" between tourism,
agriculture, forestry and fisheries and invites the
international community "to better respond to the
increased vulnerability of SIDS" by enhancing
traditional production systems and fostering existing
initiatives to diversify SIDS production for local consumption
and export of organic commodities.
"SIDS' tourism sector, which presently
imports 50 to 95 percent of foods and beverages, offers
potential outlets for such quality products.
"It is imperative that the global society
recognizes the importance of ensuring the existence of SIDS as a
vital and integrated component in mankind's
heritage," the FAO report concludes.
Information Officer, FAO
*SIDS members of
Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bahrain,
Barbados, Belize, Cape Verde, Comoros, Cook Islands, Cyprus,
Dominica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Grenada,
Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Kiribati, Maldives,
Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua
New Guinea, Samoa, Sao Tomé et Principe, Seychelles, Solomon
Islands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the
Grenadines, Suriname, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago and Vanuatu.
Federated States of Micronesia and Tuvalu have applied for