CL 115/INF/19


Hundred-and-fifteenth Session

Rome, 23 - 28 November 1998



I. Introduction

1. The Plan of Action of the World Food Summit sets out specific conditions and needs of small island developing states (SIDS). Commitment III refers to particular needs and improvements to increase their food security (Basis for Action, para. 28), especially in terms of environmental threats to fisheries and marine resources (Objective 3.2 (d), para. 33). Commitment IV draws attention to the specificity of investment needs for achieving sustainable development in SIDS (Basis for Action, para. 51).

2. The FAO Conference at its twenty-ninth Session (7-18 November 1997) further stressed the need to recognize the particular constraints of SIDS and invited the Organization to organize an international conference on agriculture in SIDS, as part of the World Food Summit follow-up (paragraphs 45 and 53, C97/REP).

3. In response to the above calls, and as a continuation of its efforts to assist SIDS in developing their capacities in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, FAO is preparing a Special Ministerial Conference on Agriculture in Small Island Developing States, to be held in Rome, 12 March 1999.

II. Major past and planned events in relation to sustainable development in SIDS

4. A number of regional and international conferences and initiatives have been promoted by FAO in past years to specifically address the common issues of small island developing states.

5. As a contribution to the preparatory progress for UNCED, FAO organized the Inter-Regional Conference of Small Island Countries on Sustainable Development and Environment in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Christchurch, Barbados, 7-10 April 1992, and the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean convened a Consultation on Sustainable Development and Environment in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in this region in Santiago, Chile, 28-30 April 1992.

6. UN General Assembly Resolution 47/189, adopted on 22 December 1992, decided to convene a Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States in Barbados, April 1994, which launched the Barbados Programme of Action for Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. FAO assumed the role of task manager for the land chapter, one of the 15 programme areas identified in the Programme of Action.

7. As part of the Director-General’s decentralization process, FAO established two Sub-Regional Offices in 1996 for the Caribbean and for the Pacific Islands, respectively. Both offices have a technical team that has been assembled to service the specific requirements of SIDS in these regions. They are intended to strengthen participatory technology-driven sustainable agriculture and rural development in the local SIDS environments.

8. With a view to assisting South Pacific SIDS in developing a programme of action contributing to sustainable development in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, FAO held a Technical Consultation on South Pacific SIDS on Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Apia, Western Samoa, 6-9 May 1996.

9. The Sixth Session of the Commission for Sustainable Development, 20 April-1 May 1998, reviewed progress on the implementation of the SIDS Programme of Action and called upon the international community, United Nations agencies and intergovernmental bodies to provide assistance to small island developing states for practical and concrete actions.

10. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is currently coordinating modalities to mobilize resources for the implementation of the Programme of Action in collaboration with UNDP and other related agencies. As part of the resource mobilization endeavours, a donor conference with UNDP and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) has been scheduled for 24-26 February 1999.

11. UNGA resolution 52/202 reaffirmed the commitment of the international community. It decided that the Seventh Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-7), Spring 1999, would serve as a preparatory meeting for the UNGA Special Session, Autumn 1999, for a two day in-depth assessment and appraisal of the implementation of the SIDS Programme of Action.

III. Objectives and expected outputs of the Conference

12. Against the above-mentioned background, the overarching objective of the Conference is to develop a mission-specific plan of action consisting of programmes/projects with necessary funding mechanisms for the sustainable agricultural development of SIDS as a follow-up to the World Food Summit. More specifically, the Conference is expected:

to prepare the SIDS for participation in World Trade Organization negotiations on agriculture, with a focus on the impact on agricultural trade and the future role of regional trading arrangements involving SIDS and the mutual trading systems;

to develop priority programmes for intensification of agriculture and diversification of economy integrated with environment and sustainability, involving the Ministries of Agriculture, Fisheries, Forestry, Environment, Trade, Tourism, Economy and Planning;

to enhance the capacity and assess the role of the agricultural sector at both national and regional levels in the implementation of UNCED Agenda 21, the 1994 UN Programme of Action for SIDS and the Rome Declaration adopted by the WFS;

to promote inter-regional and regional cooperative efforts among the Ministries of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Natural Resources and Environment for the implementation of identified activities, through the adoption of a regional approach and networking at various levels;

to exchange information on the latest developments and identify emerging issues that are of direct concern to the SIDS, in particular in the area of sustainable agricultural development following the WFS in 1996.

13. By addressing emerging issues and identifying priority areas of common interest, the Conference will launch a Plan of Action which consists of: (i) programmes/projects aimed at improving and enhancing international trade competitiveness of SIDS; intensification of agriculture and diversification of economy; natural resource management and environment conservation; (ii) practical and feasible implementation mechanisms, including financial mechanisms.

14. In order to obtain substantive outputs from the Conference, sectorial aspects affecting SIDS will be discussed during the next sessions of the various Committees of the Council (CCP, COAG, COFI and COFO), all of which will be held prior to the convening of the SIDS Conference. The outcome of the sectorial discussions from each Committee will be compiled and consolidated into a paper which will be subsequently tabled for information at the SIDS Conference.

IV. Progress to date

15. In March 1998, the Director-General sent questionnaires to SIDS in order to seek their views on the major areas of concern to be addressed by the Conference. On the basis of the responses received, the agenda of the Conference has been defined, which will focus mainly on the consideration of a Plan of Action, through facilitating exchange on issues concerning three theme areas: trade, diversification and intensification of agriculture, and natural resource management and environmental conservation. Three technical background papers, on each of the theme areas, are being prepared by staff members through interdepartmental cooperation without requesting external experts and funding support. The findings of these technical papers will shape the draft Plan of Action that will be tabled for discussion and consideration during the Conference.

16. To mobilize funding support for the organization of the Conference, the Organization made preliminary contact with a large number of potential donors in May 1998. In September 1998, a full-fledged project document on support to the Special Ministerial Conference on Agriculture in Small Island Developing States was developed, approved and circulated to all interested donors. Specific financial pledges from donors and interested parties to support the participation of the SIDS members have yet to be received.

17. It is expected that invitations to the Conference will be extended to all Member Countries, as well as interested intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and donors, in November/December 1998 and documentation will be despatched in January/February 1999.

V. Issues that require the attention of the Council

18. In view of the funding constraints and taking into consideration the busy schedule of the ministers, it was decided that the conference will be held for one extended working day in three sessions. An innovative approach will be necessary to conduct the Conference, and full cooperation from the participating member states will be essential. Furthermore, since financial support to the Conference has become indispensable in view of the difficulties envisaged by the small island developing members, the Council may wish to appeal to donors for their generous financial support. The Council may also wish to propose or advise any alternative support to the Conference.