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Small states

Small states are sovereign countries with a population of 1.5 million people or fewer. There are 30 small states in the Commonwealth.

As members of the Commonwealth, small states have an equal voice. It enables them to take part in international decision-making on issues that affect them, such as climate change.

With limited resources, small states face many challenges, including:

  • dependence on a narrow range of exports
  • high transportation costs due to insularity and remoteness
  • dependence on strategic imports such as food and fuel
  • susceptibility to natural disasters and environmental change 
  • decline in global trade and investment
  • lack of readily available information for investors and trading partners
  • limited capacity to harness growth opportunities. 

Some larger countries - Botswana, Jamaica, Lesotho, Namibia and Papua New Guinea - are classified as small states as they share similar characteristics.

Recent publications

Climate Risk Management: Opportunities and Challenges for Risk Pooling
This report interrogates the use of risk pooling, a form of climate insurance, as a possible framework for small state climate risk management within which other complementary finance instruments may be used. READ >>

Small States: Economic Review and Basic Statistics, Volume 19
This unique annual collection of key economic and statistical data on states with fewer than five million inhabitants is an essential reference for economists, planners and policy-makers working on issues of concern to small states. This volume contains 17 tables covering development indicators and an article focusing on climate change impacts, adaptation and policies for agriculture in African small states. READ >>

The Blue Economy in Small States
The ‘blue economy’ is an evolving concept that recognises the need to maximise the enormous economic potential of oceans while preserving it for future generations. This paper examines the requirements for small states to effectively pursue a blue economy development approach. READ >>

Achieving a Resilient Future for Small States: Caribbean 2050
The Caribbean faces numerous economic, social and environmental challenges, with current projections predicting the road ahead to be filled with low levels of growth, high debt and low resilience. In Achieving a Resilient Future for Small States: Caribbean 2050, the contributors set out a long-term, research-based strategy for avoiding these projections, recommending a number of policy interventions aimed at building the region’s resilience and development prospects. READ >>

To gain free access to the full catalogue of Commonwealth Secretariat research on small states, please visit the Commonwealth iLibrary

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