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Delegates at a Commonwealth conference

Commonwealth conference will accelerate efforts to help small states better respond to disasters

27 March 2019

A Commonwealth conference to strengthen small states’ access to disaster finance and help build their resilience against external shocks, has started in Samoa today. 

The conference comes on the back of the Commonwealth’s first research conference on small states, which focused on disaster risk reduction.

The Commonwealth and Government of Samoa are jointly hosting the fifth Global Biennial Conference on Small States (GBCSS) in Apia. It brings together senior officials from 23 Commonwealth countries as well as regional and international development partners.

Opening the conference, Hon Sili Epa Tuioti, Samoa’s Minister of Finance, said: “The conference allows us all as small states to reflect on important disaster risk reduction concerns, including an opportunity to take stock of progress towards some of the important frameworks we are party to, namely the SAMOA Pathway and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

“We all represent small states that are vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change and natural disasters. Disaster risk management, as you well know, is a development and sustainable development issue for all our governments. Ensuring adequate financing to effectively address the negative impacts of climate change and disasters is necessary.”

Thirty-one of the world’s 39 small states are Commonwealth countries and all have populations of 1.5 million or less. Tools developed and tested to help Commonwealth small states recover from disasters, can be copied and applied in similar states elsewhere.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland thanked the Government of Samoa via video-address for being the first country in the Pacific to host the GBCSS.

She said: “Given the number of small states in the region – both Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth – it is a particularly fitting location for the conference, and so I offer my warmest appreciation to the Government of Samoa for generously hosting this important gathering.

“Your concerted efforts on behalf of the countries and development partners you represent, together with our holistic and integrated Commonwealth approach, offer prospects for real breakthroughs.”

The Secretary-General stressed that “working together we can transform the ways in which the special needs of smaller and more vulnerable states are supported”.

Working together under the theme ‘Building Resilience Through Disaster Risk Reduction’, delegates will improve their understanding of how prone small states are to disasters and how best they can recover.

The conference started with a two-day training session on mobilising disaster finance and managing disaster risk, delivered jointly by the Commonwealth and the World Bank,  following which the conference will create a space for development partners, academia, the private sector and other non-state actors to present their innovative disaster risk reduction solutions to policy-makers and other key stakeholders in small states.

The conference will also provide delegates with a better understanding of available financing options which they can unlock through tailored disaster risk policies.

The findings of the conference will guide the Commonwealth’s interventions at the UN Global Platform on Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva in May.