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Commonwealth helping small states build resilience to shocks

14 June 2013
World-renowned experts will meet in Valletta, Malta, from 18 to 19 June for a technical workshop on strengthening resilience in small states. Over half of the Commonwealth’s 54 member countries are small states.

The meeting will build on a framework first developed by the Commonwealth and the University of Malta in 2004. It includes an index to measure countries’ ability to absorb external shocks caused by adverse global economic conditions, natural disasters and extreme weather events.

This resilience building assessment tool was designed to help countries agree on priority areas for policy intervention. It has been used to measure vulnerability and resilience in three small Commonwealth island states, namely Seychelles, St Lucia and Vanuatu. 

Dr Cyrus Rustomjee, Economic Affairs Director at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said: “This workshop will revisit the resilience framework, with a view to further strengthening it. For example, the recent global economic crisis highlighted the need to incorporate financial regulatory regimes and environmental management in the resilience index in order to safeguard development gains in small states.

“The workshop will build on our valuable work on small states with inputs from leading experts in economic, social, governance and environment areas from Africa, the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and Pacific. Our objective is to formulate practical policy options to support sustainable development in small states. This work is timely, coming before the 2014 Global Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States.”

Small states face a unique set of development challenges posed by their size and corresponding narrow production and export bases, as well as susceptibility to the effects of climate change. Their limited ability to withstand or bounce back from external shock was particularly evident during the 2008-2010 global economic recession.

Most small states experienced a strong and prolonged economic downturn, which extended well beyond the end of the recession and significantly eroded economic and social gains. The lack of financial resources coupled with deficits in capacity have compromised their ability to respond effectively to these shocks, which has adversely altered their growth trajectory.

For over three decades, the Commonwealth has championed the cause of small states by raising international awareness of their vulnerability and their sustainable development needs. The Commonwealth Secretariat also has a target programme of research and advocacy for small states.

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