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Ministers call for accelerated action on small states

18 April 2018

Leaders and ministers convened in London, yesterday for the first high-level discussions of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. Their focus was on how best to support the Commonwealth’s 31 small states, which face unique vulnerabilities.

On the second day of the Commonwealth summit, delegates called for strong global advocacy and action to strengthen the resilience of small states against external shocks, such as hurricanes and global financial crises.

On average, the annual cost of disasters for small states is nearly two per cent of GDP -  four times more than that of larger countries –  and limits their prospects for achieving sustainable development. 

Yesterday’s meeting was co-chaired by the Prime Minister of Fiji, Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, and the UK’s Minister of State in the Department of International Development, Lord Bates.

Prime Minister Bainimarama reminded delegates that actions are required saying: “It’s is important to explore solutions rather than dwell on challenges. We need to propose strategies to strengthen Commonwealth collaboration to reduce vulnerabilities.”

Lord Banks then thanked Fiji for a ‘strong moral voice on climate change’ adding: ‘This is clearly an area where the Commonwealth brings a unique perspective.

In her opening remarks, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “The Commonwealth has long been the voice of small states, and an advocate for pioneering and innovative collaboration in response to their particular needs.  It is entirely fitting that early in the week of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting there should be substantive discussions on how to build on this engagement, and on the emerging issues that are priorities for such countries. They are disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change and natural disasters, and this reduces their resilience and increases their vulnerability. The Commonwealth Secretariat is working alongside smaller member countries in numerous ways, and in partnership with financial institutions and development counterparts. One current area of focus is on overcoming the negative effects which bank de-risking is having on remittances and other flows of investment.”

Highlights of the meeting included discussions on:

  • Disaster risk management and implementation of Sendai Framework on disaster risk reduction;
  • Accessing affordable finance to encourage climate resilient development and sustainable growth;
  • Meeting the Paris Agreement on climate change as well as considerations for the Talanoa Dialogue to assess progress made on climate action; and
  • Adopting a unified approach ahead of the 2019 UN Climate Summit.

The Commonwealth played a pivotal role in the success of 2015 Paris Agreement, in particular its commitment to pursue efforts to limit global surface temperature warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. Delegates noted that it is critical that the commitment becomes action in meeting the Paris target of 1.5°C.

 

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