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Commonwealth report urges action to protect agriculture in small states

7 December 2016

Rising temperatures will have severe implications for crops, water and livestock in African small states if urgent measures aren’t taken, a new report has found.

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Small States: Economic Review and Basic Statics, Volume 19 warns of the intensifying impact of climate change on the agriculture sectors in Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland. It also identifies strategies that could help countries address the challenge.

 “What the Commonwealth report shows is that there is need for urgent action. For Africa, we need to start with better co-operation and co-ordination between those working in climate change and agriculture,” said Dr Reginald Darius, head of economic development at the Commonwealth Secretariat.

This annual review provides a snapshot of the key social, economic, environmental and political factors that influence the prospects of Commonwealth small states. According to the 2016 edition, despite positive growth rates, small states face a worrying rise in youth unemployment, high debt to GDP ratios, a decline in oil and non-oil prices and heightened exposure to natural hazards.

It also shows that, of the 25 countries in the world considered most vulnerable to natural disasters, 9 (36 per cent) are Commonwealth small states. Vanuatu in the Pacific is considered the world’s most at-risk country.

“Understanding global trends and their influence on the performance of small states is crucial to undertaking appropriate strategies for their integration into the global economy,” said Dr Darius. “As such, it is vital for policy-makers to pay attention to these trends and what they mean for their own countries.

“For example, it is important for governments to consider the uncertainties and potential implications that could arise from the UK’s decision to leave the EU - particularly considering that small states rely heavily on exports to the UK.”

Commonwealth experts are already addressing some of the concerns highlighted in the report. Recently, they have been examining the impact of Brexit on Commonwealth countries and identifying opportunities to boost trade between members.

The Commonwealth has also been helping members to tackle climate change through pioneering initiatives such as the Climate Finance Access Hub. The Hub, which opened its doors in September 2016, will help small and vulnerable countries access multilateral funds, as well as private sector finance for climate action.

The report is being distributed to governments in Commonwealth small states. The intergovernmental organisation has pledged to continue supporting countries to overcome the highlighted challenges.

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s Small States: Economic Review and Basic Statics, Volume 19

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