On behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States, I wish to thank Jamaica and Canada for this initiative which appropriately nests the response to COVID19 within the global sustainable development agenda.
While AOSIS acknowledges that this is not a negotiating platform, it nonetheless is a global forum to explore the best possible options and to test new ideas that can in the end inspire global responses be-fitting of the epochal challenges upon us and ahead of us.
COVID-19 is but a preview of impacts that will occur, if we continue with business as usual.
The economic damages of COVID-19, estimated at 7.3 trillion dollars globally, are projected to be the price we will have to pay on an annual basis in a warming world; and that is being conservative.
The costs of course will never be evenly spread and the burden will disproportionately fall on those least empowered to respond. Regrettably, the past 25 years of global policies have only entrenched these gross inequities systemically.
It is no surprise then that small island developing states (SIDS), yet again, are the most severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis, with our economic growth expected to contract at three times the global average.
COVID-19 has brought us to a threshold point.
While the menu of options offers more than enough to pick and choose to suit individual interests, doing so will not effectively address the systemic inequities that have long held our countries back from sustainable development; and, even now, are preventing us from accessing the support we need to recover. We therefore advocate for a holistic approach that addresses SIDS issues with SIDS solutions. And, we propose to do so in the form of a SIDS Compact.
The SIDS Compact is premised on the special case of SIDS and therefore requires a dynamic approach to addressing our recognized vulnerabilities as a cross cutting systemic issue. It will require, finally, agreeing to a multi-dimensional vulnerability index to replace the antiquated income-only measures.
The Compact would aid in designing innovative response mechanisms and enhance existing financial instruments to guide SIDS economies through this period of crisis; our Compact would also create a responsive system where gains can be maintained, resilience to climate change can be reinforced, and development achieved.
It would include short to long-term measures such as:
Expanding the scope of the DSSI.
Enabling favorable trade conditions for SIDS.
Establishing a resilience fund.
Reducing external debt to a sustainable level in the medium term through a multilateral debt workout mechanism.
Ensuring financial inclusion by addressing challenges of de-risking.
Mid- to long-term
Devising a toolkit of innovative financial instruments, such as debt swap mechanisms and state contingent debt instruments.
Aligning recovery packages with the Paris Agreement.
Translating national plans into specific policies and investment plans integrated into national budget and planning processes, in line with the SDGs and Paris Agreement.
Finally, for these responses to take full effect, we will need an ecosystem of support involving bilateral, multilateral and private creditors as well as the G7 and the G20 driving forward the SIDS Compact.
The options set forth now will be definitive of our people’s future. Without immediate action to address debt and long-term efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, sustainability itself will not be realized by SIDS. That is an outcome which cannot be acceptable. We envision a bright future for all.
MAURICE F. MERCHANT
Director-General of Communications | Government of Antigua and Barbuda