After months of preparation and much anticipation, the Third International Conference on Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) has finally begun in Apia, Samoa. The conference, which is held once a decade, brings together island nations from across the world that share similar challenges of sustainable development. It is centred around the belief that sustainable development “can only be achieved with a broad alliance of people. Governments, civil society and the private sector all working together to achieve he future we want for present and future generations.

In addition to the plenary meetings during the SIDS conference where the main negotiations are done between the attending heads of state, there are six multi-stakeholder partnership dialogues focused on (1) Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management, (2) Oceans, Seas and Biodiversity, (3) Water and Sanitation, Food Security and Water Management, (4) Sustainable Economic Development, (5) Sustainable Energy, and (6) Social Development, Health, Non-Communicable Diseases, Youth and Women. There are also side and parallel events, too many to name, happening alongside the main conference. Governments will use platform to announce their achievements since the last SIDS conference in Mauritius in 2005, as well as make new or renewed commitments.

WCS - Fiji Policy Advisor, Mr. Manoa Malani (closest to camera) with Senior members of the Fiji Government

WCS – Fiji Policy Advisor, Mr. Manoa Malani (closest to camera) with Senior members of the Fiji Government

WCS - Fiji Deputy Director, Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai at the opening ceremony

WCS – Fiji Deputy Director, Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai at the opening ceremony

It is a massive event – I have heard figures of up to 3000 delegates will turn up in Samoa for the SIDS conference. Because there is literally not enough accommodation on the island to house all the international delegates, a large cruise ship is coming to provide a “sea bed” option! (yes, pun intended!).

Manoa Malani (Wildlife Conservation Society’s Policy Advisor) and I have been invited to be on the official Fiji delegation to provide technical support to our government over the four main days of the conference, from 1-4 September 2014. We will also be participating in the Private Sector Forum over the weekend, which will facilitate networking and interaction between senior business and government leaders to ensure policies, programs and practice strengthen businesses and industry and contributes to sustainable development goals. We will also be co-hosting a not-to-be-missed side event on the last night of the SIDS conference with the Fiji Government and the Waitt Foundation, on “Sustainable Development of Marine Resources: Achieving the 2020 Target.”

On a personal level why am I here? I am looking forward to networking and connecting to other islanders including those outside the Pacific, to better understand how to merge the environmental agenda with other important development issues. I want to be part of the dialogue that defines our sustainable development pathway for the Pacific. And I hope, that future recognises and embraces the fact that our culture, health, happiness and general well-being, are intricately intertwined with the natural resources that are a part of our islands, and the vast ocean that surrounds us.