Over the weekend, I attended the Private Sector Forum which called on the provide sector to work with SIDS governments and partners committed to working with SIDS strengthen and form effective, innovative and concrete partnerships for the full implementation of SIDS sustainable development priorities. It got me thinking about the challenges that SIDS, especially those in the Pacific, face relating to their land size, remoteness, limited resources, distance to regional and global markets, and their vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change.

When I think about my own country, Fiji, I can see the immense development challenges of building and maintaining infrastructure, trying to maintain transport systems just to keep our people connected, and providing basic services to both urban and rural communities. Poverty and inequality are increasing. Our economy is heavily reliant on our natural systems and is therefore fragile. It is these same natural systems that currently provide us food, clean water, and other environmental services that sustain us, and must continue to sustain the all our future generations.

WCS - Fiji team, Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai alongside Mr. Manoa Malani

WCS – Fiji team, Dr. Sangeeta Mangubhai alongside Mr. Manoa Malani

Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Mr. Neroni Slade and Conservation International Senior Marine Director, Ms. Sue Taei

Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Mr. Neroni Slade and Conservation International Senior Marine Director, Ms. Sue Taei

A recent paper Dr Stacy Jupiter, Professor Richard Kingsford and I had published in Pacific Conservation Biology (http://pcb.murdoch.edu.au/Jupiter%20et%20al_2014.pdf) highlighted that “Pacific Island biodiversity has a notorious record of decline and extinction which continues due to habitat loss and degradation, invasive species, over exploitation, pollution, disease and human-forced climate change.” I can’t help but wonder how can we reach sustainable development? And is there a tipping point for SIDS?

Last night at the opening ceremony, our Samoan brothers and sisters sang us “There is Hope,” a song composed specifically for the SIDS conference, to urge and inspire our leaders to work together to save SIDS. There is recognition here that our governments have such a pivotal role, and the only way we will make progress towards sustainable development will be through vision, and the charting of a course that is inclusive and has sustainability as a fundamental and core value – that we do not compromise our long term future ourselves for short term gains.

The reoccurring theme of this conference is “the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States through genuine and durable partnerships.” The emphasis is that governments are not alone – SIDS are not alone. With the right partnerships, for example with the private sector, we can create a more resilient economy that values entrepreneurship and encourages ‘green’ public investment. The Samoan Prime Minister at the opening ceremony urged global leaders to forge binding agreements on climate change. A wonderful tag line that is being increasing used at SIDS is #IslandVoicesGlobalChoices. This resonates with me, especially since the international community have to understand, in an increasingly connected world, the benefits of getting sustainable development right in SIDS and the vast ocean resources they have sovereignty over, transcends boundaries.

Fiji singers entertaining at the launching of the Pacific Ocean Alliance

Fiji singers entertaining at the launching of the Pacific Ocean Alliance

Pacific Islander performers at SIDS

Pacific Islander performers at SIDS