5 January 2005

The Mauritius United Nations Conference on Small Islands to Address Better Disaster Preparedness

Secretary-General of the International Meeting (10-14 January) Highlights Vulnerability of Small Island Developing States

(Re-issued as received.)

UNITED NATIONS, 4 January -- Mauritius was relatively spared by the 26 December’s tsunami and will be able to host as planned in January a major United Nations international meeting on the future of small islands worldwide. The Mauritius conference will address as a matter of priority the need for better disaster preparedness in small islands against natural disasters such as tsunamis and cyclones.

United Nations Under-Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of the United Nations International Meeting on Small Island Developing States, Anwarul K. Chowdhury, while extending his deepest sympathies to the people and governments of the countries affected by the disaster, and especially to the small island developing states, said, “Destruction of life and property to the low lying coastal areas, once again highlights the vulnerability of the small island developing states.”

“This wave of destruction comes on the heels of a number of recent climatic disasters where the impact of sudden climate change has never before been more evident than the recent devastating widespread hurricanes and tropical storms affecting small island developing states, most vulnerable to global climate change,” he added.

Faced with issues ranging from natural disasters and climate change to trade losses and threats from HIV/AIDS, the meeting is a forum for 37 island nations to present their problems to the international community and seek help.

“Small Island Developing States are extremely vulnerable to all kinds of natural disasters and in view of the enormous damage caused by the tsunami disaster, naturally the Mauritius conference will have that kind of a special focus,” Mr. Chowdhury said.

“I am sure the issue of some kind of global early warning system will be proposed by many states and I am one of the people who believe such an early warning system should be set up immediately.”

Over 2,000 participants from the islands, their traditional donor partners and other countries, including some 25 heads of State and Government, will participate from 10 to 14 January in Mauritius in the United Nations International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, which was agreed upon a decade ago at a Global Conference in Barbados.

The Mauritius Meeting is expected to adopt a proactive strategy to further implement the Barbados Programme of Action, which included priority areas like natural disasters, climate change, wastes, marine resources, freshwater, energy, biodiversity, transport and tourism. The strategy will also address emerging problems such as market access, HIV/AIDS and new security concerns, and new opportunities like the economic potential of information technology and island culture.

In addition to the official conference, several parallel events will be held in Mauritius: a Civil Society Forum (6-9 January), a youth gathering called “Youth Visioning for Island Living” (7-12 January), and a large event aimed at promoting exchanges among small islands, the “Community Vilaj” (6-14 January), which will include a dialogue and performance space as well as an “Island Market” to showcase the diversity of island products. (Information on parallel events available on www.un.org/smallislands2005 and www.un.org/ohrlls)


Information on the conference is available at http://www.un.org/smallislands2005/.

Press Contact: Nosh Nalavala, Media Officer, United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (917) 367-2471, e-mail: nalavala@un.org

François Coutu, UN Department of Public Information, Development Section
Tel.: 230-286-0567 (in Mauritius) E-mail: mediainfo@un.org

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