Addressing a parallel event at the five-day conference in Port Louis that is assessing progress towards meeting development goals laid out 10 years ago, he said the 26 December tsunami that created a terrible catastrophe in the Indian Ocean countries showed “more clearly not only the challenges facing small islands, but their relevance for the entire world.””The list of challenges is long,” he told the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), according to a text released at UN Headquarters in New York.”It includes familiar questions such as the risk of natural disasters, isolation from global markets, and high costs for energy and transport. More recently, other issues have come to the fore, such as the impact of climate change, the spread of HIV/AIDS, the threat of terrorism and the potential of information and communication technologies.”With the 2005 theme “small islands, big stakes,” the conference is officially called the International Meeting for the 10-year Review of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States. Included in its agenda are discussions of island efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) designed to halve extreme poverty by 2015.Noting the solidarity that the islands have formed, Mr. Annan said, “You may be small in size, but your potential is big.”In that vein, he said he hoped they would be active in the General Assembly’s consideration of the report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.The 16-member panel comprises prominent politicians, diplomats and development experts Mr. Annan appointed more than a year ago to assess how the UN might transform itself to deal with the major threats facing the world in the 21st century. It submitted 101 proposals for the GA’s deliberations.Meanwhile, in finalizing a Mauritius document that all participants could support and implement, the islands would have to establish clear priorities for the years ahead, he said.”You will have to deepen partnerships at all levels – through South-South cooperation; through closer cooperation with developed countries; by engaging more actively with civil society; and by tapping the knowledge and capacities of regional organizations, such as CARICOM (the Caribbean Community), the Pacific Islands Forum and the Indian Ocean Commission.”Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General and Mrs. Annan visited “the Community Vilaj,” a conference exhibition showing sustainable development efforts and innovations at the community level in small islands worldwide.Mr. Annan also opened the final session of the parallel youth forum of the conference, with the theme “Youth Island Visioning.”Yesterday in a panel discussion on trade, a senior economist with the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Deep Forde, said small island economies had been badly hit by changes in world trading regimes for sugar, bananas and fish.While the small island states accounted for 15 per cent of the sugar exported, many of these nations had had to shut down factories and bankable assurances were being threatened, while their banana exports had dropped to $21 million from $37 million between 2000 and 2002, he said.In the Caribbean, agricultural production had declined so much that the region had moved from being a major net exporter to a net importer, Mr. Forde noted.
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