Climate change is a collective crime against humanity - President James Michel addresses the Samoa SIDS conference

01 September 2014 | Foreign Affairs

President James Michel has called for more decisive action against climate change, a fair deal for SIDS in development agenda which encompasses a vulnerability index, focus on the Blue Economy as well as addressing islands’ debt management, in his address to the UN conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Apia, Samoa, this morning.

“We have come here not to beg but to assert our right. Our right to a decent life. Our right to survival in an increasingly cynical and manipulative world, dominated by big business. Our way of life that we want to bequeath to the children of our islands and their children. Our right to development that enriches our quality of life and the essence of our being over and above purely commercial considerations. Our right to exist,” said President James Michel in his statement

The President noted that the globalisation of development measures wealth and forgets people, through indices such as GDP per capita.

“But 22 years after the first Rio meeting, we still define success by how much money is made divided by the number of citizens.  Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed since then. This is not the way we want to measure the achievements of our people. This is not the way we want to measure the quality of life. This is not the way we want to measure humanity. In this meeting of global islands we must put people back into development,” stated President Michel.

Mr. Michel presented 4 major proposals for the sustainable development of SIDS.

Firstly he said that the Samoa meeting, should ensure that islands get development options that are adapted to their needs by adopting vulnerability criteria to allow islands to invest to build resilience against global shocks.

“We need a vulnerability or resilience index to be built-in to the UN and global development architecture.  This will not only benefit SIDS.  It will ensure that development as a whole is more targeted and more effective,” said President Michel.

Secondly, President Michel said that development of SIDS can be transformed through a model of development that is ocean based rather than land based as islanders are  ocean nations.

“We are the children of the oceans. The oceans are our life-source, the pulse of our survival, and the catalyst for building a new development model that builds on our strengths whilst reducing our weaknesses.  Seychelles has been proud to host a first Blue Economy Summit in partnership with the UAE in Abu Dhabi in January this year.  At this summit we agreed to harness our oceans to accelerate our ability to produce food and energy, whilst also diversifying our economies.  To achieve this we need research and technology transfer.”

The President called on all development partners to work with islands to tap into ‘this unprecedented opportunity for all of humanity’ to develop an ocean architecture and finance investment in infrastructure and research.

Thirdly, Mr Michel spoke about the issue of sustainable debt of island nations, as there is a lack of affordable financing available for SIDS, which are often faced with unsustainable commercial debt.

“The GDP per capita threshold for development financing masks the reality that the cost per capita for development in islands is exponentially more pronounced.  While large middle income countries can often get very affordable credit through commercial terms based on the size of their internal markets and their assets, SIDS see the cost of their small populations and their isolation directly reflected in the applied interest rates.”

Fourthly, the President said that 2015 must be the year where the world ends the debate and rhetoric on climate change and instead acts decisively.

“It is time that we recognise climate change for what it is: a collective crime against humanity.  Climate change will be the single largest reason for displacement of peoples in the next 50 years.  Climate change is already robbing a generation of its livelihoods.  Climate change is robbing island nations of their right to exist. We must save our future together.”

He called on SIDS to claim a fair deal and to work together as a force for change as islands are the ‘conscience of humanity.’

Mr Michel said that he believes the world’s islands can make a difference because he believes in his own people. He said he has seen the Seychellois people emerge from an unprecedented crisis and work together harder than ever to build a New Seychelles.

“ I have seen our fishermen band together to fight over-exploitation while creating new opportunities for themselves.  I have seen our citizens build sustainable tourism projects in their communities. And so I believe, because I believe in my people. And because I believe in my people, I feel I can also believe in humanity.”

Prior to his statement at the opening of the SIDS conference, President Michel attended the Alliance of Small Island States Leaders meeting, together with the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The AOSIS leaders adopted a declaration with a strong position on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Blue Economy and against climate change.

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