Side Event at the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States
The Paradox of the 'Small': securing development opportunities in the face of climate change in African small island developing states
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
Apia, Samoa


To provide support consistent with its mandate, the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), through the African Climate Policy Center (ACPC), is involved in strategic analytical and knowledge generation activities in African countries, that provide the empirical basis for climate resilient policy recommendations. In 2014, under the auspices of the ClimDev-Africa[1] programme, the ACPC commissioned the writing of a technical paper that analyzes the vulnerabilities of the African SIDS[2] to the impacts of climate change.

The culmination of this work will be the Samoa SIDS conference where the paper will be launched during at a side-event, with involvement of key stakeholders drawn from governments, climate researchers, practitioners, the media and civil society groups.


Climate change is widely acknowledged as the defining challenge of the 21st century. Given predictions contained in the recently released Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the impacts of climate change will continue to worsen, resulting in escalating losses and damages.

The SIDS are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, from both extreme events like cyclones and storm surges and slow onset processes like ocean acidification, sea level rise and salinization. While sea level rise poses the greatest threat to SIDS, ocean acidification is already having a significant impact on coral reefs, affecting tourism and threatening livelihoods dependent on fish resources. As sea surface temperatures increase, it is also likely that storm surges will become more intense and perhaps also more frequent (IPCC, 2012). The SIDS in Africa - Cape Verde, Comoros, Guinea Bissau, Mauritius, São Tomé and Príncipe and the Seychelles – face even more significant development challenges and in some cases greater impacts of climate change.

IPCC. 2012. Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


ECA brings to the table comparative advantage from Africa’s economic development discourse. For this side event, ECA will be joined by the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) using a climate change partnership known as ClimDev-Africa. Through AUC’s convening power, African ministers of agriculture, environment, water and meteorology will be invited to speak at the event.


In recognition of the main theme of the 3rd SIDS conference (i.e. "The sustainable development of small island developing States through genuine and durable partnerships"), the ECA side event will shed light on the unique opportunities available to African SIDS. Using its assessment of vulnerabilities of African SIDS, ECA will present examples of how SIDS can turn challenges into opportunities, and indeed demonstrate that African SIDS can lead in transforming sustainably.

Stakeholders in attendance will also tackle pertinent topics on blue economy, social development for vulnerable communities, eco-tourism, food and energy security, climate change and disaster risk reduction. These themes are not only central to surmounting hurdles to African SIDS economic transformation, but are also relevant to SIDS outside Africa. ECA is counting on the launch of the SIDS paper to stimulate debate that will lead to ideas on forging of better partnerships and identification of the most effective interventions. As the pan-African organization charged with economic policy support to African countries, the outcomes of this side event will inform it’s engagement with African SIDS going forward.

[1] ClimDev-Africa is an initiative of the African Union Commission (AUC), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Development Bank (AfDB). For more information open www.climdev-africa.org

[2]Comoros, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Mauritius, Seychelles andSão Tomé and Príncipe.