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OECS Advances Key Partnerships and Initiatives at International SIDS4 Conference

June 19, 2024 — The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) actively participated in the SIDS4 Conference from May 27-30 in Antigua. The delegation, led by OECS Director General Dr. Didacus Jules, engaged in critical discussions aimed at advancing sustainable development for small island developing states (SIDS) under the theme “Charting the Course Toward Resilient Prosperity.” The conference focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 for over 70 million people in SIDS, emphasizing the need for strong partnerships across sectors, innovation, business solutions, and resilience against climate change impacts.

The SIDS4 Conference addressed key technical areas vital to the sustainable development of SIDS. These included data and multidimensional indicators, climate change, social transformation, health, education, economic development, including agriculture and tourism, technology and innovation, debt and financing, resilience, infrastructure, youth, and social inclusion. The conference underscored the importance of these areas in building resilient economies, fostering safe and prosperous societies, and ensuring environmental protection and planetary sustainability.

The new Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS) underscores the need for new, innovative and bold approaches to partnership, and leveraging North-South, Triangular and South-South cooperation to mobilize human, financial, technical, and technological resources to support the vision for the next decade. This was already evident in the productive partner engagements facilitated by the OECS Commission’s delegation. 

The OECS Commission and The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), signed a Joint Declaration to work together in three key areas: ending hunger, reducing greenhouse gas emissions through renewable energy and energy efficiency, and supporting sustainable supply chains to ensure fair deals for developing country producers and preserve scarce resources. This Declaration outlines ten specific areas of cooperation, including support for economic diversification and sustainable industrialisation.

The OECS Director General, together with specialists on the OECS delegation engaged in several bilateral discussions with key partners. They engaged in discussions with HISPASAT, a Spanish satellite telecommunications operator based in Spain that provides broadband and satellite connectivity solutions. During the discussion facilitated by the European Union Delegation, HISPASAT highlighted opportunities for providing universal internet access to underserved regions, alleviating network congestion, and ensuring digital resilience in disaster scenarios, underscoring the importance of satellite connectivity solutions for the OECS region.

A meeting was convened with the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI), a leading global supplier of geographic information system (GIS) software, web GIS, and geodatabase management applications, explored ways that the geospatial technologies could be used to advance the Blue Economy of the OECS. Follow-up discussions are anticipated concerning the specific needs of the OECS region which match the company’s expertise in geospatial technology.

The OECS Delegation also engaged in discussions with counterparts from Conservation International (CI), exploring collaboration on natural solutions to climate change, private sector engagement for nature-positive outcomes, debt swaps, payments for ecosystem services, nature credits, and carbon markets. CI’s commitment to these environmental initiatives aligns closely with the OECS priorities. The parties are expected to continue dialogue towards a framework of cooperation to be tabled for consideration by OECS Council of Ministers with responsibility for Environmental Sustainability.

A bilateral meeting with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) focused on advancing support for the Regional Environmental Information ecoSystem (REIS) and hosting the Caribbean Protected Areas Gateway (CPAG). IUCN is finalising an arrangement with the EU to provide technical and financial support to the OECS Commission, including human resources for relevant capacity enhancement within the framework of the broader OECS-IUCN Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed one year ago at the 10th OECS Council of Ministers for Environmental Sustainability.

An engaging dialogue with the World Maritime University (WMU) centered on support for SIDS in ratifying and building capacity under the BBNJ Agreement through a proposed BBNJ Law Clinic Programme to be piloted in the OECS sub-region and scaled globally to other SIDS regions. The BBNJ agreement, formally known as the Agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction, is a landmark international treaty aimed at protecting marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. In April 2023, the OECS and the WMU signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enhance cooperation on marine biodiversity conservation and sustainable use of marine resources and successfully implemented the Closing-the-Circle programme on Sargassum, Waste Management and Marine Spatial Planning. 

Consultations with a World Bank (WB) team, including the Caribbean Country Director assessed the health, impact, and sustainability of the existing regional project portfolio which includes initiatives supporting Renewable Energy (RE) and Energy Efficiency, Data for Decision-Making, and Digital Transformation. They explored the potential and landscape of new and emerging priorities and projects for consideration at the regional level, including a regional health initiative targeting noncommunicable diseases and a Renewable Energy Infrastructure Investment Facility (REIIF) with the ECCB to accelerate renewable energy investments. The OECS and WB agreed to return to further catalyse their collaborative regional engagement model through a high-level engagement with Member States in early 2025.

The outcomes of these meetings underscore the OECS’ commitment to fostering resilient, prosperous, and sustainable societies through strategic partnerships and innovative solutions. The OECS participation at SIDS4 was supported by the European Union (EU) funded by the BioSPACE Project.


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