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“Small Island Developing States’ challenges are serious, but together we are more than equal to them,” says Secretary-General Scotland at SIDS4

29 May 2024

Commonwealth-Secretary-General the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, delivered a compelling plenary speech today at the 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) held in Antigua and Barbuda. Addressing the critical challenges faced by small states, she underscored the Commonwealth’s unwavering commitment to championing their causes on the global stage.

“SIDS challenges are serious, but together we are more than equal to them. It is only by addressing these challenges holistically – looking at economic vulnerability, climate action, and reform as different aspects of the same threat – that we can keep the Sustainable Development Goals in view and build the resilient common future we seek,” she said.

Secretary-General Scotland highlighted the severe convergence of hardships that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) endure, including exposure to exogenous shocks, climate disasters, and limited access to concessional development financing. She emphasised the Commonwealth’s proactive measures to support these states, such as the Commonwealth Climate Finance Access Hub, which has unlocked over $350 million for the most vulnerable, and the Meridian Debt Management System, which assists 50 countries in managing a combined public debt portfolio of $2.5 trillion.

In addition to her plenary address, the Secretary-General participated in a panel discussion on ‘Building Resilient Economies for a Common Future‘ alongside Prime Minister of Samoa Fiame Naomi Mata’af, Hon Sakiasi Ditoka, Minister of Rural and Maritime Development for Fiji, Hon Kavydass Ramano, Minister of Environment, Solid Waste Management and Climate Change, Mauritius and Hon Flavin Joubert, Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Energy for Seychelles.

This panel focused on innovative solutions such as debt-for-nature swaps, the mobilisation of private capital through de-risking instruments, and pooled insurance to enhance economic resilience in small states.

Secretary-General Scotland also met with youth representatives who presented her with the youth action plan for SIDS, developed at The Global Children and Youth Action Summit (GCYAS) which concluded last Sunday. This engagement underscored the importance of including youth perspectives in the dialogue on sustainable development and resilience.

“The Commonwealth will never shrink from our commitment,” said Secretary-General Scotland. “We will harness the collective power of 56 countries and the ingenuity of one-third of the world’s population to advocate for the needs of our small states on the global stage.”

Young advocates and delegates attending SIDS4

The Secretary-General concluded her address by pledging to take the insights and progress from SIDS4 to the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Samoa this October, reinforcing the collective commitment to building a durable and prosperous future for all.


  • The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 56 independent and equal sovereign states. Our combined population is 2.5 billion, of which more than 60 per cent is aged 29 or under.
  • The Commonwealth spans the globe and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. Thirty-three of our members are small states, many of which are island nations.
  • The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member countries to build democratic and inclusive institutions, strengthen governance and promote justice and human rights. Our work helps to grow economies and boost trade, deliver national resilience, empower young people, and address threats such as climate change, debt and inequality.
  • Member countries are supported by a network of more than 80 intergovernmental, civil society, cultural and professional organisations.
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