There are 31 Small States in the Commonwealth, 25 of which are Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
This constituency is of particular importance to the Foundation. SIDS issues are in focus on the global agenda, with the UN declaring 2014 the International Year of SIDS, and the Third International Conference on SIDS was held in Apia, Samoa in September 2014. The Foundation is committed to supporting civil society inputs to the Samoa conference, and last year funded the participation of Civil Society Organisation (CSO) networks and alliances at an inter-regional conference in Barbados in August 2013 that helped to start a global civic conversation on SIDS. This saw CSO representatives from the Pacific and the Indian Ocean join colleagues in the Caribbean to share perspectives and set an agenda.
The process continued at the Commonwealth People’s Forum 2013 where SIDS challenges were discussed and development priorities relevant to Small States were included in the CPF Declaration. With specific regard to the post 2015 development agenda, Commonwealth civil society called for ‘a stand-alone goal for SIDS in view of their inherent, interlinked vulnerabilities and in pursuit of cross cutting resilience building.’
Since the CPF 2013, the Foundation has continued to support the participation of CSOs from SIDS in the preparations for the Samoa Conference, first in UN preparatory processes in New York in February 2014, then through a Commonwealth Small States meeting in St. Lucia in March 2014. Indeed, the Caribbean CSO network that the Foundation is partnering with, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC), and the CPF Declaration are now recognised inputs into the UN process leading to the Samoa meeting.
The Foundation is planning to foster both more engagement between CSOs from across the Commonwealth regions, and to support further CSO engagement with decision makers in the SIDS space. As CSO leaders from across the Commonwealth engage in these spaces, they are increasingly being called upon to enter into the discussion with and without the Foundation’s facilitation. This is an area where the Foundation and its CSO partners are fully engaged, and where civil society has an opportunity to truly influence the discourse.