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Preparatory meetings for the Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States: participation, priorities and outcomes

Meeting/conference report

Written by Courtney Lindsay, George Carter, Emily Wilkinson, José Lopes

Image credit:Secretary-General visits Antigua and Barbuda to survey hurricane damage in 2017. Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

The Fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) will be the most important of the decennial conferences to have ever taken place. Held in Antigua and Barbuda in 2024, ‘SIDS4’ will build on outcomes from three previous conferences, and will set the SIDS development agenda for the next 10 years.

SIDS had barely recovered from the 2008 financial crisis when the COVID-19 pandemic devastated their economies and further increased their debt levels. Now, lack of economic diversification, an exodus of labour and three decades of sluggish growth are combining with a plethora of external factors, including: high food and energy prices, high interest rates, geopolitical tensions among powerful states, evermore devastating climate events and increasingly difficult to access concessional finance. To return SIDS to an upward development track, the 10-year agenda from SIDS4 must contain practical, applicable and achievable solutions.

In preparation for the SIDS4 conference, three regional preparatory meetings were organised by the United Nations between July and September 2023. The first was held in Mauritius for the SIDS of the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Sea (AIS); the second in St Vincent and the Grenadines for Caribbean countries; and the third in Tonga for Pacific SIDS. The meetings brought together various stakeholders to identify and agree on priorities and recommendations to feed into the SIDS4 Conference.

This report summarises each preparatory meeting, reflecting on the various regional priorities and how these can be reconciled into a single outcome document, and considers what we may reasonably expect to be reflected in the Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS) 2024–2034.

Authors: Courtney Lindsay, José Maria Gomes Lopes, George Carter, Emily Wilkinson