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4 July 2017, Rome - A new United Nations global action programme launched today at FAO seeks to address pressing challenges related to food security, nutrition and the impacts of climate change facing the world's Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
The initiative was developed jointly by FAO, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and the Office of the High Representative for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHRLLS).
Because of their small size and isolation, SIDS are particularly threatened by natural disasters and the impacts of climate change. Many have limited arable agricultural land and are dependent on small-scale agriculture, ocean resources and high priced imports.
The Global Action Programme aims to achieve three objectives: i) create enabling environments for food security and nutrition; ii) promote sustainable, resilient nutrition-sensitive food systems; and, iii) empower people and communities for improved food security and nutrition.
A participatory process
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva stressed that the Global Action Programme is the fruit of wide-ranging consultations in the SIDS regions where food security and nutrition must be addressed together with issues such as climate change, the health of oceans, land degradation, social inclusion education and gender equality.
"The impacts of climate change are particularly worrisome. They affect everything that we plan to do in the SIDS countries," the FAO Director-General said, referring to their vulnerability to rising ocean levels and the increase in extreme weather events such as tsunamis, storms, floods and droughts.
Regarding the nutrition situation, he said that "the triple burden of malnutrition is a reality among many SIDS countries. This means that undernourishment, micronutrient deficiency and obesity coexist within the same country, same communities and even the same households."
For his part, the President of the Republic of Palau, Tommy Remengesau Jr. pointed to the need to "curb the alarming trends" in the SIDS such as, in the case of the Pacific region, the high rate of mortality caused by non-communicable diseases including cancer and heart attacks, to which poor nutrition is a major contributor.
"In my view the Global Action Programme is an important mechanism to empower our communities and peoples," Remengesau said, underscoring the need to gradually shift people in the SIDS towards "wholesome nutrition and healthy lifestyles."
"I call on the international community, development partners, intergovernmental organizations and fellow SIDS to work together to help our communities and our people," he said.
UN General Assembly President Peter Thomson, who is also Fiji's Permanent Representative to the UN, said at the event that the launch of the programme "represents an important step towards implementation of the (SDG) Sustainable Development Goals targets as related to the SIDS for addressing poverty, health, water, sanitation, economic development, inequalities, climate change, and of course the oceans".
Thomson noted that the Global Action Programme stems from the SIDS Acclerated Modalities Of Action (S.A.M.O.A.) Pathway - the outcome of the Third International Conference on SIDS held in Apia, Samoa in 2014, where FAO was invited to develop a global framework for action.
Focus on the SIDS
FAO has scaled up its work with the SIDS in recent years including in areas aimed at improving the management and use of natural resources; promoting integrated rural development; and building resilience to extreme weather events.
Last month during the Ocean Conference in New York, FAO presented a commitment to increase economic benefits to SIDS countries through the Blue Growth Initiative. In particular, this will be done through three specific regional SIDS projects, with funding of some $16 million from FAO's budget.