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Island nations show their disappointment over Rio+20

Jan 31, 2013

Overwhelming floods, recurring tsunamis, and increasing water levels-these are some of the perils that islands face all over the world. Heads of island countries like Seychelles, Kiribati and Guyana meet at the DSDS 2013 to discuss the future they want for their countries in terms of sustainable development.

In many big debates about sustainable development, the voice of many small nations is left out. At the 'Defining the Future We Want ' session at the DSDS-2013 being held today in New Delhi, island nations came together to speak out their case to the world.

The session had heads of state of many small island nations who bear the strongest ravages of climate change. In attendance were Donald Ramotar, President of Guyana; Anote Tong, President of Kiribati; and James Alix Michel, President of Seychelles. The session was chaired by former Indian ambassador C. Dasgupta who is an honourable fellow at TERI.

A common thought in the presidential speeches was a certain disappointment with the Rio+20 conference and the outcome document 'The Future We Want'. The South vs North tussle that was witnessed at Rio+20 continued, with Ramotar clearly saying, "The third world is carrying a disproportionate burden while they have not been the major contributor, as is in the case of carbon emissions." Tong put the divide at Rio more diplomatically, saying, "The secret to the inability to progress lies in the different interpretations of "The Future We Want."

The Presidents of these nations were unanimous in their appeal for global action that tackles sustainable development in conjunction with other social and economic issues. Michel called for the need to, "keep people in the centre of our development strategies. "The Seychelles President appealed to his counterparts for heeding to the need of the hour requiring them to be "bold as leaders."

TEI Secretary-General Dr RK Pachauri talked about the need for controlled resource extraction, the highest in Asia, which perhaps is due to galloping economies like India and China. With the re-elected American President also laying emphasis on climate change, many leaders from the developing world hope this results in new and strong partnerships with developed nations. Guyana is already working with Norway for a sustainable development plan. There was talk about a frank and honest assessment of international agreements to ensure all countries get a good deal and mitigate the resentment many feel at global conferences.

The session was important in many senses. It brought on the voices from quarters that are not heard often enough at international platforms. It is vital in the context of the small island nations that face direct impacts of climate change due to their delicate geographical positioning. The President of Kiribati asked some hard yet poignant questions which echoed the sentiment on the dais: "Are we here to secure the future of each others' children or just our own?". This is a question perhaps many will ask after listening to the plight the island nations face at the fast advancing hands of climate change.

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