A potential doorway for prosperity in SIDS and Bermuda

The United Nations 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States
(SIDS4) has come to an end. The event, held in Antigua & Barbuda from the 27th to the 30th of
May 2024, has been hailed by many as a success.


The weeklong undertaking saw more than five-
thousand people lend their time, expertise and insight to advocate for small island developing
states in the Caribbean, Pacific, and Indian Ocean.

One of the groups represented at SIDS4 was The Commonwealth, a voluntary association
of 56 independent countries—some of those countries being SIDS. Ms Vashti Maharaj is the
Advisor and Head of The Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda, working with the Trade Oceans and Natural Resources Directorate of The Commonwealth Secretariat. She says that Bermuda and other British Overseas Territories, while not categorised as SIDS, have a place in the related discussions taking place.


“Even though the overseas territories have a special status, they are intrinsically involved
in The Commonwealth. We do engage with the overseas territories in the Caribbean and Pacific.
When we do capacity building, they are invited. When we have dialogues, looking to ensure that
everyone’s voices are heard, we are very keenly interested in ensuring that Bermuda’s voice is
also heard.”

At a SIDS4 side-event hosted by Island Innovation, a pressing issue was raised by the
Hon. Easton Taylor-Farrell, Premier of British Overseas Territory Montserrat: The British Overseas Territories are regularly excluded from funding opportunities that assist with infrastructure building. Infrastructure that can help mitigate some of the climate change-related fallout that Montserrat, Bermuda, and the British Overseas Territories are set to face in the coming decades.


Ms Maharaj underscores the importance of Bermuda’s continues presence at events like
SIDS4, pointing to the power of dialogue at or adjacent to the tables where decisions are being
made. “Having conversations like this (interview) is very important in building a rapport. The Commonwealth have been very open and receptive to meeting with the representatives of Bermuda, getting your views and involving you in our processes.”


Ms Maharaj is a native of Trinidad & Tobago, a sovereign island nation that is categorised
as a SIDS by the United Nations. She says that there is an overlap between Caribbean SIDS and
Bermuda–culturally, historically, and economically. These overlapping elements, she believes, provide Bermuda with an advantage in global forums such as SIDS4.


“Even looking at the situation from a telecommunications perspective, Bermuda is part of the interconnected sub-sea cable loop that joins all of us together with regards to
telecommunications and connectivity. So while there is a different status applied between the
British Overseas Territories and SIDS, it is very important to see that Bermuda is part of that
connected picture.”


Bermuda had one delegate on this ground in Antigua this week (Minister for Youth, Social
Development and Seniors the Hon. Tinee Furbert) and limited ability to participate in key
discussions at SIDS4. In the lead up to the 2024 United Nations Climate Change Conference
(COP29) in Azerbaijan this November, Ms Maharaj sees the work of The Commonwealth from SIDS4 until then being a net benefit for not only Commonwealth states, but Bermuda as well.

“A lot of the conversations held this week at SIDS4 is going to lead into the discussions
that are going to be held at COP. From what we do at the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda,
we see that there’s a direct link between digital transformation and harnessing digital technology to allow for small island developing states to effectively take decisive climate action—including early warning systems for disaster management to using remote sensors, big data and artificial intelligence with regards to weather patterns.”

As for how this will progress into a win for SIDS, Bermuda and the British Overseas Territories? Ms Maharaj says that the knowledge generated by The Commonwealth’s Connectivity
Agenda, built upon at SIDS4 and continued through to COP29, will ultimately benefit Bermuda.

“Those technologies allow governments and non-governmental stakeholders the ability to imbue sustainability into their decision making.”

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