Innovation, Advocacy and Understanding What’s at Stake

The United Nations 4th International Conference on Small Island Developing States
(SIDS4) continues, gathering governments and non-governmental stakeholders with a vested
interest in SIDS. According to UNESCO, SIDS are described as “some of the most beautiful
places on Earth” while also being “relatively remote, vulnerable to environmental challenges, such as climate change, and generally small in size.”

The United Nations recognises 39 sovereign nations as SIDS, with many of them being in the Caribbean. Bermuda, along with 17 other territories—many of them British, French, American or Dutch—does not fall under the SIDS classification.

Talks at SIDS4 vary in focus and scale: The first talk of the conference, ‘Addressing the
threats posed by sea level rise’, was hosted by the New Zealand Government and the Global
Centre for Climate Migration (GCCM). The final session scheduled for Thursday, ‘Pursuing
Wellbeing in the SIDS’ is hosted by The Cook Islands and a UN Secretariat / Regional
Commission, and seeks ways to advance wellbeing by “recognising that people must have
access to all the goods and services required to live in dignity, regardless of geography and
institutional structures.” Bermuda will not be included in those key discussions.

Due to Bermuda’s unique position as a British Overseas Territory, it is often overlooked or
disqualified concerning international aid and funding opportunities. James Ellsmoor, co-founder and CEO of Island Innovation, says that a common theme shared between Bermuda and SIDS is an immediate need for climate finance. “All of the island nations that are represented here in Antigua are making the point that they desperately need funding to prepare for the impacts of climate change” including “the inevitable case that some of them will need to rebuild in the coming years.” Mr Ellsmoor lists rising sea levels, hurricanes, and the impact of climate change on food security as issues that can be tackled by adequate funding. Island Innovation works to bring stakeholders to the table, stakeholders who share common struggles and needs.

Island Innovation hosted a panel discussion on Monday that featured the Premier of
Montserrat (Easton Taylor-Farrell), the Lieutenant Governor of Guam (Joshua Tenorio), the Prime Minister of Curacao (Gilmar Pisas), and the Commissioner of Bonaire (Anjelica Cicilia) among others. Mr Elsmore echoed the collective call of those representatives: dependent territories and jurisdictions miss out when they don’t have a seat at the table.

“The challenge is that for independent states and UN members, there are mechanisms
that have been set in place out of the United Nations climate conferences systems—funds from wealthier countries to the global south to fund adaptation…Many island in the Caribbean fall outside of those. The territories have the same geographical vulnerabilities as the independent SIDS, but they don’t have the same mechanisms set up to access that finance.”
Where does this leave Bermuda and similar territories going forward? The United Nations
SIDS conferences are held once every ten years, unlike the UN’s annual Climate Conference
(COP28 was held in Dubai last November, and COP29 will be hosted in Azerbaijan later this year).

Policy is currently being decided by larger nations and blocs, such as the European Union, right now at SIDS4. Bermuda’s sole government representative in attendance, Minister for Youth,
Social Development and Seniors Tinee Furbert, was given limited access to SIDS4 plenary
discussions. Mr Ellsmoor summarises the heart of the matter. “Often all island communities share these similar challenges that they’re trying to work on, and no small island community is going to have the resources and expertise to solve every problem. The resource sharing and expertise sharing across different territories and nations is a huge opportunity to really solve some of these problems and not just continuing to reinvent the wheel.”

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