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No island is an island

Flooded land Fiji

Fijian student Adisovanatabua U. K Navoti reflects on Wilton Park’s dialogue on improving climate resilience finance for small island states (SIDS).

As a student, a foreign one, and a small islander, I regard myself very honoured to have been accepted to attend these very important talks. The fact that my father, Mr. Sainivalati S. Navoti, Chief, SIDS Unit, UN Department of Economic and Social Affair (UN-DESA) also attended the meeting, was at first a coincidence but was also very special.

When we both entered the meeting room on the first day and saw on the big screen the picture of our village (Matacawalevu, Yasawa, Fiji) under water [see image above], we were both surprised and then shocked. Climate change is real, and it couldn’t be any more personal to us than seeing the front lawn of Uncle Va- Navitalai’s House projected onto a big screen.

The discussions held over the next two days, including the Fireside Chat on the first day, were all very interesting to me.

I was particularly delighted to hear that at the fourth SIDS conference in Antigua in 2024, there will be a youth forum, a civil society symposium, a gender event and a conversation on innovation. I fully support the youth Forum and I was so happy to know that our leaders are thinking of the future of Small Island Developing States.

I do not have any mandate to speak for youth – however, I can speak as a young person.

I fully encourage our present SIDS leaders to think and strategize the best they can, for us small islanders, during their time at the helm. At the fourth SIDS Conference, I request them to please bring the youth along. Bring all SIDS stakeholders along – bring young girls along – innovate with us.

If they don’t, my observation at Wilton Park is that we will be always reinventing the wheel. Whatever they are talking about today, will be talked about by our generation in 5 to 10 years’ time and by the next generation of SIDS representatives, in the next two decades or so. Let’s ensure we don’t.

I heard one speaker lay out how the Multi-dimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI), if presented well, could be one of the revolutionary ideas for the fourth SIDS conference.  As small islanders, looking at ourselves from a resilience lens can change a whole lot of attitudes and will also change how other people see us.

At the fireside chat, I heard how we need to sell our story: what message to tell, who to be the messenger and for what reason or purpose?  I also heard suggestions for a military strategy type approach. Our issues as SIDS, like the encroaching water on Uncle Va-Navitalai’s lawn (Climate Change) – is a battle!

Like many from SIDS, I come from a culture where young people are not meant to be heard – but only to be seen.

I apologize in advance for what I’m going to say – if you find it full of youthful naivety. But accessing finance is like trying to get the candy jar at the top cupboard:

  • Older brother John can access it because he is tall enough to reach it.
  • I can also access it because I can stand on the stool.
  • Younger brother Paul, however, he is only 4, he is short and cannot reach the jar.
  • All this time, Paul has been getting his candy because the three of us have been working in partnership to help each other.
  • What happens if both older brother John and I are not here – who will get Paul the candy?
  • May be a ladder will assist him to climb the cupboard and get his own.

Maybe the MVI is the ladder that some SIDS need to access concessional financing. One major lesson I took from Wilton Park is that most things work well when we work together in partnerships – donor partners, stakeholders, civil societies, and youth.

Finally, one of the interventions made at Wilton Park made me aware that SIDS are collectively paying about 20 billion dollars to repay debt and at the same time only accessing a little more than 1 billion in climate financing. This was a revealing fact.

I’ve heard a lot of good things during my brief time at Wilton Park, BUT – one thing I was convinced about after hearing all the SIDS leaders preparing and talking about issues to be addressed at the fourth conference on SIDS with their development partners …. at SIDS4 – ‘No Island is an Island.’

By Ms Adisovanatabua U. K Navoti, Final Year Student, Law & International Relations (Hons), University of Sussex

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