Small Island Developing States (SIDS)

The Ocean is the most powerful symbol of the international community's shared past and future

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are a distinct group of 38 UN Member States and 20 Non-UN Members/Associate Members of United Nations regional commissions that face unique social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities. The three geographical regions in which SIDS are located are: the Caribbean, the Pacific, and the Atlantic, Indian Ocean and South China Sea (AIS). SIDS were recognized as a special case both for their environment and development at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The aggregate population of all the SIDS is 65 million, slightly less than 1% of the world’s population, yet this group faces unique social, economic, and environmental challenges.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – for the most part – have common economic concerns. They are typically more vulnerable to internal and external shocks such as social conflict, extreme climatic events, reliance on few and distant markets, heavy reliance on a handful of industries such as tourism and fisheries, heavy dependency on imported petroleum products, low levels of foreign direct investment, vast distances to markets and a handful of trading partners.

Island countries like the Maldives are the canaries in the climate change coal mine!

The climate of SIDS is greatly influenced by large oceanic and atmospheric interactions that includes trade winds, El Niño and monsoons while tropical cyclones are also important components of the climate alongside the impacts of sea-level rise. The particular climatic conditions in combination with socio-economic vulnerabilities ensures that SIDS are amongst the most vulnerable countries when it comes to adapting to the adverse effects of climate change. While for the time being SIDS are heavily reliant on fossil fuels, they account for less than one percent of global green house gas (GHG) emissions.

Although Small Island Developing States vary in their geography, climate, culture and stage of economic development, they have many common characteristics which highlight their vulnerability, particularly as it relates to sustainable development and climatic change. These characteristics include:

  • Limited physical size, which effectively reduces some adaptation options to climate change and sea-level rise (e.g., retreat; in some cases entire islands could be eliminated, so abandonment would be the only option);

  • Generally limited natural resources, which are, in many cases, already heavily stressed from unsustainable human activities;

  • High susceptibility to natural hazards such as tropical cyclones (hurricanes) and associated storm surge, droughts, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions;

  • Relatively thin water lenses that are highly sensitive to the sea-level changes; in some cases, relative isolation and great distance to major markets;

  • Extreme openness of small economies and high sensitivity to external market shocks, over which they exert little or no control (low economic resilience);

  • Generally high population densities and in some cases high population growth rates;

  • Frequently poorly developed infrastructure (except for major foreign exchange earning sectors such as tourism).



In any debate on climate justice, SIDS collectively should have a veto power. As far as Earth Cup initiative is concerned, SIDS shall be a perpetual geological and ecological superpower. For the Earth Cup initiative SIDS stands for Suicidal If Denial or Distraction Succeeds. It will not only be hypocritical, but sinful of Biblical proportions, if the health, existence, protection and stewardship of SIDS is not treated as the scientific and spiritual barometer of progress in the fight against climate change. As humanity’s fate is inextricably tied to the oceans, however way the fact is sliced and diced, with the countries in the SIDS bloc controlling vast regions of the sea, there cannot be a higher call to action for Earth Cup initiative than to empower the small island developing states collectively as a geological and ecological superpower in the imagination age that is unfolding.