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|Growing vulnerability of countries|
The SIDS have been facing problems such as narrow resource bases, vulnerability to natural hazards, high external debt, difficulties in conforming to sanitary and phytosanitary regulations, overexploitation of forest and marine resources, high population growth and mobility, relative poverty, skilled human resource scarcity and weak institutional capacities (SIDSNet 2003a). The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO 2003a) reportedthat the SIDS are increasingly dependent on food imports while the rates of nutrition-related health problems are growing.
Climate change, including sea level rise and vulnerability to natural disasters such as hurricanes, is a major concern (Box 1). It has been projected that sea levels will increase by half a metre by 2100, severely threatening islands and low-lying coastal states and the very existence of some SIDS. If the sea level rises in the Maldives, for example, a large proportion of the landmass could disappear over the next 30 years, and be completely submerged by 2100 (IPCC 2001).Climate change and sea level rise are also expected to have adverse impacts on other natural resources of SIDS, such as land, freshwater,forests, and coastal and marine areas (IPCC 2001).
Global warming is also likely to lead to an increase in maximum tropical cyclone wind speeds and lower central pressures, leading to more damaging storm surges.
The Pacific, Caribbean, and the AIMS (theAtlantic, Indian Ocean, Mediterranean and the South China Seas) regions of SIDS reported in 2003 on their growing vulnerability. Meeting in August 2003, the Pacific SIDS noted that the vulnerability of SIDS has not only increased over the last decade but their resilience has not improved (SIDSNet 2003c).
SIDS have been trying to respond to these challenges by implementing
various measures. Governments in the AIMS region reported in 2003 that
they have been developing climate change action plans and identifying
their most vulnerable sites, with some countries implementing adaptation
measures. All countries in the region have submitted their initial national
communications to the UNFCCC (SIDSNet 2003d). A meeting of the AIMS
countries in Cape Verde in September 2003 noted the increasing risk
of the adverse effects of climate change, highlighting the urgency for
the international community to ratify and fully implement the Kyoto
Protocol. They also recognized the need to identify and develop policies
that build SIDS’ resilience, redressing vulnerability comprehensively.
This includes the need to diversify economies and address security concerns.
(SIDSNet 2003d).Some AIMS countries have established national early
warning systems and disaster mitigation plans, including national and
regional oil spill contingency plans. However, national capacity is
unlikely to cope with the growing frequency of extreme weather events,
and the costs associated with rehabilitation. The meeting, therefore,
called for further international assistance to develop capacity for
national disaster mitigation preparedness and create appropriate insurance
Concern over the vulnerability of the environment in SIDS has also led to the development of the Environment Vulnerability Index (EVI), which reflects a country’s environmental vulnerability to damage and degradation. Development of the EVI is being undertaken by the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), and preliminary results were released in 2003 (Kaly and others 2003). The results confirmed that SIDS are among the most vulnerable countries in the world.
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