Small Island Developing States

by Vincent Diringer

When discussing international policy there are a wide range of groups, coalitions, and representatives with their own points of views and interests that must be considered. Groups of nations facing similar challenges will often work together, such as the Rainforest Nations , while countries can also be grouped together as a result of their economic levels, like the G20 or Least Developed Countries (LDCs) [1, 2, 3]. In some cases, designations are granted to nations who meet a range of criteria, like Small Island Developing States (SIDS) [4].

SIDS have long found themselves on the frontline of the climate crisis’ destruction. Island communities living near the sea and depending on it for their local economy have seen frequent severe storms damage their infrastructure repeatedly. Sea level rise threatens to displace hundreds of thousands, while warming oceans have wreaked havoc on local biodiversity [5]. While these islands have worked towards finding new solutions towards sustainable development amidst ongoing environmental damage, there have often been calls for more action from the world’s largest economies [5]. The SIDS group is made up of 41 countries and 17 non-United Nations (UN) member island-nations around the world who face issues ranging from limited economic infrastructure to low levels of development or high dependency on external support [4]. 

During the same 1992 UN Conference that saw the creation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), SIDS were recognised as being a special case when it came to environmental and economic considerations [4]. Since then, a range of international policy has been enacted to help promote sustainable development and economic growth among these islands.This includes:

  • The Barbados Programme of Action (BPoA) in 1994, a set of policy documents that laid out the frameworks and commitments from global governments available to small islands in their quest to develop sustainably [4];
  • This was followed by the 2005 Mauritius Plan, which extended the scope and implementation of the BPoA [4]; and
  • The SAMOA Pathway in 2014, which built on the two previous major policy documents to include the increasingly destructive threats that climate change and rising sea levels had on developing island nations’ economies, infrastructure, and peoples [4]. 

For SIDS, the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21), which saw the creation of the Paris Agreement, was a momentous occasion that was several years in the making [6, 7]. Developing economic groups, including small islands, are mentioned in Articles 4, 9, 11, and 13 of the Agreement. These articles put emphasis on the mechanisms and frameworks that can be used to help these countries with adaptation and mitigation of climate change [8]. 

As such, COP26 is set to be another important milestone to determine not only the next set of targets and goals for a low-carbon, sustainable future, but also the fates of these island communities [9, 10]. See our article Small Island Developing States & COP26: An Interview with James Ellsmoor which further outlines what the SIDS are looking to achieve in November 2021 at COP26. 


[1] United Nations, NDL, “Coalition for Rainforest Nations”,, accessed on 02/06/2021)
[2] G20, NDL, “About the G20”, Taken from:, accessed on 02/06/2021)
[3] United Nations, NDL, “Least Developed Countries (LDCs)”,, accessed on 02/06/2021)
[4] United Nations, NDL, “About Small Island Developing States”,, accessed on 02/06/2021)
[5] Vincent Diringer, 2019, “Climate Change & Rising Sea Levels are Claiming Their First Victims: Islands”, Impakter,, accessed on 02/06/2021)
[6] Maxine Burkett, 2015, “Small Island States and the Paris Agreement”, The Wilson Centre,, accessed on 02/06/2021)
[7] John Vidal, 2009, “Vulnerable nations at Copenhagen summit reject 2C target”, The Guardian,, accessed on 02/06/2021)
[8] UNFCCC, 2015, “Paris Agreement”,, accessed on 02/06/2021)
[9] Tom Woodroffe, 2020, “Speech: SIDS require SIDS solutions”, UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office,, accessed on 02/06/2021)
[10] Alok Sharma, 2021, “Speech: Delivering for countries most vulnerable to climate change”, UK Cabinet Office,, accessed on 02/06/2021)
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