UN 2024 SIDS Conference: What Are the Results?

The once-a-decade conference sees Small Island Developing States (SIDS) meet to take stock of their development, and set goals for the next 10 years. Key talking points included the reform of international finance institutions, improving access to climate funds, and the importance of inclusive development. The final document underscored SIDS priorities: resilient communities, healthy societies, a safe future, planetary sustainability; and builds a common platform for UNFCCC COPs.

by Vincent Diringer

Mia Mottley addressed the crowd assembled in the courtyard under the tropical Antiguan sun, “If we take longer than 18 months to settle the financing deal, the new financing deal, then we compromise our ability to do and use the financing properly to execute the projects, to sustain our civilizations, to stop the level of climate migration, to stop the level of societal erosion, and to be able to play our part to maintain who we are as a people [1].” 

The Barbadian Prime Minister’s planned side-event at the fourth International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS4) had drawn more attendees than the room could handle, forcing them to shift the session outside. Delegates from the world’s islands milled around the campus of the American University of Antigua, walking around the crowd of over a hundred people surrounding Prime Minister Mottley and her counterparts from St Vincent & the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, Cabo Verde, Jose Ulisses Correia e Silva, and the Marshall Islands, Dr Hilda Heine.

What are Small Island Developing States (SIDS)?

The leaders’ calls for a reform of international funding frameworks and climate finance echoed those dominating conversations at the SIDS4 conference. During preparatory workshops held earlier in the year as well as during previous UNFCCC COPs, island stakeholders have been demanding better access to finance, as the current pathways heavily favor developed countries and limit the amount of funding available for developing and vulnerable nations [2, 3, 4]. SIDS4 provided the opportunity for these issues and potential solutions to be discussed.

What is the International Conference on Small Island Developing States?

A once-a-decade conference, the International Conference on Small Island Developing States serves as a specialized multi-day summit focused solely on the development issues, challenges, and solutions as they apply to SIDS. Each iteration of the conference sees experts from government, academia, and civil society take stock of the progress made against the previous set of goals, analyze the pain points encountered, and identify a pathway for the next ten years of development. An outcome document is produced following the conference that outlines the key objectives that SIDS are working towards, as well as issues or challenges they seek to address.

Beyond offering a platform for island stakeholders to share knowledge and catalyze workable sustainable solutions, the conference also unites and galvanizes an under-represented group in international climate policy towards a common playbook for other major events like the UNFCCC COPs.

Since the previous SIDS conference in Samoa in 2014, islanders have witnessed the increasing onslaught of climate change on their communities, which has underscored the importance of a just transition towards sustainable economies [5]. Despite major achievements like the Paris Agreement and the Loss & Damage Fund, the broken promises surrounding financial assistance and questionable policy choices by major economies cast a long shadow. As a result, the voices of these communities have been growing on the international stage, with iconic moments from Tuvalu’s Simon Kofe and Barbados’ Mia Mottley shining a light on the challenges their islands face [6]. 

What did SIDS4 yield?

The Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS) declaration, which emerged from the summit and outlines the decision-making pathways guiding SIDS between 2024-34, has four key thematic goals [7]:

  • Build resilient economies;
  • Foster safe, healthy and prosperous societies;
  • A secure future;
  • Environmental protection and planetary sustainability.

For each goal, a set of principles and agreed-upon targets are laid out. The sustainable development goals feature throughout, with inclusive development and the mention of having youth, civil society, and other special interest groups participate in decision-making. While the ABAS document continues to reflect SIDS’ commitment to developing their own solutions for long-term prosperity, the conversations happening on the fringes reflect a desire for change at an international level.

“Though responsible for a minuscule fraction of global emissions, we bear the brunt of their consequences. Yet our demands [are not] radical. We simply ask the world to step into our shoes and realize how climate financing can be reformed for the better, to support true resilience,” expressed Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu ahead of SIDS4 [8], “We seek not charity but equity and justice, in addressing a crisis we did little to create.”

President Muizzu and other island leaders endorsed the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI) to create new financing pathways [8]. The MVI is a quantitative benchmark that measures the structural vulnerabilities and resilience levels of countries across multiple dimensions of sustainable development. This tool would provide accurate information for local governments and stakeholders to identify the resilience gaps as well as create more detailed data to apply for funding. 

This was bolstered by further discussions surrounding Mottley’s Bridgetown Initiative aimed at reforming how international financing organizations work with climate-vulnerable developing nations like islands [1, 9]. These two frameworks could create more balance for island nations and developing countries that are too often disadvantaged by a rigid system not built to handle their financing needs. Creating a more just and equitable climate finance ecosystem figures to be top of the agenda for SIDS heading into negotiations in Azerbaijan later this year.

As a whole, the conference showcased the expertise, resilience, and innovation of island communities. Despite the complex situations SIDS find themselves in, they are actively developing capacity-building and adaptation projects within the constraints of a developing economy. SIDS continue to make the best of their situations but, as Donald Cooper, Director of the Transparency Division of UN Climate Change aptly expressed in a side-event,  they must use their voices together on a global stage to create change. They rallied around Loss & Damage, and got it; that was the first step. Equity, justice, and financing can be the next ones.


[1] Loop Caribbean, May 29, 2024. “Barbados PM Mia Amor Mottley hosts biggest SIDS4 sideline event”. 
[2] V. Diringer, April 9, 2024. “SIDS Future Forum Sets Tone Ahead of Antigua & Barbuda Conference”, Island Innovation.
[3] R. Kozul-Wright, June 14, 2023. ”A climate finance goal that works for developing countries”, UN Trade and Development. 
[4] Bretton Woods Project, April 24, 2024. “V20 communiqué analysis Spring Meetings 2024: Climate vulnerable countries issue call to action, as net-negative flows result in ‘millions in, billions out’ amid growing debt burdens”.
[5] Mycoo, M., M. Wairiu, D. Campbell, V. Duvat, Y. Golbuu, S. Maharaj, J. Nalau, P. Nunn, J. Pinnegar, and O. Warrick, 2022: Small Islands. In: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, M. Tignor, E.S. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Craig, S. Langsdorf, S. Löschke, V. Möller, A. Okem, B. Rama (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA, pp. 2043–2121, doi:10.1017/9781009325844.017.
[6] A. Mooney & A. Williams, November 5, 2023. “UN climate fund battle looms over US stance on financing”, Financial Times.
[7] SIDS4, 2024. “The Antigua and Barbuda Agenda for SIDS (ABAS) – a Renewed Declaration for Resilient Prosperity”
[8] M. Muizzu, May 25, 2024.”The Maldives faces existential threat from a climate crisis it did little to create. We need the world’s help now”, The Guardian.
[9] PMO Barbados, 2022. “Urgent and Decisive Action Required for an Unprecedented Combination of Crises The 2022 Bridgetown Initiative for the Reform of the Global Financial Architecture”.
Categories Climate Justice

Tell us what you think!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.