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Women's Major Group - Deep Water, Daring for Shore: SIDS Feminist challenges and priorities in implementing a SIDS4 Roadmap

Statement of the Women’s Major Group - SIDS. Antigua and Barbuda, 26 May 2024.

28 May 2024

Constituency: SIDS4 Women and Gender

This statement is made on behalf of the Women’s Major Group (WMG)* with drafting/organising work by SIDS feminist and gender justice groups including DIVA for Equality; Regions Refocus; PANG; Pacific Islands Feminist Alliance for Climate Justice (PIFA4CJ); Pacific Feminist Community of Practice; Qaqa Grassroots Young Feminist Network; Pacific Feminist SRHR Coalition; Brown Girl Woke, Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi (AIDB), Indigenous Peoples Global Forum for Sustainable Development (IPGFforSD), Pacificwin Pacific, PAWA, Pacific Australian Women's Association, IWDA, and other SIDs led and allied feminist, gender-equality and women’s rights advocates represented in Antigua and Barbuda by an intergenerational team working across many areas of gender, social, economic, ecological and climate justice and human rights.

Small Island States (SIDS) across the Caribbean, Pacific and AIMS regions are in a time of
This is fueled by extractivism, militarism and warfare in the longtime colonial and
imperialist interests of those holding most globalised power and their transnational allies. We
see the links from this flawed heteronormative, patriarchal, neoliberal capitalist development
through to the unlimited growth systems that prioritise private profit over people, other species
and the living Planet. SIDS feminists and WMG are furious that in this insatiable greed for profit,
six of the Earth’s planetary boundaries have now been transgressed and this pressure is
increasing on all nine boundary processes except ozone depletion. The danger is profound.

The living planet moves quickly now toward the safety guardrail of 1.5 degrees rise in global
temperature. Species extinction rates
are at unprecedented levels. 2024 sees the latest
scientific estimates revealing an exceptionally rapid loss of biodiversity - 100+ times over the
extinction background rate and indicating that a sixth mass extinction is already underway.
Averting catastrophic decay of global systems, biodiversity destruction, damage to our own
species, loss of Commons and subsequent loss of ecosystem services is possible only through
massive, intensified efforts. That window is closing fast.

There is such an unprecedented urgency at SIDS4 that Island states must be far clearer on the
difference between white noise and useful discussions
. Over the past 30 years SIDS are clearer
on our needs, complex local to global context and conditions, and we have hard-won examples
of negotiations for the best outcome for Caribbean, AIMS and Pacific Small Island Developing
States. It is still not enough. There is much work to do in the Gender Equality Forum, other
Pre-Conferences and the SIDS4 Conference to show bold ambition, reject false solutions, and to
demand reparative and adequate climate finance for the ecological crisis brought about by
neoliberal capitalist greed. WMG is working to break any corruptive collusion in States, UN
agencies, technical institutions, civil society, business sector, academia; and co-create
alternatives for free,balanced and just futures.

Let us call time on SIDS work that does not work.

WMG are dismayed at many silences and obstacles in the way of SIDS civil society trying to
engage in the SIDS4 process
. We see regression in ways that States and UN agencies have
worked with civil society and feminist groups in particular, in this process. There have been
issues in travel and funding arrangements that have not adequately supported grassroots and
Indigenous women activists. We observe a lack of clarity about the structure, process and
content of the Preconferences and SIDS4, In particular, CSOs have been confused by lack of
information about the ways that the SIDS4 Implementation plan or Roadmap will be designed
and supported. By what process will our issues feed from the Preconferences including GEF, into
the SIDS4 main Conference? We have not had any access to the Communique process. This is
Considering the adoption of SIDS4 text prior to the Conference, where are the
substantive ways in which we ensure that Women Human Rights Defenders, Indigenous
peoples, civil society and social movements are fully engaged as active partners?

We call for recognition, solidarity and resources for SIDS governments and civil society that
are doing significant, targeted, fierce and accessible work.
We applaud collaborations toward
deeper democracy, human rights, Gender/SRHR/SOGIESC and economic, ecological and
development justice. For that work to grow, SIDS4 will need an accountable, effective and
gender-just, well-resourced Roadmap.

Gender policies or action plans are not enough, on their own, but a SIDS4 Gender Action Plan is
now necessary, to keep us accountable and on track. Added to this, we need systematic
integration of gender equality and human rights considerations in the political and technical
governance of each SIDS State; coherent foreign and domestic legislation, policy and
procedures; responsive regional architecture; gender expertise in regional and national
technical bodies; intersectional composition of advisory bodies and decision-making structures;
and best practices in public service management and organisational culture.

SIDS Women Responding to Disasters
SIDS Women are powerful leaders and our participation in decision-making processes is pivotal;
including disaster risk reduction (DRR) and climate justice strategies within and beyond States.
We are co-creating ecosystems of resilience, support, networking and mobilising, organising and
campaigning for change, in a time of unparalleled ecological damage and climate change. We
expect the solidarity of small island governments and territories in this crucial work for
ourselves, other species and the living Planet. SIDS must commit to addressing the structural
barriers, capacity gaps, discriminatory attitudes, and stereotypes that restrict women's
meaningful participation in decision-making processes. The Women’s Resilience to Disasters
(WRD) programme
implemented in the Pacific by UN Women and Pacific women’s gender and
feminist networks are co-leading disaster risk reduction and climate resilience building at all
levels whilst challenging underlying patriarchal gender norms, roles, and relations that
contribute to the disproportionate disaster impacts for women, girls and people with disabilities
and their exclusion from decision making.

In work on climate, DRR and biodiversity protection, SIDS4 must emphasise the collection and
use of gender data to understand the differential impacts of disasters on women and to inform
policy and program development. This must also extend to gender-responsive and inclusive
Early Warning messages and systems. SIDS must prioritise the development of
gender-responsive and inclusive laws, policies, strategies, and plans that prioritise gender
equality, women’s human rights and leadership in disaster risk reduction and resilience building;
ensure dedicated financial resources, foster gender-responsive coordination, ecosystems of care
and wellbeing and monitoring and accountability mechanisms and partnerships, in addition to
supporting targeted actions to increase women's resilience to disasters and climate change.
One of the most important SIDS4 Roadmap Commitments must be the implementation of the
Gender Action Plans (GAPs)
for the UNFCCC, Sendai Framework and other climate and
biodiversity agreements, in collaboration with local, national, regional, and global stakeholders.
The Roadmap must enable all dimensions of implementation to be examined through a
comprehensive feminist lens; grounded in anti-coloniality, gender justice, SOGIESC, disability
justice and universal human rights.

How SIDS measure
To inform this change work, the call for better data and analysis is part of all SIDS review
reports, and in SIDS4 it is a central issue.
No development and transfer of climate technology
without sound evidence can address SIDS peoples’ fundamental social, economic, ecological
and climate needs, much less enable the next decade of work on micro, meso and
macroeconomic dimensions of basic needs, and some recently expressed SIDS needs; including
but not limited to: an end to all forms of gender-based violence including against women, and
SIDS Islanders with diverse sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sex
characteristics (SOGIESC); the right to food, water and sanitation, health including SRHR,
housing, climate mobility - internal and external displacement and relocation, trade, debt
justice, decoloniality and decolonisation, sovereignty and autonomous decision making,
regional cooperation, economic diversification, productive transformation, digitalization,
disaster risk reduction, women, peace and security and more. There is a need for accurate,
innovative and timely data and analysis so SIDS governments must seek and use feminist,
heterodox resources beyond those of mainstream International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and
Bretton Woods Institutions in measuring, analysing and responding to poverty, human rights,
gender justice, climate change, biodiversity protection and development challenges. The
resources are here. Let’s share them in this time of great need.

Disaggregated data is crucial in SIDS overall, especially where rates of gender-based violence
are double the global average and where for example in Fiji, a recent groundbreaking national
study showed violence against children at a rate of 4 in 5 children. There are a majority of SIDS
countries where women are still in very low to medium representation in national legislative
bodies; with 30-50% rates of unmet contraception uptake and urgent sexual and reproductive
health and rights (SRHR) gaps; rapidly rising HIV and TB infection rates combined with low
testing rates, poor commodities procurement and crumbling hospital infrastructure due to
under-capitalisation and loss and damage; and where the ILO shows women doing 80% of all
unpaid work (with a global average of 76%).

There is a move toward the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index (MVI) being included in the
ABAS for the possibility of ensuring more equitable access to concessional finance. However it is
important to note that there are significant risks, especially in relation to exacerbating
inequitable distribution of vulnerability. We need indicators that reflect a more thorough
understanding of SIDS vulnerability and of key vulnerable populations within SIDS. This would
include SIDS exposure to international financial flows, total debt service as a composition of
exports, indicators for slow onset events, populations concentrated in low coastal zones, areas
of high poverty, particular socio-economic problems including illicit drug use, pockets of higher
violence against women and girls.

At the centre of this work is a contextualization of vulnerability and marginality. Any
feminist-informed strategy for assessing vulnerability holds that the costs of not assessing
individuals and issues of concern for smaller groups of the population are significant in terms of
development targeting and effectiveness. In this time of rising risk, economic and non-economic
loss and damage, cyclical disasters and human rights violations, there is a need for robust,
effective measures for individual-level development, human rights and gender justice concerns.
Investment in the collection, analysis and use of individual-level data on multidimensional
poverty and inequality
is crucial. It is a foundation for the visibility of lived realities and
accelerated action to address the implications of gender, age, disability, geographic location,
and other relevant characteristics, and intersections of these, on the rights and opportunities of
women and girls in their diversity. Some SIDS Governments including Solomon islands, Tonga
and Fiji are leading globally in demonstrating the potential and relevance of individual-level data
on multidimensional poverty and inequality, including, providing insights into the relationship
between deprivations linked to changing climate and natural hazards and other areas of life.
This is a potential focus area for a SIDS4 roadmap.

SIDS Women, Peace and Security
Women mediators remind SIDS4 of our substantive leadership and resources and that a
foundational pillar of peacebuilding and conflict transformation must underpin the entire SIDS4
roadmap. We must ensure at regional and national level, equitable resource allocation and
redesigned political processes toward full, equal, effective and meaningful leadership and
participation of women peacebuilders and women-led mediation and diverse youth-led
networks at every stage of peacebuilding, prevention and resolution. Sustainable development
justice for SIDS amid intersecting crises requires a shift from militarised notions of security
toward prioritising political self-determination and human security for all in SIDS. This must be
the aim of the entire Roadmap, to ensure equitable and safe implementation, to do no harm.

SIDS and Climate Finance
While the ABAS roadmap includes climate finance, it is not in the form we demand, nor includes
our needs for safety, effectiveness and adequacy. The document underscores excessive reliance
on debt-based instruments, such as credit products and bonds. This will worsen SIDS' existing
debt burdens; and in particular, compound economic pressures on women, familial
responsibilities, communal duties and other.

The push must be to prioritise grant-based finance and highly concessional loans accessible to
all SIDS
, including debt suspension after natural disasters, with a focus on climate justice
recognizing the historical responsibility of high emitters, avoiding reliance on private sector
finance and market mechanisms which can be unpredictable and potentially exploitative. A
‘risk-informed approach to investment and financing’ is inadequate: development finance must
be aligned with local priorities, reducing conditionalities, enhancing efficiency and transparency,
and focusing on long-term sustainable development.

The SIDS4 Roadmap must explicitly state that loss and damage is the third UNFCCC pillar of
climate action and must be reflected as such in the New Collective Quantified Goal (NCQG) for
Climate Finance
. The roadmap must include a strong emphasis on the long-fought and newly
won Loss and Damage Fund, adequately capitalising it with grant based finance and
operationalized with consideration for SIDS and other States with special circumstances .
Polluter Pays Mechanisms such as the Climate Damages Tax propose a tax on fossil fuel
extraction in wealthy nations to raise $720 billion USD by 2030 for the new Loss and Damage
Fund, assisting developing countries facing climate impacts. The tax would start at $5 USD per
tonne of CO2e and increase annually, with 80% going to the fund and 20% as a domestic
dividend for climate transition in the taxing countries. This should be integrated into the
workplan for SIDS4.

We must urgently focus now on raising SIDS-friendly climate finance flows through a
combination of mechanisms and taxes, subsidies and Funds. An innovation in SIDS is the
long-awaited Pacific Resilience Fund, endorsed by the Pacific Forum Economic Ministers
Meeting (FEMM) and as a resourcing mechanism for the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific
Continent Implementation Plan. However, the Fund is but a drop in an ocean-deep debt owed
for loss and damage in the Pacific; and similarly for SIDS regional partners. We need more.

Cancelling SIDS Debt
Climate-just finance requires comprehensive debt cancellation, which is essential to free up
public resources for investment in critical areas like water and sanitation, food sovereignty,
housing, health, education, and ecological and climate action without the burden of
repayments. Analysis of World Bank and OECD figures show that countries in the global south
are likely to pay out $50 billion more in 2024 than they receive in grants and loans.

The 2024 Financing for Sustainable Development report notes that, “challenges are particularly
pronounced for countries that are most vulnerable to climate shocks. They face high borrowing
costs and— when hit by extreme weather events—high recovery costs, which increase debt
vulnerability.” The report goes on, “debt in small island developing States (SIDS) rose from 42.3
percent of GDP in 2000 to around 60 percent of GDP in 2022, after peaking around 2020, as
countries…were severely impacted by the pandemic. SIDS also saw liquidity buffers erode,
making them even more vulnerable to external shocks.”

While SIDS4 takes a positive step towards the establishment of a dedicated SIDS Debt
Sustainability Support Service
, this must be complemented by broader systemic changes such
as debt cancellation across all creditors without austerity conditions, preventing the exploitation
of natural resources to repay debt, compelling private lender participation through legislative
reforms in major jurisdictions, promoting a UN-led legal framework for debt restructuring and
cancellation, and overhauling the debt sustainability analysis approach of the IMF and World
Bank to ensure it is independent and inclusive of development, human rights, and climate crisis
considerations. There are many who speak plainly now of Debt Repudiation in SIDS because the
time has come to remove the spectre of illegitimate small island debt burden once and for all,
as we squarely take on the issue of continued imperialism and coloniality, historical
responsibility, as loss and damage rises and cyclical disasters overwhelm resilience strategies -
and when survival is at stake for all people of small island States.

SIDS and Oceans
It is our deep concern that ABAS invites the private sector to capitalise on the Ocean as a 'new
frontier' of extraction, as well as through green and blue bonds, and the carbon market.
Reliance on carbon markets will ensure we do not stay within the 1.5C warming threshold and
as a mechanism will further fossil fuel use, endangering the survival of SIDS. Reliance on carbon
markets will also shift the responsibilities of climate change impacts from the polluters to
communities facing the adverse impacts of climate change. The race for critical minerals held in
the vast exclusive economic zones of SIDS (16% of the world’s EEZs) is an area of growing
concern. In this critical decade, the SIDS4 Roadmap must lead a global call for a moratorium.

This work is supported by negotiations toward the ‘Agreement under the United Nations
Convention on the Law of the Sea on the conservation and sustainable use of marine
biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction’ or BBNJ
that has been negotiated
with significant SIDS leadership. As observed in the concluding session, Small island developing
States championed the process for decades because the connectivity of the ocean areas beyond
national jurisdiction and those within exclusive economic zones has severe potential
consequences on marine resources. The Ocean also plays an integral role in regulating the
global climate. As AOSIS States are the countries most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of
climate change the resilience of the Ocean is clearly central to SIDS survival. There is an urgent
call for a full needs assessment for SIDS, as soon as possible, in order to identify BBNJ gaps, and
ways to address all identified issues.

Through the tenacity and leadership of SIDS leaders, there is also now an historic agreement at
the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN maritime climate regulator, to achieve
zero-emission maritime transport by 2050 and ongoing policy work by 175 member states of
the IMO to fulfil this commitment. SIDS of the Pacific and Caribbean regions now propose a
concrete and binding measure for global shipping to pay for maritime industry pollution,
through what would be the first global Greenhouse Gas price for any international industry, as
part of an equitable and just transition in maritime shipping.

In line with the importance of SIDS leadership on Oceans, there is now a groundbreaking ITLOS
TIDM advisory opinion
with significant leadership of AOSIS with G77 and China, that finally
recognises human-made greenhouse gases as a source of marine pollution. The Opinion
clarifies that countries must take all necessary measures to reduce, control and prevent climate
change. This comes at a time when the world is witnessing the fourth pan-tropical coral
bleaching event in 2023-2024 and wealthy countries should be leading the charge to protect
reefs from greenhouse gas pollution. As Oceanic people, one role of SIDS must be to lead and
demand urgent accountability.

As useful and important as these normative breakthroughs are, the proof is always in the
. WMG calls for urgent, resourced work towards gender-just and human
rights-based SIDS development, articulated through a SIDS4 Roadmap with predictable,
adequate, new resources for SIDS. This includes gender-responsive funds directly provided to
feminist groups, Indigenous and local communities, women and girls, children and all HIV
affected key populations, as well as gender machinery and gender justice focused institutions.

As SIDS women of the Ocean, we close with two further Calls:

One call arises from the inter-generational activism of SIDS women and small-scale fisher
movements and organisations
who make five core demands: i) Urgently secured preferential
access and co-management of 100% of coastal areas; ii) guaranteed participation of women and
support of their roles in innovation; iii) protection of small-scale fishers from blue economy
sectors; iv) transparency and accountability in fisheries management; and v) building resilient
communities and offering opportunities in fisheries to young people.

Secondly, In this time of extraordinary challenge and change for SIDS, can we adapt this
powerful SIDS mechanism to the full urgency of the moment?
Is a SIDS meeting every 10 years enough? We say NO.

Do we need the first-ever SIDS4 Gender Action Plan? We say YES.

*Who we are:
The Women’s Major Group has the responsibility to facilitate women’s civil society active
participation, information sharing and input into the policy space provided by the United
(e.g., participation, speaking, submission of proposals, access to documents,
development of sessions). The WMG is self-organised and open to all interested organisations
working to promote human rights-based sustainable development with a focus on women’s
human rights, the empowerment of women and gender equality.
The Women’s Major Group (WMG) was created at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro,
Brazil, where governments recognized Women as one of the nine important groups in society for
achieving sustainable development. The WMG is an official participant in the United Nations
processes on Sustainable Development.

Şehnaz Kıymaz Bahçeci
+49 (174)3454731
Women's Major Group
Twitter: @Women_Rio20

Onsite at SIDS4:
Noelene Nabulivou (She/Her), DIVA for Equality, Fiji
Email: noelene@divfiji.org
Whatsapp: (679) 713 8026
Twitter: @SIDS4Pacific

This statement is made on behalf of the Women’s Major Group (WMG)