The International Year of Small Island Developing States

“We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving”

It is just so typical of us. I may have hummed this song frequently, but I never really bothered to realize the significance behind it. I quote the famous lines from the song We are the World 25, which was sung by some of the foremost Western musicians of the day in order to raise money for the people affected by the earthquake in Haiti.

This song, We are the World 25, was always one of my favourites. Not because of the noble intentions behind it (it was created by some today’s generations foremost musicians to raise funds for Haiti in the wake of the 2010 earthquake), but because it was sung by some of my favored singers. I was wholly unaware of the plight of the people in Haiti. And so are most of the people in the society. All blinded by the glitz and glamour of the high-rises that surround us.

But there is a world beyond our ivory towers. There is a real world lying there, in the midst of the oceans. The long-neglected world of our islands. These specks of land in the ocean are for all practical purposes, non-existent for us. And Haiti was, unfortunately, a part of this world.

The 2010 Earthquake crushed the country, undoing all the progress it had made in the past few decades. But basking in the safety of the four walls of my house, I was least concerned about it. And so was everyone else. Which is why those desperate pleas for help arising from the Haitians went unheard!

Until, I happened to take part in this competition. I was asked to celebrate the International Year of Small Island Developing States. A group of 39 island nations spread across the Carribean, the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. Some of them are prominent – Jamaica, Singapore, Cuba. Some are close to us – Mauritius, Maldives, Fiji. Some are unheard of – Niue, British Virgin Islands, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

These islands may be lost to mankind. Forever.
But they all are there for real. And many are in a terrible plight. The very mention of the ‘word’ island conjures up scenes of pristine beauty in the midst of a royal blue sea and lush green tropical forests. But there also abounds, at these very same isles, poverty and misery, destitution and suffering. All of which is unknown to us.

Their small size is the very reason why these islands are so economically backward. They have close to no mineral resources. Which means they must import fossil fuels and other mineral to support their economy. Which just translates into an inflated import bill which they cannot afford.

There exists very little scope for the expansion of the agricultural industry. Most of the land is uninhabitable and whatever fertile land can be found is gobbled up by land sharks for resorts and such of the kind. The tragedy lies in the fact that even the tourist potential is still highly underdeveloped. Their cup of sorrows really runneth over.

To compound their woes, SIDS are also highly prone to natural disasters. As I pointed out, a single earthquake flattened Haiti and its capital of Port Au-Prince. A single hurricane can wipe out entire towns from a map. And this is why the world should take a proactive role in helping the SIDS take measures to prevent such damage by natural disasters.

I, along with my team, also highlighted how the SIDS are really affected by global warming and the consequent rise in sea level. Though their contribution to greenhouse emissions is minimal, they are the main bearers of the consequence by virtue of the fact that they are low-lying countries and that they can be inundated by the rising waters of the oceans.

And this is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Delve deeper and one will be awe-struck with the mind-numbing adversities the people of the island face in their march on the road of development. Which is precisely why 2014 was designated as the International Year of Small Island Developing States by the United Nations. In the words of the Secretary General Ban-ki Moon “The International Year is an opportunity to appreciate the extraordinary resiliency and rich cultural heritage of the people of the Small Island developing States."

Because -
"We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So let's start giving"

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